Way out east there is this club I wanna tell ya about.
Goes by the name of Shelter. At least that's the handle they're going with today. Now, there is a lot about the Shelter that don't make a whole lot of sense. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'. This club is in a city they call Shanghai, which means "Upon the Sea", even though I've never seen the ocean round these parts. But I'll allow it, as there are some decent folks there. 'Course I ain't never been to Tokyo, and I ain't never seen Big Ben. And I ain't never heard a Berghain set in Berlin.
I only mention it because sometimes there's a club... I won't say a perfect club, 'cause, what's a perfect club? Sometimes, there's a club. And I'm talkin' about the Shelter here -- the Shelter in Shanghai.
Sometimes, there's a club, well, she's the club for her time and place. She fits right in there. And that's the Shelter.
The Shelter, in Shanghai. And even if it's a damp dark dreary club -- and the Shelter was most certainly that. Quite possibly the darkest and dreariest in all of China, which would place her high in the runnin' for dreariest worldwide. Sometimes there's a club; sometimes, there's a club. Well, I've lost my point now....
This weekend the Shelter fits right in there for her place in time. This starts on Thursday night with a marathon four–hour set from legendary Chicago producer Traxman, followed on Friday with a serial night of DnB from Metalheadz producer Jubei supported by vocalist SP:MC. Then on Saturday is a rough around the edges Liverpool grime lad who goes by the name Slackk. All this ends out on Sunday with none other than Los Angeles beat archivist / protector of the funk himself, Dam-Funk. Let’s first mix some Kahlúa, Stoli, and cream before digging down on this preview of solid underground music. It’s about to get weird up in here….
Thursday night representing the West Side of Chicago, we have Cornelius Ferguson or as you may know him, Traxman. He comes from 1990s roots of the Ghetto House scene and is a founding member of what has become one of the breakout genres of the '00s -- footwork.
Traxman is one of those seminal figures that can share a 20+ year musical journey in one evening. He was a member of DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn’s Ghetto Teknitianz crew, which is finally getting some much deserved respect. Even though DJ Rashad is not with us anymore (R.I.P.), we will always have those infamous cassette mixtapes Traxman laid down with Rashad and Spinn that helped start the foundation of footwork’s evolution into a self-sustained movement.
Traxman has a very personal style of footwork derived from Chicago’s long history of soul, funk, and house. Thursday night’s show is billed as a "History of Chicago House According to Traxman", and I think it’s a lesson we could all benefit from. Traxman is the go–to resource for rare samples used by footwork producers that get your feet moving like the dance floor is nothing but hot coals. Before class starts, get familiar with a couple of these from Traxman:
Traxman - "Footworkin on Air"
Traxman – "The Comeback"
Jubei & SP:MC
The record label Metalheadz has long been the biggest name in the drum 'n’ bass game for decades, and when Jubei signed to them in 2010, history was made. Proving his work ethic, Jubei released nine banging tracks that year, displaying his science–like precision in creating forward thinking DnB, adding soundscape elements into his debut full–length album titled To Have & Have Not. That album was brought together by the big man Goldie along with dBridge, Marcus, Intalex, and of course his partner in crime, SP:MC, who he is playing with Friday at Shelter.
SP:MC is no stranger to hard work himself, doing tours with likes of DJs including Friction, dBridge, S.P.Y, Youngsta, and you guessed it, Goldie. A couple years back he won "Best MC" category at the DnB Arena Awards. Wait. Drum n bass has it’s own awards ceremony? I’d love to be fly on the wall of the room at that party. I can only imagine all the pasty white UK lads with starched white t-shirts and gold chains. SP:MC is not a one–trick pony though; he's dropped a few 12”s of his own over the past few years, too.
Check out a recent track from Jubei, and if ya got the time, a full radio show mix of Jubei along with SP:MC.
Jubei - "Rufige 11" (Metalheadz)
Goldie, Jubei and SP:MC - The Metalheadz show on Rinse FM 19.06.13
Slackk is toted as a father figure in the new wave of grime that has been sweeping the UK along with the rest of the world. While his style keeps up with the times, the producer and DJ got started with the crucial Grimetapes blog back in the day. Thinking back myself, for about three years, I ran the sound board for a radio show called Grimewave FM in the early 2000’s. That was America’s first all grime-based pirate radio show. One of the main differences in the new wave of grime, I’ve noticed, is a focus on songs structured around melodies and even the inclusion of elements like string sections, as opposed to just making stripped-back beats made for MCs to spit bars over.
Since 2010, Slackk has increasingly upped his game with cinematic albums like 2014’s Palm Tree Fire, a masterpiece of jazz–influenced future tunes. Saturday’s gig is part of Chinese language music website Wooozy’s ever–growing catalog of solid "Offline" show series. You’ll notice that a lot of these showcases are based around UK artists, but we won’t hold that against them.
Slackk – "Sleeper Carriage"
Slackk - "Red Voodoo"
Sometimes -- just sometimes -- the world works out just how it should. Back in 2008 I saw Dam-Funk play a tiny lounge bar in Northern California, and now he's playing stadiums. A true funk-head, this Pasadena native has sparked a future funk movement rooted in vaults of obscure '80s synth, almost all by himself. Back in 2007, the highly influential West Coast hip hop label Stones Throw boss Peanut Butter Wolf signed Dam-Funk, and the pair haven’t looked back since. Peanut Butter Wolf was probably one of the best DJ sets I’ve ever seen down at Shelter, back in 2013, and the two are truly a match made in funk heaven.
With Stones Throw support, Dam-Funk started things out with a 2CD / 5x 12” EP introduction release known as Toeachizown. Stones Throw also put out a compilation of his early works known as Adolescent Funk, proving he is not flash in the pan. This dude has been laying it down for decades. For me I was really stoked to see Dam-Funk’s range in artists he worked with. From underground psych rockers like Ariel Pink and Animal Collective to newer kids on the block like Night Jewels, these collaborations always were on point.
His most well known collaboration is the album 7 Days of Funk, when he hooked up with none other than Snoopy Doggy Dogg, or as he is known on this album, Snoopzilla. This project got recorded back in 2013 and was the first time Snoop Dogg had worked with a single producer on a album since his breakout 1992 release Doggystyle. An homage to Bootsy Collins, this LP let mainstream America and the world know what Dam-Funk is all about -- the funk. Over the past couple years, he has been working on his Invite the Light symphony of funk album, which just came out last month and is the reason for this Asia tour. This will probably be the last time you can see Dam-Funk in such an intimate venue so don’t sleep on this Sunday Shelter show.
Check out this new cut off the massive 3 x LP Invite the Light album along with a older song and a special personal Boiler Room Collections show that’s my personal favorite.
Dam-Funk - "We Continue"
DaM-Funk – "I Gotta Let You Know"
Dam-Funk - Boiler Room Collections
If you really want to prepare yourself for all those Thursday–Sunday underground vibes, then I suggest clearing the pallet with one of those three Taylor Swift concerts in Shanghai. I mean yeah all this footwork, drum n bass, grime, and modern funk is fine, But what papa really needs is a little Bad Blood.
Taylor Swift - "Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar"
The funk abides, my friend. The funk abides.