Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Following last year’s thrilling ‘Bangs & Works’ footwork compilation, Planet Mu have put together a new compilation featuring some of Chicago’s brightest new stars. With two incendiary tracks on ‘Bangs & Works Vol.2’, young producer Jlin stands shoulder-to-shoulder with established artists including DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, DJ Roc and RP Boo. A member of DJ Roc’s Bosses of The Circle crew, Jlin has made a name for herself with her dart-sharp, sample-free production. Erotic Heat (download it below) is as brittle as footwork gets, with kicks splintering like icicles. Then it flips, opening out into the sweeping, haunted space required for a dancer to front it freestyle. You can almost hear the dancing. “I make my tracks to match their adrenaline as they battle,” explains Jlin. In the interview below she goes to explain what drew her to footwork, why she doesn’t sample and the support of “Track Dad”, DJ Roc.
Jlin – Erotic Heat by DummyMag
How long have you been making footwork and how did you get into it?
I’ve been making footwork tracks since the end of 2007. It was never my intention to make the actual tracks though I loved the sound. In 2003 I was introduced to a CD entitled ‘The Juke Factory’ which consisted of artist such as Ghetto Tek Morris Harper aka DJ Spinn and DJ C-Bit, and more. DJ Spinn’s tracks blew me away, but even then the thought of me making tracks never registered. During 2007, I enjoyed listening to all juke and footwork tracks on the social site like Myspace and Imeem. Some of my favorite DJs to listen to were DJ Rashad, RP Boo, DJ Spinn, DJ Roc, and DJ Royal just to name a few. Then one day I bumped into the page of Jonathan Tapp aka DJ Elmoe. His tracks were something like I’ve never heard before. So I introduced myself to him on Myspace, and we’ve been friends ever since. I made my first track at the end of 2007, and of course it sounded horrid. Elmoe constantly reminded me that I would get better, and don’t give up. Another key player in my track life at that time was a DJ by the name of Lamont Anderson, aka DJ LA. I accredit DJ LA because he was always honest with me not matter what the circumstance was. He heard my potential and wanted be to be great so he never cut me any slack.
Roughly moving into the end of 2008 I introduced myself to another DJ whose music I loved. Clarence Johnson aka DJ Roc has been a blessing in my life from then to now. Roc was kind enough to listen to all my tracks even when I wasn’t at my best. One day while talking on the phone Roc asked me how I’d feel about joining his group Bosses of The Circle aka BOTC. I was elated to say the least, and became a member in early 2009 to this present day. Roc would give me track advice on every level, yet still managed to allow me to find and create my own music style. I consider him my “Track Dad”, because he never let’s me get down for too long, and listens to all my successes and failures intently. He mentors me even until this day, and for that I am forever grateful to him.
My original music name was not Jlin. The very first name I chose to call myself was Skypp, which was actually given to me by a former friend. I later became not so fond of that name, so I thought long and hard and chose the name GaGa which is actually a childhood nickname. That name was given to me because I was told I have a babyface and my friends would tease me by greeting me as “Goo-Goo Ga Ga”. I abandoned that name after I find out about the popular artist Lady Gaga. So I remained nameless for about three months after I had abandoned the name GaGa. I told Roc about my name change and he told me “Don’t worry you’ll come up with one I have faith in you.” Shortly after thinking long and hard, I gave myself with the name Jlin, which derives from the first letter and the last part of my middle name Jerrilynn. I changed the spelling of the last part to make it unique and from there Jlin just stuck.
A lot of dance music, footwork included, uses samples but you make your own sounds. Was it a conscious decision to not use samples and if so, why?
In the middle of 2010 I joined Soundcloud. I had improved in track making a great deal by this time, but only one problem, I sounded just like DJ Roc. We sounded so much alike to the point where people were calling me Roc Jr. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t take offence to this, but I knew eventually I would want to establish my own sound. My parents even started liking the sounds of my tracks, so I knew I was on the right path. One day I had my mom come in my room and listen to a track I was working on which was called Gutta Love. The sample I used in that track was a song called Promise by R&B artist Ciara. I asked my mom, “So what did you think?” She looked at me and said, “It sounds good, but it’s not yours.” Briefly my feelings were hurt after she said this, but little did I know that I was about to be introduced to who Jlin really is. One night as I was sitting down messing with a track I vowed to myself I would never sample again, I told myself that I didn’t get this [far] not to be original. Erotic Heat emerged from that point, and I haven’t sampled since then. The track that made me stand out the most was my track called 808, the very first person I let hear that track was DJ Roc’s sister, and she loved it instantly. Then I slid it to legend Kavain Wayne aka RP Boo, he called me immediately and went nuts about it. I will never forget his words, “Jlin, you are officially an original”. Those words changed everything about my music from how it sounds to how it’s delivered.
The dancer-producer relationship is crucial to footwork. Do you test your tracks on dancers?
DJ Roc always made sure to play my tracks at different footwork events such as Battlegroundz, a place where footworkers meet up and battle each other. I have gotten great responses from the footwork groups, and I appreciate them very much. They are the reason behind why I put so many out the box sounds in my tracks. I make my tracks to match their adrenaline as they battle.
How has Chicago responded to the new generation of footwork producers?
Chicago has responded very well to new generation of footwork producers. For me personally I’ve been welcomed with open arms by legends such as Traxman, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, Bobby Skillz, and more. They show love and are easy to talk to. I really enjoy talking to Traxman about the history of house music, and the untold stories behind it.
Has outside interest in Chicago footwork had any impact on the scene there?
The outside impact has a major impact in my opinion. It’s a win-win situation: we love making tracks, and people from all over the world love listening to us, and for that we are so grateful. DJ Spinn & DJ Rashad have even been booked overseas on multiple different occasions. I would personally like to thank Mike Paradinas for allowing me and my other fellow DJs/producers to present to the world what we do best. Thank you Mike. Also I would like give a special thanks all my listeners and supporters, because without you guys I’m nothing.
What’s next for you?
As far as my future goes, I can’t call it, but I know whatever it is I’m going to be a success.