Emynd over matter
For more than 20 years, hip-hop has led a parallel life in Chicago dance halls, Baltimore nightclubs, and South Florida street parties, where it has developed weird, hyper-regional quirks. Shorn of its celebrity, money, and staged feuds, this type of hip-hop is bass-heavy club music that abandons lyrical narratives and song structure for scandalous, shout-out slogans and madcap dance-floor beats that recall the do-it-yourself sonic innovation of early disco and soul music.
Here in Santa Fe, Corazón is presenting a rare chance for New Mexicans to shake to the drive-time jams that tear up the rush hours in rap’s urban archipelago. On Saturday, June 5, the Guadalupe district club plays host to Emynd, a Philadelphia DJ who has produced records and remixes for Gucci Mane, Young Money, and Beyoncé. Onstage, he spins the sort of urban dance records that are largely unavailable in stores or even the internet. He’s part of a larger national trend in which Southern crunk rappers and indie dance DJs have been teaming up to produce crossover hits that are as strange and daring to rap fans as they are to indie-rock followers.
“I came up like a hip-hop DJ, but I played more dance music as I played out more and more,” Emynd said in an interview with Pasatiempo. Emynd appears at Corazón as part of the club’s monthly dance party, Bodonkadonk. Maynard Del Mar, the dance night’s promoter and lead DJ, said he plays Emynd along with other artists trying to fuse regional hip-hop club music genres. “I play it at Bodonkadonk every month,” Del Mar said. “I think a lot of people know it in hip-hop culture, but not exactly. I think a lot of people in indie culture know it, but not exactly. It’s a crossover event.”
The type of hip-hop club music that Emynd plays and produces originated in black and Latino nightclubs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike a lot of commercial hip-hop being produced at that time, it was rarely the subject of albums and never made its way onto MTV, circulating only through mix tapes and underground parties. In New Orleans, they call it bounce, a hypersexualized call-and-response music composed of Mardi Gras Indian chants and dance shout-outs (think of the Ying Yang Twins demanding you to “shake that thing like a salt shaker”). In Miami, people gyrate to booty bass, an up-tempo electro-funk style made infamous by 2 Live Crew. Houston clubbers nod their heads to “chop and screwed,” which are hip-hop songs remixed into slowed-down, bass-heavy tracks that mimic the syrupy effects of recreationally imbibed prescription cough medicine, a popular practice in the Southern rap scene. In Chicago, clubbers twist their feet to juke, a frenetic form of house music whose 170 beats-per-minute hand claps ride atop warp-speed bass lines. Baltimore Club, a genre recently given a national platform by underground rock DJs and HBO’s The Wire, is an aggressively joyous party music made up of 8/4 break beats and melodic swaths of 1960s Motown R & B.
An Emynd show threads all these genres together in a beat-matched hodgepodge. Given his roots in Philly’s DJ culture, Emynd plays a heavy helping of “club,” the city’s party music imported from nearby Baltimore. “I’m sort of known as a Baltimore club producer even though I do make a lot of hip-hop and house,” Emynd said. “These songs aren’t seen as experimental dance music in Philly. They are just built into the culture; there [are] certain classics people know as songs they grew up on. There’s something uniquely likable about it. I can play anywhere and people like it because of the natural sense of rhythm and its aggressiveness. There’s something about it that’s infectious.”
Indie dance DJs such as Diplo, Dre Skull, and Steve Aoki have popularized this mash-up of various niche urban club music genres that critics derisively call hipster-hop or blog house. Such labels overlook the music’s working-class origins. While it’s true that Chicago juke and New Orleans bounce music have been obsessively tracked by a subculture of largely white, middleclass bloggers, most people making this music are young, urban African Americans who release their material through local channels.
Unlike hip-hop, this new street music is not yet a vehicle for national fame. Instead, it recalls rap’s origins as a cathartic party music for a largely working-class culture, fusing hip-hop’s street bravado with dance music’s electronic quirks. Internet boom aside, it remains fiercely local. “It’s still really difficult to get your hands on good New Orleans bounce, juke, or go-go,” Emynd said. “I’m really into bounce, and it’s very difficult for me to find. And I’ve got fairly good connections.”