When it comes to Newark, New Jersey's largest city, club music—more so than current US Senator and ex-Newark mayor Cory Booker—could be its most notable export to the world. Jersey club shares the same signature kick drum hit as its predecessor, Baltimore club, but moves the sound towards more sensual territory with ubiquitous "bed squeak" samples and water drop effects. A decade after Baltimore-based producer Rod Lee's iconic track "Dance My Pain Away" was officially released, the homegrown genre is still going strong, as younger artists break out as touring acts with internet acclaim while a slew of names from the city bubble underground.
Put a genre with such groundbreaking potential in the hands of 24-year-old Newark native Nadus (born Rahshon Bright), and you end up with Broke City, out October 16 on Pelican Fly. An expanded, album-length version of his 2014 EP of the same name, Broke City includes all five tracks from the original release, remixes from the likes of DJ Sliink, Gutta, and Samename, plus two originals, "Broke City" and "Bust It Open." Each track on the album represents a story from Nadus' life in Newark, but they gesture towards something greater than an autobiographical tale; taken as a whole, Broke City is a soundtrack to solving America's issues with urban blight, minorities having pride in themselves and their communities, and a powerful ode to the past, present and future of club music.
Regarding why Newark, New Jersey is an ideal locale in which to base his work, Nadus says, "I feel like everybody should care about inner cities in places like Cleveland, Baltimore and Chicago. It just so happens that I'm from Newark. I care so much because [Newark] is a place that needs help. It's been getting it recently, but I'm 24 now. I grew up through the rough times."
"We don't have soccer moms in Newark," he continues. "We've got moms working second jobs. Club music keeps kids off the streets. There aren't any Boys and Girls Clubs open in the city right now, there's not a lot of afterschool activities for kids to do. So, instead of sitting on stoops and standing on corners, they're in the studio. Or, they're shooting Youtube videos or Instagram videos of themselves dancing. It gives them something to do. You have 12-year old kids producing music, just like how I was a 12-year old kid producing music. They come home from school and make club music on demo versions of Fruity Loops and Ableton."
Broke City is a prime example of Nadus using a plethora of sonic combinations to craft something excellent. For example, the undulating bassline of the album's titular track is a definite Jersey club staple, pumping along with a deeper and heavier pump than other club variations. Shimmering synths stabbing into its depths are a definite ode to Detroit techno and Chicago house, while that synth-heavy vocal feels so similar to Egyptian Lover's proto g-funk style.
Nadus says his aim is to draw similarities between Jersey club and dance music from other cities—a connection that he thinks most people don't understand. "I try to teach lessons with my music. People don't correlate the fact that Baltimore club music and Jersey club music came from Chicago ghetto house and Detroit records," he says. "To me, there's no difference. Growing up in Jersey, before there was Jersey club, Chicago house and Detroit records were what was played at house parties. You can still buy bootleg Chicago house tapes in Newark today! The purpose, meaning and people behind it, we relate like a motherfucker. Let's go even deeper with it. The Chicago and Baltimore stuff? That comes from Miami bass. And that Miami bass? That comes from Egyptian Lover."
There may be no better person to ask about the rise of Nadus and next-level ascension of Jersey Club than Dirty South Joe—the Mad Decent-affiliated DJ and Jersey Club supporter who is currently based in Philadelphia. He's the man who, as a member of the underground legendary Brick Bandit crew of DJs and producers, assisted Nadus to gain his first significant spotlight as a producer.
"First time I met him, it was 2009 at the Mad Decent Block Party," Dirty South Joe recalls. "He came with [DJs] Tameil and Tim Dolla. We got him 10 minutes of set time. The OGs pushed him forward. Nadus represents the most forward aspects of [club music] culture. He's the conduit [for Jersey Club] to the rest of the world."
"Nadus was the one talking to like-minded musicians all over the world, brokering a lot of introductions to established players in the global marketplace," he continues. "He has so many things he wants to get done. It feels like a lot, but he can definitely handle it."
Uniiqu3, another fast-rising Jersey club DJ and producer, agrees that Nadus' sound, and leadership are important, adding, "[Nadus] is such an innovator and so assertive, and always has the best advice for me when I need him."
As far as Newark itself, Uniiqu3 is optimistic regarding the city's future. "Newark isn't covered with graffiti anymore. The once (and maybe still) dangerous neighborhoods are now being decorated by beautiful art done by my peers. More festivals, block parties, art galleries and events that embrace us have been occurring and I love it."
Ironically, the economic development of Newark in recent years has pushed Nadus out of the city, as he recently uprooted to Raleigh, North Carolina in late July. "I refuse to pay a lot of fucking money to be close to New York City. Newark is being gentrified right now. People are using artists in the city to get people to believe that this is okay. I can't sit there and be a part of the problem," he explains. "I needed to get somewhere else so I could be clear-headed and get work done to help the people [in Newark]."
While he's fully aware of the slimier realities of the music industry, Nadus' commitment to the city and its music remains unwavering. "We live in a world where as long as you can afford the dopest PR agency and label, people may pay attention to you. They may. People would rather release something not from Jersey, and not take that chance—that undermines the success of the sound."
"But there's been dope Jersey club before me. It is so dope and so hype without that push."
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