Before ghetto tech and Lil' Jon and juke, there was ghetto house. Originating on the predominately black Westside and Southside of Chicago, the music jacked house, added even lower 808s and 909s to it, then commanded the dancefloor to "Pump it," "Work it" and other, dirtier things. DJ Funk (born Charles Chambers) has been at the center of this maelstrom since day one, releasing for Dance Mania and his own Funk Records imprint. His music–along with that of cohorts like Deeon, Sluggo and Milton–spread like a virus from booty clubs to Midwest raves, and eventually overseas, with Basement Jaxx commissioning remixes and European promoters knocking at the door. We recently tracked down the elusive DJ Funk and asked him to tell us a ghetto house story.
"[I grew up] on the Westside of Chicago. A ghetto, hardcore, rough neighborhood. [In Chicago], black folks stay out on the Westside, the Southside, the hundreds and the suburbs. When I was 12, I used to DJ with 8-tracks and old-school record players that didn't even have pitches or anything, but I used to put tapes together. You could use the pause button on cassette players and get an edit just like in a professional studio. It was shitty but my heart was there.
"[When I was DJing], I was behind a hip-hop group called Do Or Die–they was with Tung Twista when their first album came out. I was the DJ of the group but when they got signed I didn't want to do hip-hop because I saw where it was going. I sat down and thought to myself 'Which way do you really want to go if you're successful?' And I was like 'I can't really do hip-hop because I don't really want to hang out at bars and still be getting shot up.' Instead, I [would rather] go out to a booty club and see nice, hot, sexy, beautiful women shaking that ass.
"Ghetto house started at this club called The Factory with me, Jammin Gerald and Houz' Mon. We didn't have a record deal at the time so we used 4-tracks, drum machines and samplers live. I saw that people really loved when the tracks was really simple and broke down. They went crazy–lots of sexual energy! So I started to make mixtapes and CDs. [Me and the other ghetto house guys] Deeon, Sluggo, Milton all met through Ray Barney [from Dance Mania]. Then we started hooking up on our own doing mixtapes and records. One place [you could always find all the ghetto DJs] was [his record store], Barney's Records.
"When I was coming up, I admired guys like Lil' Louis and Farley [Jackmaster Funk]. [House and hip-house] was a phenomenon. It was the shit! When the ghetto house came along black folks would listen to it but they would never listen to the techno stuff. The only way it ever came through the hood was with the lyrics, 'cos people really like you to tell them what to do. If you at a party and you say 'Shake that ass, bitch!' You know...motherfuckers gotta shake that ass!! And the techno stuff, for black folks, it's not enough words. They don't know what to do to the music.
"[As far as the lyrics being offensive], some of these records are made for certain women. Certain women are hoes. But everybody not a ho. That's just how we party at our house–if you want to come and join us then you welcome to. As far as me, I can call a girl a bitch on that DJ Funk shit and get away with it. I use it all the way up; I ain't even gonna front. But I don't try to diss women, I just talk from where I came and how I feel. I love women.
"What kind of girls I like? Awww shit! All of them. I started DJing so I could get girls. I wanted to get with black girls, white girls, Asian girls. I was just kind of wondering how the coochie was. And actually, it ain't that much different. I thought I was onto something. I thought it was like, if I had an Asian girl it would have been some exotic coochie. Some sparks and a cape would have been like...super coochie. But it was just regular old good coochie. Some women are really freaky, and some are not. I just really like beautiful, sexy, gorgeous women. You see them at raves too....they might have big pants on but they still look cute. And when they take them big pants off, that ass drop like Pow!
"If I was doing the music for the money, I would have been out the game 'cos it's not like I'm rich. I don't trip so much on the music getting out. The music is for free. The music is for people to enjoy themselves and have a good time. I just got to make sure that I can eat. And that's why [the scene fell apart]! 'Cos we ain't fucking get no fucking money off the shit! All of us has basically been dealing with shitty labels and it don't encourage you to make new music.
"I've been out of tune for the last few years. I had a real bad relationship and it went off into my music and my friendships. But the last six months I've been getting back out. I just finished my new album and all I got to do is negotiate a distribution deal. There's a new Chicago sound that came out called juke. It's just like the stuff that we did but it's more 808 bass-y. It's really more ghetto. I don't think its really going to pop off really popular because they're not really riding on a 4/4 beat real hard–it's way more like hip-hop. I'm combining the juke sound with the ghetto house sound.
"[As far as my DJ Funk hat], hell yeah I still have it! And I'm getting it fixed and I'm starting to wear it in a minute. That was a hood hat, for real. Some of my rhinestones fell off but that's alright. I'll get me a couple of bucks and some glue."