Over the past few years, this regional subgenre from Newark, has gained an enormous audience online. With the rise of TikTok, Jersey club has been at the core of its viral videos and dance trends. At the same time, a new generation of artists is creating a resurgence of club rap with a new and rapidly growing generation of fans. Here’s a little background on Jersey club and how it became a viral sensation, influencing mainstream artists like Drake, Beyonce, and Lil Uzi Vert.
What is Jersey club?
Jersey club evolved out of house music, techno, and Baltimore club in the late ’90s and early ’00s. This fast-paced dance music is characterized by:
- breakbeat drums
- drum-break samples from Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)”
- percussive gunshots
- high BPM (130 to 145 BPM)
- call and response
- booming bass
- vocal chops and chopped samples from popular tracks
- the “bed squeak” sample from Trillville’s “Some Cut”
- each track typically has a corresponding dance
- triplet kick pattern from Tapp’s “Dikkontrol”
Dance music has always been a cultural mainstay of Newark. Before Jersey club emerged, Newark clubs mostly played Chicago house music, juke music, Detroit techno, and Baltimore club music. House music, in particular, had a firm grip on the New Jersey club scene for years. The legendary Club Zanzibar in Newark was famous for its own brand of deep house and garage house. House music icon and New Jersey native Kerri Chandler was a longtime resident DJ at Club Zanzibar.
Even though house is mainly associated with Chicago, Newark artists released numerous influential house tracks over the years, including the classic “Follow Me” by Aly-Us. So it’s no surprise that the founders of Jersey club both got their start in house music. DJ Tameil started his music career by releasing house mixtapes, and Tim Dolla first learned how to spin with house records.
In 2001, Tameil pressed a record in the Baltimore club style and released it on his own label. At the same time, Tim Dolla and Mike V were releasing their music on CDs. CDs were so new that record stores wouldn’t carry them, which meant they had to sell them out of a car or on street corners in downtown Newark. This was the beginning of Jersey club, originally called Brick City club music, after Newark’s nickname Brick City.
Tim Dolla and Mike V called themselves the Brick Bandits and wanted to ensure that Tameil didn’t monopolize the sound. So they decided that the quickest way to get publicity was to release a track dissing Tameil. Word got back to Tameil about the dis track, and they beefed for a while because it was good publicity. Eventually, the rivals met and decided to squash the beef for good. After a few years, Tameil officially became a Brick Bandit.
Several Newark artists were producing their own club beats, but the sound still needed to be solidified. So in 2002, Tameil coined the name Brick City club to unify this new wave of music. Parties centered around this new style of club music started popping off across Newark and nearby cities. Within a few years, these parties busted out of Newark, becoming so popular all over New Jersey that the genre had to be renamed Jersey club. And, long before TikTok became a vehicle for popularizing new music, Mike V credited Myspace with Jersey club’s first wave of popularity.
As Jersey club parties grew in popularity, the dance element became increasingly important. DJs were on the mic calling out dances to the crowd all night, which Tim Dolla eventually got tired of. So he decided to record a track that called out the dances. BPMs gradually started to climb, pushing the dancing into a more competitive arena.
Jersey club takes over TikTok
Early on, Jersey Club circulated on MySpace, it had another surge on Vine, and now it has a hold on TikTok.
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms ever. Its cultural influence is immense and constantly growing. During the strange twilight zone of the year 2020, “Vibe” by Cookiee Kawaii went viral in the good way. This song has been used in over 1 million videos on TikTok; literally millions of people made videos of themselves dancing to this song. And it’s just one of many Jersey club tracks to spawn viral dance trends on the platform.
The popularity of Jersey club artists like Cookiee Kawaii, Speed, Skaiwater, and Badmanrill proves that TikTok is a viable entry point for mainstream recognition. These artists are determined to gain recognition for their unique Jersey sound, the club culture that created these dances, and their predecessors who paved the way. At the same time, major labels are clamoring to recreate these viral successes with their artist rosters. Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind album drew influence from Jersey club and other dance genres like house and Baltimore club.
Beyonce’s Renaissance album featured New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia and dipped into Jersey club, Afrobeat, New Jack Swing, and more. And most recently, Lil Uzi Vert’s “I Just Wanna Rock,” produced by the breakout Jersey Club producer MCVert, has been massively popular.
So, Jersey club is winning in the TikTok viral landscape – hands down. But this can also be seen as a part of a broader resurgence of dance genres, including Baltimore club, Philly club, house, bounce, and many more. And TikTok is playing a massive role in this.
That’s my quick primer on Jersey club! I also want to mention that Tim Dolla passed away earlier this year. He is remembered as a pioneer of Jersey club, a mentor to other artists and producers, and for creating a safe space for kids in Newark. R.I.P Tim Dolla.
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