Jersey Club Music: TikTok’s Newest Fascination And Why It’s Much More Than That
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Celeste MacMurray. Find her on Instagram at @clsmsanchezx. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at email@example.com.
Jersey Club music is a genre that has been around for over two decades now, but recently it’s been gaining more traction. This can be attributed to more musicians experimenting with the genre and more Jersey Club songs going viral on apps like TikTok. You may have never heard the genre’s name before, but I assure you that you’ve heard it while scrolling through social media. Jersey Club songs are exciting, addictive and evoke the need to dance. This request for movement is one you can’t deny because the genre is made specifically for dancing and hails from the long lineage of dance music.
We start with disco. The genre was recognized for its groovy and danceable nature that encourages extravagance in every form. Think of the elegant and lavish habits of those partying at a discotheque: the fashion, the hair and makeup, dancing for hours at a time. Studio 54 and Paradise Garage were two of the most famous disco clubs in New York that held many countless nights dancing. Many disco songs were longer than your average three to four minute songs and create the feeling of an endless ecstasy of dance. Take “Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summers — the queen of disco, for example. The unedited version of the song lasts a total of fifteen to seventeen minutes depending on the version you find.
There was tension between those who loved disco and those who were enamored with 70’s rock. Many people in the rock scene during this time didn’t like disco, and where this dislike stems from is highly debated. Some argue that because disco was a genre that welcomed anyone no matter their background, the motivations may have been rooted in racism, homophobia and misogyny. This was because the genre celebrated and welcomed women, queer people and people of color, but specifically the Black musicians who pioneered the genre.
In the late 70’s, disco was taking the world by storm, but not everyone appreciated this. Steve Dahl, a worker at a radio station located in Chicago, Illinois, didn’t like disco or having to play it on the air. On July 12th, 1979, Disco Demolition Night took place. This was an event held during a White Sox and Detroit Tigers game that encouraged those attending to bring a disco record to burn and destroy. Over 50,000 people showed up in attendance, and the event even caused a riot later in the night that had to be broken up by riot police.
The years 1978 and 1979 were the golden years of disco, but once the new decade was ushered in, disco began to fade away. Thanks to the Death to Disco Movement and the Disco Demolition Night, record labels were scared to support and create disco acts which caused the genre to decline. To survive, disco had to go underground.
House music is the last stop necessary to understand Jersey Club music. DJ’s in the Chicago scene experimented with disco, funk, pop, R&B, hip hop and soul until it led to the creation of house music. One of the most famous nightclubs in the house music scene was The Warehouse where one of the most influential DJs of the house movement — Frankie Knuckles — worked at and experimented with the genre. He is often referred to as the “godfather of house” for his contributions to the genre. The beauty of house is its experimental nature and its ability to create with the genres that predate it and convert it into something new: a wondrous fusion.
Here is a track made by Frankie Knuckles himself. You can clearly hear the use of whispered or strong vocals, synths and the disco and electro-funk elements that come together to create this track.
Just as the name suggests, Jersey Club music originates from New Jersey, but specifically Newark. The genre takes influence from the Baltimore Club (or B’more) music scene — a fusion of house and breakbeats — and mixes that together with hip hop influences. Here is an example of what Baltimore Club music sounds like. This track combines house beats with soul music by utilizing a sample of “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes. The rhythm is constant and fast paced, immediately asking you to start bopping your head as soon as the song starts.
Jersey Club began in 1999 and carried over into the 2000s and has, of course, continued to grow since then. Songs within this genre are usually 130 to 140 BPM, and are often described as being fast and aggressive. You can recognize Jersey Club by its steady rhythm, vocals whether sung or rapped and the frequent use of samples. The genre had originally been called Brick City Club Music until it changed to Jersey Club since not everyone making songs in the genre were from Newark. In an interview with Fader, DJ Sliink credits DJ Tameil, Mike V, DJ Tim Dolla, DJ Black Mic and many others as being the founders of the genre when it first began.
Jersey Club has been exploding all over social media as people can’t seem to get enough of dance tracks. Lil Uzi Vert’s “I Just Wanna Rock” is a perfect example of what the intense, fast beats of a Jersey Club mix sounds like as the song immediately gets you hyped up and on your toes. If you’ve by chance heard the song “NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER” by Odetari, that is yet another Jersey Club track you’ve heard. Jersey Club is even making its way overseas as K-Pop girl group LE SSERAFIM released a single titled “Eve, Psyche & the Bluebeard’s Wife” that went viral across TikTok. Another girl group that has also released a Jersey Club track is “Super Shy” by NewJeans—a group that has been everywhere lately with the release of their newest EP. Artist Baby Tate also recently released a song called “Jersey” that pays homage to the Jersey Club sound.
The reason why this article has been titled the way it has is because I want to point out several things. While, yes, Jersey Club music has been blowing up on TikTok and other social media sites, it should not just be reduced to whatever app you discovered the genre from. There is a long history to dance music that is intertwined within both Black and queer culture. Jersey Club music is considered to be the sound of New Jersey, and is meant to reflect the lives and the perspectives of people from the state. For more in-depth info on Jersey Club, here is a great video source to watch that even explores women within the scene and the subgenres they’ve created for representation in the genre. UNIIQU3 is a widely-known DJ within the scene who has dubbed her style as “Jersey Club Queen.” The video also explores the dancing aspect of Jersey Club and what this aspect of the culture is like.
If you can, read this interview with multiple DJs—UNIIQU3 included—in the scene to understand their perspective of the meaning of Jersey Club. I will leave you with a quote said by Ngu Asongwed who shared how they view the Jersey Club genre and its reflections.
“Jersey Club is fast and aggressive, much like life in North Jersey—especially Newark.
The music is the pulse and we’re moving to it. On the flip side, Jersey Club is like an escape. There’s tons of tension, and even more reasons to be tense: death, crime, taxes, jobs or lack thereof. The music is a way of working out your demons.”
Have any favorite Jersey Club tracks we missed? Let us know and comment below!