Usually in this ongoing piece I try to highlight some of the latest tracks that I’m feeling from the world of house music. This time I’ve decided to take stroll down memory lane and showcase some of the most influential tracks from back in the day that had an impact on me when I was first discovering the genre.
Not intending to dig too deep into the earth for these selections, I’ve decided to try and excavate some gems that were big in their day and some of those that were bubbling just below the surface. These are coming from a time when house and electronic music hadn’t been painted by the EDM brush and just before the mainstream explosion of the mid 2000s.
Being a working DJ for close to 20 years, when you look back you can see the ebb and flow of different styles from within the genre. This back and forth relationship can be seen in all forms of music, as well as other creative trends like fashion and design.
Looking at fashion, a great example is how the baggy styles of the 90’s and 2000s morphed into the skinny jean phenomenon of last decade. Once something gets oversaturated then people, styles and trends tend to move in the opposite direction. The same thing happens to music.
Once styles get overexposed a few things happen. Initially, when these sounds are new and exciting to the listener they are captivated by how fresh they are. Then after awhile they are not so fresh anymore and the uniqueness that made them stand out becomes ubiquitous and played-out. In addition, creators in the genre start trying new things and can get away from what made them good in the first place. This can happen with genres that take the world by storm and can be illustrated in recent years from the evolution of disco into rock into hip hop into EDM. Even country music’s increase in popularity in the early 2010s can be attributed to being an answer to beat-based music’s popularity and rock music’s decline as a result of dominating music for decades.
The same can be said for the counterbalance that occurs within genres. The rise of dubstep as an answer to the massive popularity of electro house resulted in this slower-paced sub-genre eventually birthing the trap styles that have held court most recently and dominated airwaves. After dubsteps quick rise and even faster fall from DJs playlists came the answer in the form of deep house. However, this wasn’t the first time this style had been popular amongst the house heads.
Back in the late 90s, electronic music was experiencing it’s first real explosion into the mainstream. Dance music and Big Beat were gaining popularity over the bridges and tunnels with iconic artists such as Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, and host of other one hit wonders that started taking their slice out of the pie. But, they only went so far and were soon overtaken by mainstream hip hop and R&B and the last gasps of popular rock music in the early 2000s, slipping momentarily back underground before exploding into the EDM wave that his been riding high ever since.
Coming back out of Big Beat styles and faster paced techno-inspired numbers that proliferated in the club came an answer in the form of deep and sexy house. Lending itself to its disco roots, this stuff was everywhere from clubs to clothing stores and restaurants. Acts such as Miguel Migs, Mark Farina and Little Louie Vega started things off with icons such as Kaskade grabbing the torch and taking it further. Little Louie’s ‘Diamond Life’ is one of my all time favourites to this day. This one comes equipped with funky ass bass line, killer vibe and an outstanding vocal performance from Julie McKnight.
Diamond Life by Little Louie Vegas featuring Julie McKnight
Salsoul Nugget by Milk & Sugar
There is a wealth of great music from this era if you start digging. The post-internet pre-social media vibes were a great time to be discovering the scene, meeting some cool people, and most importantly, dancing your ass off. I will leave you with a few more gems before I get outta here. Enjoy, and I will see you next week.
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JT James is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. A veteran of the DJ and recording worlds. he has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova. Be on the lookout for his upcoming single with underground hip hop legend Ras Kass and his electronic music collaboration with James Landau, in 2020.