Rock Wit U

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.

come get my man

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 šŸ˜‰


Fine, fine, fine

So somehow a rumor got spread that I would be including an essay with each post here. Of course as soon as I read that the ink dried up. Please don’t hold me to that or it will be 6 months in between posts. I also realized that my music collection is organized in a system that can only be described as complete chaos and typing “white label” into my iTunes wasn’t as fruitful as I had hoped when planning out tracks to posts. One track did come to mind though. I ended my boiler room in 2016 with it and have been hounded for an ID ever since. I’m never protective of track IDs. Whats mine is yours, so on and so forth. But with this one for years I couldn’t bring myself to share the track. It was my secret baby, only discussed amongst close friends.

Jameson vs. Whitney – Fine (Untitled Mix 1) [2000]

In many ways “Fine” marks the beginning of the first stumbles in Whitney Houston’s discography. After perfecting an anthemic pop sound in the late 90s, she began to transition to grown and sexy r&b. She wouldn’t fully emerge from the lull until 2009’s “Million Dollar Bill.” “Fine” was included as a new song on her Greatest Hits in 2000, which always used to drive me crazy. Just give us the hits, please! The original version produced by Raphael Saadiq and Q-Tip has a middlingly funky vibe that would feel at home in a Disaronno commercial, heavily laden with ribbed sweaters and leather blazers. The video, like all music videos from 1999-2001, features a dance battle on a roof (but I will say Whitney looks good in a fingerless glove!)

Jamie Williams, aka Jameson, was a stalwart producer and MC out of England, who started with a string of excellent hardcore singles in the early 90’s as Kenetic and eventually covered just about every shade of UK house. Shortly after hitting his stride at the turn of the century he adopted the ever so slightly different alias Jamieson and had mild crossover success with a handful of bubblegum 4×4 records. In “Fine (Untitled Mix 1)” we have evidence of the producer at his peak as he pitches up the vocal and swaps in an original instrumental, turning the whole thing into glittering garage magic. When I first got this 12″ it made me forget that “Fine” wasn’t actually one of Whitney’s greatest hits. While a good white label takes a familiar track that you love and helps you see it from a new perspective, a great one takes a track that you don’t care about and breathes life into it.

Nearly everything about Jameson’s take is perfect but the star of the show here is the bass line. When the first “boing” hits at 15 seconds it penetrates deep into the chest. I have never not started doing gun fingers in the club at that moment. Each time I play this out and see the reaction I’m shocked it never made it into the pantheon of classic UK garage flips. But I guess thats the way of the genre. With such a massive volume of white labels coming out of the UK around 2000 , the difference between gold record and dollar bin oddity was a flip of a coin or a prime time rinse on KISS FM.

eternal mood

If you are staring at the discogs entry for this record right now and dying to know if “Untitled Mix 2” is as good as this one, don’t waste your money! But its definitely worth buying the first 4 or 5 white labels that came out on Cherry Pie Records

Bonus : For my fam in the contemporary soulful house massive I’m including my second favorite remix of “Fine” made by Rob Hayes in 2014. Going to have to see if I can sway the rest of you on soulful house another time šŸ™‚

DJ Fierce ft. Soul – Don’t Speak (1999)

Howdy friends!

In an act of inspired generosity I’ve decided to round up some of my rarest mp3’s aka my collection of edits, bootlegs, white labels and other oddities that rearrange popular music and share them with you the DJing public (hold for applause…) From lost soundcloud edits to expensive white label rips, it’s all gonna be here with a little background where it exists. Buckle in!

First up, we have a booty bass cover of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” as found on Love You Down: Booty Bass Ballads ’99.Ā

Despite what a misguided Discogs entry says, this track and the entire compilation were produced by Adam Marano aka DJ Hott aka Shayme aka Nino aka a million other names. He produced (and sang on) dozens of forgettable freestyle, euro house and booty bass releases, mostly on his own Viper 7 Recordings . There are few early freestyle bits worth checking out, especially if you are into that classic out-of-key male vocal. Almost all of the music was recorded inĀ Pennsauken, NJ at a studio called Polygon, where hundreds of freestyle singles were recorded. Ā There is a surprising history of freestyle coming out of NJ, as the tri-state area probably had the biggest audience for the genre outside of Florida.

“Don’t Speak”Ā fits into a sweet spot heard a lot around this time, somewhere in-between the bounce of booty bass and the saccharine of freestyle with some wonky florida-breaks style acid thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, as is often the case, there is no information on the thoroughly un-googleable vocalist Soul.

Digging through what I like to call the Florida music (regardless of where it was produced) where a typical single would contain an electro mix, a freestyle mix, a hard house mix, a breaks mix and trance mix thrown in for good measure, you’re going to have to commit to listening to hundreds of horrible records to find the diamonds in the rough. The off the cuff, sample heavy nature of the genres led to many producers putting out countless extremely terrible records in a short time. These producers were shameless, thats what makes the music so bad, but much more importantly, thats what makes the music soooo good!

Bonus: Not quite as good but certainly worth having is DJ Fierce’s version of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” off the compilation, the original of course being featured in the 1998’s best love/asteroid-apocalypse story:Ā ArmageddonĀ (Deep Impact stans sit down.)

Till’ next time šŸ™‚