Jersey's Here: UNIIQU3 & DJ Fade The Future Talk Jersey Club Music's International Impact
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UNIIQU3 photo by Margherita Andreani
The sound of Jersey Club has become inescapable, thanks to the genre’s pioneers continuing to influence the mainstream arena as seen with Bad Bunny’s recent single “Where She Goes” and Beyoncé dancing to Lil Uzi Vert’s “I Just Wanna Rock” on tour. Here, Newark native UNIIQU3 and East Orange native DJ Fade the Future—both DJs and some of the key progenitors of Jersey Club—break down the movement’s impact.
I would love to know both of your first discoveries of Jersey Club.
UNIIQU3: I was a dancer first before I became a DJ, and I was a part of the Garden State Ballet. We used to have practices almost every day at Newark Symphony Hall. So I used to go downtown after school, just take the bus and I will have to kill time before class started. So I would just go to the shops and I would hear club music coming from the jewelry stores, or just from the people on the corner selling the club CDs. So I heard that and copped my first DJ Tameil CD. Ever since then, it was a wrap. Everybody in my dance class told me I was kind of late though. They were like, “Well, you don’t know how to heel-toe” and do all the dances that were developing in club music at the time. I think I was about fifth or sixth grade.
FADE: So my first interaction with Jersey Club was my eighth-grade social. It was the first party where I [noticed] it was legal for girls to dance on guys. [laughs] It was pretty much a culture shock. Most of the songs that the DJ was playing were club music. Songs like “Don’t Make Me Kill” and “Elmo Song” were the early Baltimore songs and the beginning of the development of Jersey club. I just love the patterns and the sonics. It gave the crowd a reaction that was so much different from what hip-hop would do. And because of that reason, I just fell in love with it. And it was during the early stages of when I first started to become a DJ as well. So I first started by playing house, Baltimore club, and eventually Jersey club music.
Speaking of Baltimore Club, how would you describe the differences between that and Jersey club
FADE: For the regular Jersey club, the BPM is mostly around 136 and up. Baltimore tends to be a little bit more slower. But then there’s other Baltimore songs that have this very fast synergy. That's more like Rip Kinoxx, who is a really popular producer from Baltimore.
UNIIQU3: I agree. I definitely think the BPM is something that could categorize each genre, Baltimore club tends to be a bit slower, and it definitely has more of a breakbeat sound, which stems from rock ‘n’ roll and has been passed down for generations to come. So Baltimore definitely has a lot of breaks compared to the other two genres of both Philly and Jersey club. I would say Jersey club has more vocal chops. I feel like we get really clever in terms of telling people what to do on the dance floor. We manipulate the vocals all the time, whether it’s a top 40 song, or making our own original club songs. And Philly has always been a bit in between the genres. It started off to be very slow around the ‘90s and early 2000s with DJ Sega, but then we had people like Shizzy Mac who sped up the tempo to make it more of a harder style for the club. So Philly Club has always been the fastest. I would say Jersey club is mid-tempo and then Baltimore is slow breaks.
DJ Fade The Future photo by MikeQ
Who are some Jersey Club pioneers?
FADE: DJ Tameil as number one. He’s the guy who made the connections, and he was driving back and forth to really study and be inspired by this sound. Like UNIIQU3 said, his CDs were being sold in downtown Newark. That really helped develop the sound.
UNIIQU3: He was selling them himself as well outside of marketing them off to other vendors for them to sell. He definitely is the founding father of Jersey club music. He went down to Baltimore to meet with other originators of the club sound and brought it back to Newark. At first, it started off as being Brick City clubs, specifically. Brick City is just a nickname for Newark because we have a lot of brick buildings. And a lot of other bricks were moving through Newark, you know what I'm saying? [laughs] It developed from just being Brick City club music to being Jersey club, because the sound spread throughout the whole state of New Jersey in the late 2000s, with the second generation of clubgoers and producers. We should shout out Brick Bandits. They were able to team up with DJ Tameil to make the sound just bigger and better and also formulate a whole crew of producers dancers, DJs. graphic designers…anybody of the youth culture that was doing something creative. They tapped them on the shoulder and really gave them guidance—myself included.
What I’ve noticed in my experience with Jersey Club is the community within the movement.
FADE: For most of us dancing and this music saved our lives. Most of us lived either in poverty or not in the best conditions. This was a space to really get away from reality. In the early 2000s, most of us had “street team” tags. So we would wear a lanyard around our neck that represented what crew we were in: CTE, Brick Bandits, Goyard, EPE. There were all these different organizations that would literally throw parties in Essex County. Almost every night, there was a space where you could just dance and have fun with your friends. Even if you were partying with people outside of your organization, we all loved the same music and just wanted to express ourselves. So I think that played a vital part and promoting unity within our culture.
UNIIQU3: He hit it right on the nail. I wanted to add that just being from Newark, I know that we’re known for a number of things that may not be as positive. Street teams definitely combated that. Instead of just gangs, it was a gang of kids going to parties. So that was so necessary at that age in our life. What’s great about it is that is to this day, there’s different dance crews and street teams that throw parties. So it’s just something that’s being passed down organically.
UNIIQU3 performing at Coachella in Indio, Calif., in April 2022. Photo by Juliana Bernstein
When I went to the first iteration of Fade’s Jersey Club party, it was the most dancing I had seen in so long. Dancing plays a huge role in the movement.
FADE: A lot of our most popular songs are, like uUNIIQU3 said, call to action. So there’s the sexy walk, the rock your hips, the patty cake. I could go on and on, but these dances are prominent in our culture. I think that is one of the reasons why I would say that TikTok and YouTube culture has caught on because back in our days, we didn’t have glamorous music videos. We had tutorial videos where we’re [in front of a] wall and we’re showing you how to do the dance. I think that that played big role in the growth of Jersey club.
