Originally posted here
The rebellious child of House music, New Jersey Club should stand as one of the most widely-recognizable and unique contributions from the state. The impact of the genre founded in the early 2000s has spread far beyond the confines of the Garden State. Music that at one point was only being played by local DJs at underground house parties now finds itself on international music festival stages and in songs by artists like Ciara and dvsn. In fact, the genre is just as much of a style of music as it is a culture. However, in what feels like an intentional act, mainstream coverage of Jersey Club often omits the major role women have played in it.
The contributions of DJ Tameil, Tim Dolla, Mike V, DJ Frosty, DJ Lil Man, and DJ Wallah cannot be understated. DJ Tameil, Tim Dolla, and Mike V are the forefathers. DJ Frosty served as a bridge between adult and children listeners. DJ Lil Man mastered video content and helped transition events from home basements to large venues. And DJ Wallah dominated the radio airwaves in a way that had not yet been seen. But as often happens within Hip-Hop, Rap, and music at large, the work and talent of the women within Jersey Club music are pushed to the background. From vocals to production to event promotion, women from the Garden State are not an aside in the history of Jersey Club music, but instead important contributors who deserve to be celebrated. Here are some women you should know.
DJs and Producers
From creating original songs, producing mixes, live emceeing at parties, and ushering in the next dance craze, DJs are the heart of Jersey Club music. Women Hip-Hop DJs such as DJ Cocoa Chanelle, DJ Diamond Kuts, and DJ Lazy K amplified and supported the genre, but it wasn’t until UNIIQU3 entered the scene that there was a woman on the boards who focused solely on Jersey Club music. Dubbed the “Jersey Club Queen,” UNIIQU3 has played festivals like AfroPunk and Coachella and headlined international shows, playing a huge role in spreading the genre across the globe. UNIIQU3 is also a producer, vocalist, dancer, digital innovator, and businesswoman. When she’s not creating music she’s hosting her Twitch show UNIIQU3’s Club Chronicles, hosting workshops to educate POC & LGBTQ+ creatives on DJ etiquette and managing their business with her outreach company BE UNIIQU3, or building what she calls an “international club music sandwich” of Philly, Baltimore and New Jersey DJs with her event company PBNJ.
“I definitely wanted to become a DJ because I did see a lack of women behind the booth at the parties I would go to. I Googled Black women EDM DJs and would find nothing. So after I learned [how to DJ] I made it my mission to [be that representation],” said UNIIQU3.
She also discussed how heavily DJs relied, and still do, on the attendance and participation of women partygoers. Prior to her arrival the men who DJed utilized commands like “ladies booty bounce to this” and drops like “hit it to beat” to encourage women to shake their behinds or men to dagger them. UNIIQU3 intended to “set a new vibe” during her sets and create a space for women to reclaim their bodies and autonomy on the dance floor, “I would call the girls into the circle! I was over the misogyny. Tired of the girls being told to booty bounce for the enjoyment of the guys.”
When asked about her legacy she replied, “honestly, I still have so many more things to do. This pandemic has forced me to slow down from touring. I started [my career] wanting to make an impact on my community. So everything I’m doing now, in terms of production, is to help women who want to learn [how to produce themselves]. Nurturing my girls here [at home].”
Vocalists with Jersey Club Music serve as the unofficial ambassadors of the culture. Known for classic tracks “Rock My Hips,” “Get Up On The Wall,” “Can’t Bounce Like Me,” and “Sexy Walk” Ms. Porsh was the first woman recording artist to receive featured vocal credit in Jersey Club music, opening the door for acts like Cookiee Kawaii to come nearly a decade later.
“I didn’t realize the trail I was blazing back then especially as a junior in high school. I didn’t have any management or any representation. I was just recording [music] and putting it out. Now that I’m older, had I had the opportunity to hire someone I would have seized a lot of opportunities that were available at the time and progress my career further,” said Ms. Porsh.
When discussing her signature vocal stamp, she credits DJ Lil Man for giving her popularity a boost: “I said it one time. He took the vocal and locked it in the vault. Later placing it on all the tracks [we created together].”
We also discussed the lack of other credited women vocalists, to which she replied, “I wish there would have been more us! We could have teamed up and did great things. Female unity would have been great for the culture.” And when asked about what she would like to see in the future for Jersey Club music she replied, “I would love for Jersey to receive its credit. Mainstream artists will jump on a Jersey record but we won’t get our just due. We don’t get the recognition for the sound.”
