Wheez-ie Keep Yer Chin Up EP
In case you needed any more proof that juke had moved far beyond its roots in the streets of Chicago, here we have an EP from a Houston native who's now based in Boston while studying music at the renowned Berklee College of Music. Those who only champion juke of the utmost authentic origins may see this as a red flag, but a conversation about musical authenticity in the internet age is requires a much larger discussion, and should almost always be superseded by a simple question: Is the music good? In the case of Wheez-ie, it's pretty good.
Wheez-ie's brand of juke comes off as much more calculated than the tracks that defined the early days of the genre. His sounds are pristine and full, and his chops, although spastic, are clean and smooth. But the visceral propulsion that the sped-up beats and programmed rhythmic syncopation bring to juke is still there, and may be even more easy to pinpoint given the detailed sonic clarity. The EP-opening title track even goes so far as to introduce some real dynamics, taking the listener through a number of different sonic levels before ultimately landing back on a precisely revolving kick pattern and loads of tuned percussion. "Barefoot Billy" is about as simple as Keep Yer Chin Up gets, relying on a blistering block and clap pattern for almost a whole minute before introducing the half-hilarious/half-ridiculous vocal chops which, when put together, boil down to "I'm in the club and I ain't got no shoes on." The beat is stark and unrelentingly repetitive, but it is this that allows the focus to be on Wheez-ie's tastefully intricate pilings of bells, clicks, and pops in super-detailed, hi-fidelity audio. His third original contribution to the EP, "House Ball," throws a bit of acid-indebted synth work into the mix, resulting in an adventurous production, albeit one that ultimately doesn't cut through with the same force as the EP's two preceding tracks.
Truthfully though, the EP's highlights come not from Wheez-ie himself, but instead from Frite Nite boss Salva and Detroit vet DJ Assualt. The former slows down and somehow fits even more rewarding low-end into "Keep Yer Chin Up," truncating Wheez-ie's blistering percussion to short spurts in between generous helping of space-age bass. Meanwhile, the latter's rework of "Barefoot Billy" turns the tune into bizarrely intriguing slice of soulful house. Sure, it takes a while to sink in, but ultimately DJ Assault's take proves to be the EP's most memorable track, introducing some new and surprisingly hooky vocal melodies to the piece that border on being out of place, but after a few listens show themselves to be oddly brilliant.
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