There is a simple pleasure in hearing music that draws a line between two points in your life. I will spend the rest of my days tracking down remixes and edits of my favorite songs from 8th grade, because while I’m quite content being a grown 30 something at the club I also want, momentarily, to be 13 years old basing my entire existence around the TRL countdown.
Ashanti – Rock Wit U (Armand’s Acid Banger)
As a runty JNCO-clad teen, Ashanti’s music alway managed to melt my cold faux sk8r boi heart. In 2003, when “Rock Wit U” came out she was still a massive star, but just starting to slip from two straight years of inescapable radio dominance. There was an unfair backlash against Ashanti’s work and Murder Inc’s chart dominance as it became the catch-all for criticism of Rap and R&B’s merger with allegedly vapid pop music. Years after those navel gazing takes about authenticity, Foolish stands as one of the best R&B albums of all time. Ashanti’s follow up didn’t quite hit those heights but still contained the addictive single “Rock Wit U (Aww Baby)”
Moving to New York years later my understanding of house music was in vague terms from nights at the club and YouTube trawling. Eventually I became friends with the infinitely talented Michael Magnan and he gave me a crash course in all things New York house. These lessons almost always centered around Armand Van Helden. Anytime I would try to show him an AVH rarity, he had inevitably found it first.
For me house music, Armand Van Holden and Michael Magnan are all inextricably linked into one single thread. I can’t tell your how many times I’ve watched a 22-year old DJ in knock-off Balenciaga casually drop a Van Helden classic and wished I was watching Michael play the same track, because he just would have done it better.
I discovered this particular Armand remix while nurturing a different obsession: buying major label remix singles. It may seem punishing, slogging through endless 10-minute Thunderpuss 2000 remixes in the hope that you will find some B-side glimmer of brilliance, accidentally A&R-d by an Island Records intern… and it is, but occasionally you do find one.
Armand’s take is an opulent, acid-drenched breakbeat epic. In a slightly different world it could have been the birth of a new sub-genre, as his remix of “Sugar Is Sweeter” was to speed garage. Are the 2 minute break downs a bit… much? Absolutely not. Trust me, when Ashanti’s full vocal finally drops, people will lose it. If they don’t, the only possible explanation is that you are in Germany and the crowd is dutifully waiting for you to play a track without vocals.
BONUS: I am including a zip of the entire double disc single, as a gift to you my readers. There is an excellent Pound Boys funky house remix, a couple slow jam versions, and perhaps most useful to any DJs reading, a time-stretched a capella 😉