Cookiee Kawaii burst on the scene with her single “Vibe,” an infectious cut that took the world and TikTok by storm and is Jersey through and through. We talked about the lack of women vocalists within the genre, saying “there weren’t that many females that really dominated in the club field. I definitely looked up to K Swift because she put on for Baltimore club music heavy, rest her soul. UNIIQU3 also put on for the ladies. Others were Ms. Porsh and Double C Chanel (formerly Empress Tokyo) as they were the heavy hitters of club vocals before I really seriously started doing music. The fact that I now have the opportunity to be the front runner in Jersey Club is a blessing.”
When it comes to her future in music and the future of Jersey Club, Cookiee shared the same sentiment as Ms. Porsche: “I honestly just want to put Jersey Club into the same conversations with the other bigger genres. To be recognized for what it is and how influential it is. It’s a genre that can stand up with pop, EDM, and techno. The world needs to see there’s a whole culture behind Jersey Club music.”
Self-taught dancers played a huge role in Jersey Club’s wildfire-like-reach on social media, with many spending hours on YouTube to learn the latest dance moves in time for an upcoming party. The Sexy Walk, one of the most famous Jersey Club dances, is a blend of Harlem’s heel-toe and Chuck Berry’s duck walk and also the first dance move in the genre created and credited to a woman. Originated by Ashley Ford and later popularized by Miss CTE (for then-popular dance crew Chuck Taylor Entertainment), how convincingly the dancer could exude confidence while executing the move, neck snaps and head rolls. Although not exclusively a dance crew, West Side High School’s Kick Up Girls, also contributed to the Sexy Walk’s popularity. Today the most popular women dancers include Pack Rat, 3l3v3n, Quee, Danielle Morina, Ke Ke Nia, and Coach Neyy.
Event Promoters/Street Teams
The rise of Jersey Club music’s popularity meant promoters needed venues for the next big party and street teams on the ground to spread the word. The first all-women-led street team that doubled as a dance crew was founded by UNIIQU3 and called The Viixens. Irvington native Kiyanté Grant founded the first all-girl-led event promotion company Lady Rock Star (LRS), hosting self-funded teen parties at small venues across the city. When asked why she founded LRS she replied, “my initial objective was to earn extra money. In all honesty it wasn’t until after our first teen party that I realized how much more significant what we were doing actually was! We were packing out venues, selling out tickets, being a part of photoshoots… completely violence-free. Reflecting on it now what we’ve done was legendary for 14+-year-old girls.”
Although Grant is no longer in the event promotion business when asked what she would like to see next she quickly said, “the future of the Jersey Club music scene deserves the full participation of women just BOLDLY this time around.”
Many event spaces weren’t willing to open their doors to the genre’s young demographic. The first large-scale facilities to do so were the Newark Public Library’s (NPL) main branch and the historic venue Newark Symphony Hall (NSH). Then library director (2005-2015) Wilma J. Grey was a fierce advocate for the city’s youth and found it imperative for them to have a safe place to enjoy themselves. NSH events manager and avid House music lover Marie Thompson made it her mission to do the same. When asked about the role women played in the genre she answered, “the Jersey Music Scene has been a male-dominated industry since its inception. Very few women break into the good ole boys club of Djing, promoting, owning record stores, production, and sound. I was fortunate to break into the game as a promoter and host of a monthly party [Deliverance] that garnered at least 500 people a month.” The East Orange native turned that passion into a career. “I parlayed my love of planning and great events into a full-time job at Newark Symphony Hall,” continuing, “if the floor could talk it would tell you stories of young and old dancing and falling in love with this thing called Jersey House. The Terrace Ballroom had become known for some of the most epic college and house parties.”
So, what’s next for the genre and the next generation of women curators? The lifeblood of the Jersey Club music heavily relies on social gathering and with the coronavirus restrictions that is not possible at this time. However, the pandemic hasn’t seemed to stop the genre by any stretch of the imagination thanks in part to applications such as Thriller, TikTok, and Instagram. There is a new wave of women in the Jersey Club music scene currently creating a presence online that cannot be denied. The culture is alive and well and the women are coming for what’s theirs.