Club music tends to have less lyrical content than the majority of genres coming out of the depths of urban enclaves, but that doesn't mean it's incomplete in any stretch of the imagination. What club music and any of its derivatives does better than most other genres is that it tells a story, not only with the soundbites that it does incorporate, but with the space it gives to the instrumentals. Harlem native Byrell The Great is one of club music and ballroom culture's greatest storytellers when you take that criteria into consideration. Through his music, Byrell paints a picture of what it's like to grow up in the ballroom scene, and his best showing of weaving narratives together is on his new mixtape Chopped Cheese, an ode to New York City's go-to sandwich and club culture that we're premiering today on Noisey.
The nine-track tape uses clips from 1990 cult classic film Paris Is Burning, which gave insight into the ballroom scene and NYC's LGBTQI community in the 80s. But it also brings unsuspecting forces together, like bringing Drowning Pool’s “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” and Busta Rhymes’ “Wild For The NIght” together for Byrell's "Wild, FTN" track. "If you listen closely enough to the mixtape, it’s a story," Byrell said. "The tracks 'LAW' and '3 CC Shot' are synonymous to each other because the journey they take you on is sort of like a two-part mini-story. If this were a visual, it would showcase a boy transitioning into a woman in the ballroom scene and what that story would look like." Byrell used the documentary clips as a way to pay respect to trans women who played a major role in creating NYC ballroom culture.
Club music pops into the mainstream every few years. In the late 2000s, MIA's meteoric rise was heavily influenced by Baltimore club. Beyonce's "Formation," gave space to New Orleans bounce icon Big Freedia. At last year's VH1 Hip Hop Honors, Missy Elliott danced to Jersey Club producer Jay Hood's remix of her "She's a Bitch" track. But even with the sporadic mainstream shots club music gets, Byrell sees these moments as an opportunity for authenticity to take the forefront. "Everyone from party promoters, DJs, producers, models, and even hosts benefit from these moments," he said. "Of course, club music probably won’t ever be as visible as pop or even rap music, but every time that push happens, it shows people that this music, and what’s going on here, is just as dope as any other major movement. I just wish that more women, POC, gay and trans people in club music would get more of the shine and respect they deserve. They create and set the tone for everything, yet are rarely the faces pushed forward in mainstream media."
Listen to Chopped Cheese below.
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