On the greatness of House music

January 29, 2020 • MusicHistoryConnect ↗

Image of crowd in front of main stage.

As a DJ & Music Producer, mixing and creating music is an integral part of my daily life. The genre I regularly find myself in, is house music. My friends would even go as far as describing me with my honourable title: I Am House Music”. So this article aims to share my love for house music with you, the reader. Through history and facts I will show you the impact of the genre on the electronic dance music we enjoy today.

Let’s get to it.

When taking a closer look at the music industry in 2020, its hard to comprehend just how much and how rapidly the game has changed in recent years: charts don’t matter anymore.. you can make it as an independent artist anywhere on the planet.. and even more interestingly, artists have to be entrepreneurs & treat themselves like a business. Behind the scenes of building themselves into a personal brand, artists find themselves on a daily hustle that would shock most, if they only knew how much work and heart we actually put into creating something meaningful..

So what is something meaningful?

To me, something meaningful is defined by the feeling I can evoke in others with whatever I create & publish into this world. And in art, evoking is creativity, which is defined by allowing for mistakes and knowing which ones to keep.

In my life, one of these publishable mediums is music. So let’s take a look at history and the profound historical impact of house music on the way I listen to and create music on a daily basis.

A brief history of house music

In the beginning (~1980’s), house was first and foremost a direct descendent of disco, which had been around for about 10 years beforehand. It had created a dilution within racial and sexual prejudice, fuelling a strong desire for radical social change that eventually came crashing down in the disco sucks campaign’. Specifically, this occurred when people attending a baseball game on July 12th, 1979 between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers in Chicago’s Comiskey Park were invited to bring their disco records and toss them onto a massive bonfire. After this incident disco collapsed under the ever increasing weight of crass disco and poor records.

Whilst all of this was happening, the underground scene had already stepped off and started to create a deeper, rawer genre. One designed to make people dance. These were the early days of house music.

The music reinvented itself, and then again and again until it gradually dawned on people that house wasn’t just another phase of club culture, it was club culture, the continuing future of dance music.” — deephousepage.com

The two hotspots in the evolution of house music were the Warehouse Chicago (Godfather of House Frankie Knuckles) and Paradise Garage in NYC (DJ Larry Levan). These two hotspots broke the 1980s norm of segregating black, hispanic, white, straight and gays. In these clubs nothing else mattered, but the music. And eventually house brought about the sought after change that didn’t hesitate to take over the music industry with the record label DJ International Records’ releasing the first ever house music record on vinyl.

The genre was born.

Frankie Knuckles Doing vinyls at a listening session.
Frankie Knuckles — Source: Britannica

Alongside the two epitomes in Chicago and NYC, the Music Box with Ron Hardy (1986 — Chicago) was the club to truly vitalise the environment for the house music explosion to take place. Here are is why:

  1. The Godfather of House Music — Frankie Knuckles, based his tracks on disco music, vintage vinyl samples and other organic elements, which quickly defined the classical sound of 80s old school house.
  2. Ron Hardy was more progressive, as he went for the rawest rhythms he could find, making the Music Box into the inspirational template for all DJs. Especially because he went as far as testing the effect of freshly produced, unreleased tracks, so producers could see the first hand response of the crowd. This catalysed a positive feedback loop for music production to improve and make even better dance-centred records.

To mark the kickstart of the era, the house record of 1986 was Move Your Body by Marshall Jefferson’. Arguably, the first legendary house anthem.

What happened to house since the 2000s

As outlined above, house music has been around for ages, but it had quite the dip in popularity between the beginning 2000s — mid 2010s. During this time rap, hiphop and rnb were arguably the defining trend in popular music. Artists like Drake, Kanye West and Lil sum-thing’s dominated pop-music and the club landscape like almost nothing before (taking into consideration the explosive scaling of music streaming services and a rapid shift from mechanical to digital royalties).

This time broadly defined my teenage years. If you ask me, a horrible time to have grown up in.. it was difficult, to almost impossible to find bars or clubs that would satiate my desire for house music. But I knew this was only a fleeting trend and people would soon rediscover and revive the house sound of the 80s, bringing back disco, funk and 4 to the floor beats.

So, today…

Today, we still feel the impact of the house music on every aspect of electronic dance music (EDM). Especially the influence of its predecessors: disco and funk, which as described were defining influences for house music in the 80s. And yes, EDM is simply a large overarching genre that encompasses all sorts of electronic dance music (house, techno, trance, big room etc.:).

Some examples of artists that are bringing back 80s influenced music are: Camelphat (an established artist) & Purple Disco Machine (blew up with an 80s influenced house, funk & disco style since 2014):

Musically, there are countless examples of where you can identify 80s influenced elements like bass-lines, samples, drums or chords within these two tracks & the rest of todays musical landscape.. That, however is an analysis, I will leave for another time (if interest, comment below).

Where to look?

In order to find the true roots of house music, you need recognise the following player: Defected Records is without a doubt one of the most impactful and long-lasting house record labels to have ever existed. Founded in 1999, Defected hosts a roster with hundreds of artists encompassed within many sub-labels, including Glitterbox, Classic & 4ToTheFloor, to name a few. These labels and the immense music catalogue they hold, have also allowed the company to venture into the events space with featured locations such as Croatia, Ibiza & London (Defected Festival LDN, Printworks NYE). If you haven’t explored or listened to house music that stays true to its roots, then Defected is a great place to start.

And to dive even deeper, check out my curated playlist on Spotify, where you can discover hours upon hours of good house music (old & new):

Without further ado, I’d like to sum everything up in one sentence:

I love house music and you should too.

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