- Words Liam Cattermole
Infecting the Gen Z zeitgeist with viral dance routines and remixes, we take a deep dive into Jersey club: the uncompromising new sound ready to conquer the world.
Rising out of Newark, New Jersey’s streets at the turn of the century, Jersey club is the brain rattling genre secretly soundtracking the lives of young millennials worldwide. Before it became a global phenomenon, the sound lived modestly in New Jersey, inspiring a creative unification between dancers, DJs and producers. Hybridising Newark club, a genre birthed by legendary local producer Tony Humphries in the 80s, and Chicago house, its foundations would later be developed by the frequencies coming from Baltimore, a nearby city already establishing its club scene along America’s East Coast.
When Chicago house records stopped coming to Newark, Jersey club pioneer DJ Tameil began looking for something new. He would make the journey to Music Liberated: a record shop in Baltimore that became a hotspot for the sounds coming from the city. Building relationships with selectors like DJ Technics and Rod Lee, after phoning numbers on the back of their records, the ‘Bmore’ scene soon gave him the blessing to bring their culture back to New Jersey.
With the help of Tapp’s seminal track “Dikkontrol”, which features the triplet kick defining Jersey club music today, Newark’s electronic music scene became infused with Bmore’s recognisable features. A relentless attitude to sample and add vocal chops followed, as did an understanding of how the music could be taken forward. Soon, DJ Tameil’s ‘Anthrax Records’ label became the soundtrack to ballroom and banquet hall parties around the city, leaving little room for other genres to be heard.
Historically, the production and DJ roles in Jersey club’s community were dominated by men, but at the turn of this decade, the genre’s popularity is being defined by female artists. Beforehand, women were seen as the dancers; the people who brought the vibes in front of the decks rather than behind them. UNIIQU3, who’s known amongst her peers as the queen of Jersey club, learnt to DJ in 2011 and began producing soon after. The late great Bmore selector K-Swift inspired the artist to take matters into her own hands, emerge from the audience and challenge the genre’s masculine tropes. Its democratisation is bringing a fresh perspective to the scene and breaking new ground not only in Newark but worldwide.
Nowadays, Jersey club can be heard everywhere. Like drill, and many other subgenres birthed from inner-city communities, the style is building on its mainstream success and becoming a cultural sensation. In 2022 alone, several superstars hopped on the sample shifting and repulsively addictive beats. Amassing hundreds of millions of streams, Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock” smashed the American charts, embedding his glitchy and melodic trap amongst Jersey club’s recognisable triplet kicks. Likewise, PinkPantheress, combined the sound with her unique, garage-inspired vocal styles on “Boy’s a liar”, whilst Drake takes a more house-inspired approach on “Sticky”.
One of the many reasons for Jersey club’s rapid rise is its fusion with New York drill. Adding an abrasiveness that the genre hasn’t seen before, Jersey drill’s blend of two sonically disparate but geographically bordering sounds is giving the style fresh impetus. Bandmanrill and Mcvertt’s, “Heartbroken”, which samples T2’s bassline track of the same name, is one of many examples where this unification has played out so effectively.
British rap and drill artists are following suit, producing Jersey-inspired tracks in line with their own aesthetics. “ABC”, a fiery single by Manchester-born, rising star Nemzzz, fuses staccato sample chops with triple kick drums, whilst bringing a distinctly Mancunian sound to the mix. Kasien’s “DO WHAT I LIKE” uses more sensitive features that juxtapose the genre’s naturally hyperactive club style, whilst adhering to its familiar basslines and chops.
MySpace was a vital tool for Jersey club in its early existence, allowing people from outside of Newark to engage with the community. In 2023, TikTok is the culture’s new cyber playground, accommodating the music’s quick tempos and catchy rhythms with viral dance routines. Kids daily are creating new moves to the bouncy, 130-140BPM speeds, inspired by the scene’s dance battle traditions. As a result, artists from other genres are compelling themselves to construct imitable choreography to market their own music. Britain’s very own Russ Millions is one of many figures using the strategy to promote themselves, incorporating routines into his music videos that consistently become epidemiological on TikTok.
Jersey club has the world in a chokehold and it’s showing no signs of letting go. With a host of artists, like Newark’s own UNIIQU3, pioneering and pushing the genre in 2023, the sound will continue to take over the Gen Z zeitgeist in years to come.