Hangin’ with DJ Nate
Photography Bea Fremderman
Juke is a contemporary stepchild of Chicago’s ghetto house, a genre that gained popularity in the mid-’90’s thanks to the record label Dance Mania. It retains the original’s concept of repetitive vocals and some of its familiar drum machine samples, but updates and mutates it into an up-to-date form that sits comfortably alongside current spastic American TV editing and the Internet; the beats per minute have increased significantly and the turnover rate of the tracks is quite high.
Chicago’s juke scene has remained largely undocumented to date, save a scattering of YouTube videos posted by its participants. These short clips, mostly of footwork (the type of dancing associated with the music) function as a kind of spotty history book for anyone not living in the city’s south or west side with an interest in the music. Most of these tracks find their final resting place on CD-R, remaining inaccessible to those abroad. In September, UK label Planet Mu decided to more permanently document a part of the genre by releasing three 12-inches of one of Juke’s most promising young producers – DJ Nate.
Twenty-year-old DJ Nate, born Nathan Clark, is inexplicably prolific for his age, as his first album, Da Trak Genious (Planet Mu, 2010), demonstrates. The opus is comprised of 25 ADHD dance cuts that hang on short-lived emotive meditations before collapsing into scattered 808 toms, distorted snares, and chopped vocals. While the majority of these tracks end before reaching the three-minute mark, they remain highly effective. “Ga Ga Lord R.I.P.” functions as a very honest memoriam to a deceased friend; “Fade Da Black Trak” is a rugged dirge focused on a repeating piano loop and down-pitched, delayed chanting of the word “blackout”.
Lately Nate has chosen to focus more on producing radio-worthy rap and R&B tracks under the nom de guerre Yung Baka. His track “What A Night (Remix)” has currently garnered more than 200,000 views on YouTube. In addition, countles videos of teenage girls slowly gyrating to the song in their homes have appeared, thanks to YouTube users like sexyfemale69, or kayla62397, who gives a particularly memorable performance as she winds in front of a sunflower-colored wall accented by a grey-blue towel in a pair of hiked-up SpongeBob SquarePants boxer briefs. The viewer is hypnotized as Nate’s voice effortlessly croons from beneath the thickest sea of white noise produced unknowingly by kayla62397’s laptop fan.