I like to give you the details. You know how I love data. This is an exciting compilation. Any kind of historical collection of information and sound based on a localized story gets my brain and heart in motion. If the compiled story documents Black music from the Midwest that’s a little bit weird, I get even more worked up. House music is something that I’ve known sonically for decades, but the people and details of Chicago are still coming to me. Thanks to Jerome Derradji, Thomas Cox, and Jacob Arnold, I’m digging the details. Jerome, of Still Music, and Tom, of Infinite State Machine and Pittsburgh Track Authority, wrote the extensive liner notes for 122 BPM, and Jacob Arnold, of Gridface, made sure they had their shit straight. Between the three of them, I’m pretty sure you can trust there’ll be greatness.
The 3CD box set comes with a 28 page booklet documenting the history of Mitchbal and Chicago Connection Records.
122 BPM covers the story of Chicago dance music. Father and son, Nemiah Mitchell, Jr. (pictured above) and Vince Lawrence, brought dance music to the world in the early 1980s and we’re still trying to figure out how they thought of it. You know, when you’re a kid, and you find or hear something awesome and you think, how did they come up with that?! Yeah, that thought regularly crosses my mind. I’m trying to figure it out all the time.
Here’s Jesse Saunders, innovator of Chicago house. Jes’Say Records, a division of Mitchbal. And can we say, girl’s got a huge crush on 1983 Jesse Saunders? Big, lingering crush.
From 122 BPM:
“Nemiah Mitchell Jr. and Vince Lawrence couldn’t have known what their contribution to House music would become. Their story provides the missing Chicago link between soul, disco, new wave and then House, between the radio and club DJs and their audience, between the old generation and the new generation. This is the story of the first House records ever made – long before Trax or DJ International were even dreamt of.”
Here’s a taste of what you can hear on this compilation:
I got to see Jerome DJ in Detroit a few years ago in 2008 with Rick Wilhite, of Detroit, of course, and Karizma, from Baltimore. It was a well curated party. Detroit’s dancers showed up ready to groove. The selections were great, as expected. And I can’t resist telling you this one little story about the night. This is something that I’ve only seen in Detroit. Maybe it happens other places, but I’ve only witnessed it here. Here’s what I’m going to tell you: one DJ is playing records, and playing well, and another DJ steps up and turns knobs, adjusts the sound, taps the spinning record, manipulates the sound that is already being handled by another DJ. The first time I saw this happen, I kept watching for the reaction of the DJ already playing records. It could easily be taken the wrong way. It was at Bert’s in Detroit, February 2008, for a tribute party to the Electrifying Mojo, Detroit’s legendary radio disc jockey. At this party, it was not a problem. It was normal business. The DJs knew each other, and the mixer and spinning platters were not off limits to friendly DJs standing by. That is unusual and is a sign of solid collaboration and musical trust. Rick Wilhite did this to Jerome Derradji at the 2008 party I referenced above and it was quite interesting. Rick is awesome. We already knew that in 2008. Jerome is clearly awesome, as well. Sharing the decks with respect worked well for them that night. Jerome collaborates with Detroit producers both in business and on the decks. If this happens to you, please love it as a sign of respect.
Jerome was kind enough to answer some questions about his 122 BPM compilation.
Denise Dalphond: Still Music has some impressive releases in its catalog. Can you tell me how you first got started with the label? (Please click on this discogs link for Still Music so that you can be impressed.)
Jerome Derradji: Well, at the time I was managing sales and P&D deals for Chicago distributor Groove Distribution, and I wanted to run a label since I was a kid so I gained the confidence to get it started right there in 2004. My goal was to release music from artists that I believed were completely underrated and get them to collaborate on projects together so the world could know more about them.
DD: Still Music has clear connections with Detroit with releases by Amp Fiddler, Rick Wilhite, Paul Randolph, and Gerald Mitchell. Can you tell me about your links with Detroit?
JD: Detroit is really like my second home. Any music coming from Detroit has always been outstanding. Everybody I’ve met or worked with in Detroit is a true genius and a pioneer. I have a huge amount of respect for the Detroit scene, its energy and creativity. I remember all the parties I used to throw at the now defunct Fi Nite Gallery, the people in Detroit are true dancers and believers. It’s quite a magic city to me, it feels like family. With Amp, Rick, Gerald, Randolph there is a real synergy. All these guys are absolutely talented, kind and receptive to any projects that make sense to them. Pretty much everybody I’ve met and/or worked with in Detroit has the same qualities. It is incredible to get to work with all these guys. I am a real fan of their music and they are really fun to be around with.
DD: How did you come to put this compilation together?
JD: I’ve always wanted to document the birth of house music in Chicago, the really early stuff, because that story isn’t really told here. I wanted to get to know and understand how it all started. I was lucky enough to meet some great people at Trax that introduced me to Vince Lawrence. Vince then introduced me to his dad Mitchbal. From there, it was pure historian work, getting all the tapes together, the great stories and making sense of it all. Mitchbal and Chicago Connection records were truly influential and groundbreaking and their story is really inspiring even 30 plus years later. Mitchbal and Vince are amazing guys and it is a blessing to have been able to work with them on this great project.
DD: Were there challenges in selecting and getting access to the music you have included on this release?
JD: There were many. First sorting all the tapes and identifying all the tracks was a lot of work. Transferring them and making sure the music was sounding great was also a big deal for us because we didn’t want to loose any recordings. Once all this was done, the selection was actually quite easy as some tracks were already classics. After all, I am a DJ too …
DD: Did you have a particular philosophy for this compilation? Was there a particular message or impact you intended for it?
JD: I think the intent was to give credit to the real pioneers of house music in Chicago, Mitchbal and Vince Lawrence, and to make sure that their story was told without any editing. My goal was to also release it in a beautiful package with loads of pics and nicely remastered tracks. Because of the extent of the catalogues, there will be much more music released in the future on Still Music.
Oh my! Did you catch that? Did you? Extent. Catalogues. Music released. Future. How do I type the excited face I’m making right now???Jerome Derradji, Still Music