No one appreciates a booty quite like a ghetto house producer. With its deliciously explicit vocals, raw 808 kicks, and hyper-BPM bounce, ghetto house is the Chicago-centric take on booty music, and it might be the most unapologetically fun of dance music that has ever existed. (Where else could you find a track that could double as the script of a porno, with lyrics that proudly declare, "Face down, ass up/That's the way we like to fuck"?)
Born in early-90s Chicago, ghetto house was inspired by Miami bass and the Chicago's own house scene. Jesse Saunders' Dance Mania label served as an essential incubator, where OGs like DJ Funk, DJ Deeon, Traxmen, DJ Milton, Slugo, and Jammin' Gerald steered the sound to crude club perfection. Soon, local DJs were developing their own sounds and followings through mix tapes and local parties in the projects.
With the recent ghetto house revival steered by international (read: European) DJs like Nina Kraviz—who once praised Dance Mania for sounding "so real and human"—the iconic label is releasing a compilation album called Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness this week. The 15-track album is like a road map to the genre's most vital tracks—so we got Dance Mania regular DJ Deeon to play tour guide, and guide us through five of its most cracking highlights.
1) Steve Poindexter – Computer Madness
"I've been playing this track in my sets since the early 90s. It's the classic foundation and inspiration for underground music from Chicago's Southside. From the 12" he put out with "Computer Madness," at least four tunes off that were really rare. Most people don't have four hits in one EP. For our generation of producers, Steve is a leading legend in this shit. "Computer Madness" is also a motivation for me—it made me want to make tracks like that. The way he goes from the high to the lows in the bassline, catchy instrumentals, no vocals—he's just really good at what he does with that funky sound. Definitely a favorite amongst all the DJs in the city, period."
"We never really met personally, because he was way before me and a little bit older than I am. I guess he had a job, he wasn't on the scene until recently. I just got call from him the other day, though. He wanted me to do a skating party for his son."
2) Jammin Gerald – "Pump That Shit Up"
"Pump That Shit Up" is definitely a prime example of a ghetto house track from the West Side [of Chicago]. It's also a classic Jammin Gerald track—he's always innovative and different, the best remixer on the release. I like the high energy vocals and the bassline. When I first heard this track, it made me play the rest of the 12". But this one was my favorite."
3) DJ Deeon - "The Freaks"
"I sampled the "uh oh!" chant from guys sitting at a house party in the projects. When it gets warm, we party in the playground and stuff like that. Parris Mitchell had this song called 'Work It' that I sampled from, and I played around with the 'all the freaks' vocals. I let a couple of my friends hear it, and they were like, 'That's a nice, clean ghetto house record!' "
"It took off from there. All the DJs played it, and it became a radio hit back in 1997 and 1998. It made it all the way up to number one on WGCI-FM's "Top 9 at 9." I was surprised. That "uh oh!" chant became a regular party chant. On TV shows, I would hear the crowd do that chant. It caught on pretty bad, you know."
3) DJ FUNK - "Bitches!!!"
"If a rapper ever did a house track, this would be the one. It's about the girls he's been through, had sex with, like, party girls. He does have a girlfriend at home, but he can get wild. I was realizing how this guy had to actually sit down and write the lyrics down. He actually rapped all the way through the entire song."
"In 1994, people slept on this song. It only got radio play in 1996 or 1997. Ghetto house was an underground thing, in the streets and in the clubs. But some of the club DJs ended up on the radio, doing guest slots on the holidays or the weekends, and they started playing this track. That helped out a lot too."
"As I got older, I got to respect that a good DJ works around the profanity. People don't wanna hear that all the time, and there are kids out here who listen to the radio. That style of music has its place, I would like for it to stay underground."
5) DJ Deeon - "1112"
"The title comes from the apartment I stayed at in the projects. It was my sister's apartment with my nephews and nieces—I was up in there for two or three years back in 1992. The track was inspired by Poindexter, all instrumental with no vocals. We'd play around with a Yamaha keyboard, the same pattern and bassline, but I would switch the sound for modulation back and forth. This is one of my favorites, I like the way the crowd responds when the bassline switches it up to the high tweaky sample when I play it. "