In recent months, there's been a rush to anoint Newark's DJ Sliink (a.k.a. Stacey White) as the new face of Jersey club, but these days, the 21-year-old producer isn't always feeling the love at home. "I have a few people saying that I lost it, that I'm booty now, or that I'm wack, just because I'm not doing the same thing that I did when I first came out." Nevertheless, he remains undeterred. "I'm trying to make [music] for everyone, and not just a certain crowd. There's a lot of music in this world, and a lot of people, and I'm trying to serve to everyone, instead of just one crowd... I know [artists] that are just doing the same thing and just DJing in Jersey. That's kind of wack to me."
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Sliink isn't subscribing to local orthodoxy, as he isn't some kind of Jersey club lifer. Talking about his teen years, he explains, "The music... I wasn't really into [it]. If I heard it, then I heard it, but I was always the sports type of person, playing basketball and just going to practice." Sliink's proper introduction to Jersey club actually came via his older brother, who was a DJ and producer in the Newark scene. "I used to watch him [DJ and make music] after school," he says. Eventually, his brother taught him a few production techniques on FL Studio, and Sliink was hooked. He began researching club music, discovered the work of local icons like DJ Tameil and Tim Dolla, taught himself how to use Sony ACID Pro, and eventually dove headfirst into the scene.
For the uninitiated, the bulk of the Jersey club scene revolves around what Sliink calls "teen parties," which usually take place in rented dance halls around Newark and can attract up to a few hundred kids. Beginning at 8 or 9 p.m. and wrapping up around 12:30 a.m., the parties are soundtracked by hip-hop, R&B, and all sorts of party music, but Jersey club is the predominant sound. Much like the related Baltimore and Philly club genres, the Jersey variant of club is a raw, hard-hitting sound centered around a flurry of shuffling drum patterns and a heavy reliance on repetitive vocal loops that are usually lifted from hip-hop and R&B. While club music up and down the East Coast is undoubtedly similar, Sliink is quick to point out that Jersey club is usually faster (around 134 bpm) than its cousins and also features bigger bass and more innovative sample-chopping techniques. In truth, where Baltimore club sometimes seems beholden to the "Sing Sing" break, Jersey producers are often capable of crafting unique drum patterns that are just as suitable for hyping up the dance.
Perhaps that's why Jersey club parties are often such wild affairs. The "teen" events are usually dominated by local crews, all of whom put together elaborate dance routines and develop signature moves and songs. While Sliink states that he's now somewhat graduated from the "teen party" circuit, it was in this world that he first began DJing regularly and networking with other artists, in particular members of the expansive Brick Bandits crew. Boasting members in three cities (Newark, Philadelphia, and Chicago) and a membership of DJs, producers, promoters, rappers, and graphic designers that's nearing triple digits, the Brick Bandits invited Sliink to join their ranks in 2010. With the weight of his new crew, not to mention his own Cartel Music collective, behind him, Sliink kept working, turning out up to seven or eight songs a day from his home studio. Gradually, his tunes started appearing in the sets of DJs from around the globe, most of whom had nothing to do with the somewhat insular club scene.
"Soundcloud is a very strong site," says Sliink. "I never really knew a lot of people to send my music around to the big names, but, somehow, good music gets around." Eventually some of his good music found its way to Austin producer Dubbel Dutch, who introduced Sliink to the Body High crew, which just put out the first-ever official release from DJ Sliink. The five-song Vibrate EP dropped last week, and features a title track built around a sampled recording of Sliink's cell phone. The internet also brought Sliink into contact with fellow New Jersey producer MikeQ. Although MikeQ lives only 10-15 minutes away in East Orange, he comes from the ballroom and vogue house scene, which Sliink states is completely separate from Jersey club. Nonetheless, the two producers quickly established a level of mutual respect, MikeQ tapped Sliink for a remix on his Let It All Out EP for Fade to Mind, and the pair is now working on a collaborative project together.
Moving ahead, 2012 is going to be busy for Sliink, as he estimates that 15 to 20 of his remixes will be released before the year is through. That news may sound good to Jersey club diehards back in Newark, but these aren't the remixes of current hip-hop and R&B hits from the radio that the kids are craving. "That's where the people in Jersey get mad at me," says Sliink. "I'm not always doing [those kind of remixes]. I'm trying to train myself to do more original stuff. I did remixes for years, and it never got me nowhere." After a pause, he considers. "It got me somewhere, but original production is the best."
The Vibrate EP is out now on Body High.