"I tend to not delineate too much between funk, R&B, deep disco, hip-hop," says Language by phone from his home in New York. "If I like it, I consider it 'soul music.'"
Now a respected DJ, Language began a decade ago in Chicago and currently holds down packed NYC residencies. He's out to spread Real Music for Real People - not only the name of his latest mix CD, but also his mantra. As he DJs, Language imagines the late-'70s era of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage, when seemingly different, disparate groups such as Liquid Liquid, the Clash, Booker T and the MG's, and Steve Miller could coexist. Language resurrects the approach where a club acts as a polyglot of musical genres that challenge patrons without forgoing the funk.
"DJing is always a negotiation between you and the crowd," he says. "You don't want to go in there and be like, 'Hey, listen to whatever I play because I'm who I am.' You really have to be open to learn what people respond to and work with them in that way. Then once the party jumps off, you can take them where you want to - where they want to go but maybe don't know it. Also take chances, be willing to lose a little of the floor because you'll get a different part. I always want a party to be a really fun place to dance first of all, but also to have an underlying motivation."
Even a cursory look at Language's residencies exhibits his tendencies. For three years he's been one of hosts of NegroClash, a night at New York's Meatpacking District APT lounge that celebrates original African-American innovations in electronic instrumentation and production. Started somewhat as a reaction to the early 2000s electroclash movement - which Language feels ignores electro's original conception as music meant for B-boys to dance to - NegroClash looks to the initial use of drum machines and synthesizers by artists such as Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone. The sound is then traced through early '80s producers such as Afrika Bambaataa, Cybertron and Mantronix, as well as the Chicago house that influenced Language's early listening habits, alongside breaks and rare grooves.
Good examples of these themes conflating are "The Glow of Love" and "A Lover's Holiday" by Change (featuring Luther Vandross). The result of post-disco European producers making uptempo soul, these records represent a period when Grandmaster Flash would blend as much punk funk and deep disco as hip-hop, playing the many types of tracks that built off James Brown's back.
"We want to provide an alternative history of a sort to electronic music," says Language. "I think that term is a really vague term because now almost every music uses electronics. Even country music is recorded on ProTools."
Real Music for Real People is not concentrated on the exact same convergence as NegroClash, but shares facets of the subtly nuanced aesthetics, as modern soul music can incorporate plenty of synthetic production without coming across as fabricated. The CD features upcoming artists including Platinum Pied Pipers and Koushik, classics from Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Nas, and forgotten vault tracks from Roy Ayers and Patrice Rushen. It spans genres from luxuriously slouchy, lived-in R&B to boom-bap broken beat. It also spans the ocean, comfortably seating artists such as Europe's Spacek, Bugz in the Attic and Beanfield next to New York's DJ Spinna and St. Louis Black Spade. Twitchy synths and juicy hooks abound, whether influenced from Italo-disco or P-funk vamps. The only thing seemingly neglected is the well-known, which is no loss. And expect nothing less from Language's two-night stint (his second such shift at MJQ), where one night will focus more on the hip-hop/electro/funk tip, and the other the deep-house diaspora.
"Ultimately, what a DJ does is find where there's always a no-frills room with room for good music," he says. "A room like MJQ where it's just a good sound system and good people, which is another kind of soul that outlasts the trends."
Killin it. So damn sexy
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…