UNIIQU3: That’s something that also happened organically at the parties. I know in a lot of other cultures they’ll have a proper emcee that just holds down the mic. But the DJ took on two duties of being the music selector and also telling the crowd what to do—the call and response. So that’s how a lot of dances were developed and even became viral over the years. It’s just a jersey thing and now the dancers are [known] worldwide. It’s beautiful.
Do you think TikTok played a key role in blasting Jersey Club more into the mainstream universe?
FADE: Skrillex was having Jersey club parties and this was like six years ago. I mean, this is one of the biggest DJs in the world. We always had these high moments, whether it’s Jennifer Lopez performing an award show to Jersey club or Missy Elliott. I mean, there’s so many moments I just think that what’s happening now is just another moment.
UNIIQU3: And people just get inspiration from it like PinkPantheress and Drake. But Jersey club has been popular, I could say for over about 10 years now. A lot of us second-generation [creators], we really made the effort to take it beyond just the city of Newark and beyond just the tri-state. We took it internationally. I've been touring overseas for about five years now and I’ve been everywhere from Asia to Mexico. I’m in London right now. I even took it to South America last year and people over there with telling me that they’ve been listening to Jersey club forever. I definitely think TikTok boosted its visibility in terms of the culture being seen and digested by people, especially since it was during COVID, which was like a time when people were just on their phones.
I’m thinking of Gen Z because they may be being introduced to it for the first time with all these viral songs and dances.
UNIIQU3: I still have to disagree. I think that it helps. Every generation has had a social media app. Some of us had YouTube or MySpace, and then it was Vine. I think that of course, it boosts the visibility. But I do think generationally, people who are interested in music will find Jersey club. I play a lot of clubs, and I see the people from all around the world and they definitely don’t mention TikTok to me.
FADE: I want to add to that, in terms of pushing it to Ge Z. I'm sure Bianca knows this, but just want to put it on the record that I just played Jamaica Carnival. I was one of the only DJs that played Jersey club and I actually remixed some of the Caribbean songs. It’s a whole new refreshing sound because they’re used to like 98% Soca Music. But Soca sounds so much like Jersey club, so it intertwines perfectly. So it’s a matter of us DJs pushing it internationally to get the sound heard.
DJ Fade The Future photo by MikeQ
I’m glad you brought it up because I’ve noticed the genre is very versatile.
UNIIQU3: One thing that's very beautiful that I appreciate is that Newark is a very diverse city. It’s a big melting pot of different cultures and outside of the Americanized genres. A lot of us take inspiration from our actual backgrounds. So all my friends that are Latin, they’ll remix Latin club songs because they understand the lyrics and they could reinterpret it to reach that audience. Or anybody who’s of African descent. I’ve seen people put Afrobeat flavor on Jersey club or remix songs that are popping in Nigeria before they even make their way over here. I’ve done the same thing when I came to London. I’m like, “I’m gonna remix all the U.K. artists I know”. It’s really a beautiful thing that we’ve been able to do. DJs and producers just get more creative as time goes on. And when we’re out traveling, we also link up with other producers who have maybe took a shot at making Jersey club, but in their own way, which further infuses the pot.
FADE: Before this trip, I was in Jamaica again. And I linked up with Anju Blaxx who is Popcaan’s producer. Yeah. And I did a remix for Tommy Lee, who is a big Dancehall artist in the Caribbean. We’re all just excited to really push this to new markets, get creative and see how their sound infuses with ours. I'm sure that people are going to love it.
UNIIQU3: I also think people have been discovering Jersey club and adding that flavor into their productions that aren’t Jersey club. Say, for instance, DJ Khaled. He took the vocal chops of DJ Jayhood’s “Heartbreak”, which is a UK sample. He made that juke song—”To The Max” with Drake—and used the Jersey club sample. Chloe Bailey took my sample of “Off The Chain” with TT the Artist and had her breakout solo hit record “Have Mercy”. So it’s really dope that it started to go both ways where not only is Jersey club known for sampling top 40 music but now top 40 Music is sampling us.
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As Jersey Club continues to flourish, how would you’d like to see it grow?
FADE: I would love to see the artists contact the actual producers in a culture that’s making noise and being consistent. Just really try to keep it in house. If I’m making a Soca song, I’m going to reach out to my people in Trinidad. Because when you connect with people that’s in the culture and lives and breathes that sound, you’re going to make a great song. So I just hope that the artists reach out to the real producers in the community. And also the producers to put out their own projects and make their own noise.
UNIIQU3: That’s real. I love that Fade. I think we all want that to happen. Jersey club is just a genre that’s been appropriated so many times that the sound deserves to have its moment. The culture is not just a dance, so I hope that people really do start paying homage and connecting with us on a deeper level. To give opportunities to just not even just the producers, but inspire the city. I feel like as the mainstream takes on club music, the stories could get misconstrued because people don’t really know the history of what they’re trying to imitate or create. I really hope that more people are open to us telling our stories. I feel like that needs to happen because every genre has a music history. Jersey club is a fairly new genre, it’s only 20 years old. I’m just hoping that more people let us tell our stories and bring some financial abundance to the city.
FADE: A prime example. Back in the day when Diplo used to go to the hood and the garrison to actually find the producers. When he went to New Orleans, he went to find Nicky Da B, and then that’s when they made “Express Yourself”. I feel like that’s a lost art and I would love to see more producers and DJs make the effort to do it the right way.