The Dope Jams crew has a rep for being grouchy dance music heads—but we know they're secretly softies at heart. Originally based in Brooklyn, the record store helmed by DJ duo Slow to Speak (Francis Englehardt and Paul Nickerson) moved to Oak Hill, New York in 2013, telling FACT in their typically dry-humored fashion that they are now "focusing more on fishing lures and bear deterrents then Sandwell District and Pittsburgh Track Authority 12″s."
Over the years, Dope Jams has built a loyal following of both enthusiasts and experts who are drawn to the store's no-bullshit approach to music, with even the buzziest names left unspared by Englehardt and Nickerson's acerbic tongues. (They once described Nicolas Jaar's records as "boring, watered-down trip-hop from the '90s with an Ableton twist. Fuck you.")
On February 13, Dope Jams is heading to Good Room in Brooklyn, where their self-described "extended family of house music miscreants"—Lisbon-based Club Lux resident Tiago, New York mainstay Lloydski, and Slow to Speak themselves—will man the decks for a Valentine's Day ball. To put you in the mood, Nickerson put together guide to the music of Chicago house love doctor Larry Heard, selecting a track that represents each stage of love—here's what to play during the honeymoon stage, or when you find out bae freaked off with someone else, or when you know it's truly over.
If you're single
Blakk Society – "Just Another Lonely Day"
Before soulful house slaughtered itself with one happy-go-lucky, the world is great vocal after another, Larry Heard was continuing the tradition of great songwriting by people like Gamble and Huff and Holland-Dozier-Holland. Released on Larry's Alleviated label in 1989, with vocals by David Hollister, it's a story of hope—the dream of finding that one person that will make it all alright. It resolves itself in exactly what that dream is: a dream.
It's great to listen to when you're alone and feeling like shit. Just ignore the lyrics in the verses and sing along in sorrow to the "Just Another Lonely Day" chorus.
When you've got your eye on someone
Fingers Inc. – "A Love Of My Own"
Taken from the greatest house music full-length LP of all time, Fingers Inc. "Another Side"—you really need to find the 12" version on Alleviated from 1987 to appreciate this monster. This is a 13-minute masterclass in building up the tension in a track and releasing it at the perfect moment, as Heard does with the "gotta keep holding on" hook half way through. Features Robert Owens on lead vocals with a convincing proclamation of his ability to appreciate and cherish real love.
When you're falling for someone
Larry Heard – "Closer"
Taken from the Mr. Fingers "Introduction" LP, this version is only available on the "Closer" 12". It's the sonic embodiment of falling in love, that warm seductive whirlwind where you feel like you are in a cocoon floating on the clouds. It was released on a major label—indicative of how far things have fallen.
When you know you've found the one
Fingers Inc. – "Never No More Lonely"
Since Led Zeppelin broke up, both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have released solo albums. They all sucked. The musical bed Page laid allowed Plant's voice to soar above, below and all in between— that alchemy made Led Zeppelin the greatest rock band of all time. The same synchronicity exists between Larry Heard and Robert Owens and this song is the perfect example of it. Pure musical harmony.
When you're in the honeymoon phase
Fingers Inc. – "So Glad"
The jam for when your relationship is perfect; when the world just makes sense. You know, when everything your partner says is the most interesting thing you have ever heard and you just want to know more … years before the lies, cheating and boredom. Larry Heard is the master of the mid tempo groove and this is one of his finest.
When you melt into one
Ken Gill – "Love Moon"
Proving he still has it after 30 years, this lazy, mid-tempo vocal co-produced by Heard was released just last year on his Alleviated label. The hypnotic head-fuck bassline rivaling any of his early Jack Trax releases. A great record to start or end a party.
When the sex is still fresh
Larry Heard – "Burning"
Buried on the b-side of the Black Oceans 12", this is sex on wax. The push and pull of the synth and bassline creating a pocket you can't help but fall into and the "Love So Special" vocal sample is the icing on the cake. Lock the door and dim the lights!
When things are getting too comfortable
Kriss Coleman – "Shine"
Late night, one-off vocal from Kriss Coleman produced by Larry Heard and released on Alleviated in 1990. A tale of fading love and the importance of making it shine again.
When you know it's over
Larry Heard – "Premonition Of Lost Love"
Funkier than a mosquito's tweeter! Cocky dope-as-fuck groove with a smokin' vocal by Ona King, and the greatest ad lib of all time as she tells her good for nothing man to get the fuck out. You need to find the La Casa 12" to get the acapella of the ad-lib. Perfect listening for when you just ended a relationship that was going nowhere.
When your bae freaks off with someone else
The It – "Donnie"
As raw as it gets! Robert Owens vocal produced by Larry Heard and remixed by the one and only Ron Hardy. Originally released in 1986 on DJ International, "Donnie" is the story of a fellow dropped by his gold diggin' woman for another man and it turns out he wasn't the only one she did it to. Everything you would want and expect from a track made by Larry Heard and Ron Hardy. Raw dog without a bag.
When your ex realizes they fucked up
Mr. Finger – "What About This Love"
This is the original extended version on Alleviated from 1989, it was later released on MCA with remixes by Masters At Work, but it's the original you want. Not only did Heard produce the music but also sang vocals on this one. Here he laments a relationship that ended and pleas for his partner to return.
When you want them back
Larry Heard – "Missing You"
After falling off the face of the planet for several years then releasing two forgettable albums, Heard dropped this in 2002 and all at once the world stopped and was reminded again of the genius of Larry Heard. It was as good or better than any of his early releases and the music (the seagull sounds, the fucking seagulls…) as well as the lyrics were completely heartbreaking. Have you ever dared to love someone?
Dope Jams is hosting a Valentine's Day Ball with DJ Tiago on February 13 at Good Room in Brooklyn. More information available here.