Dubspot contributor Mike Styels speaks with music producer DJ Sliink about his recent rise to fame and the growing influence of Jersey club music, an evolution the Baltimore club sound which is taking over worldwide.
“I’m putting my money on Jersey club to be around for a while,” DJ Sliink says between jokes with a car full of friends barreling down the Garden State Parkway. The 22-year-old artist is currently riding the electronic trap wave, touring and collaborating with the genre’s biggest names.
But he sees Jersey club music, which is where his roots are, as a versatile sound who’s time has come.
When he plays it to crowds in Europe, they understand it. Many dance music producers in North America–like gLAdiator, Ryan Hemsworth, and Salva–are starting to incorporate it into their sounds, and he welcomes this.
It’s natural dance music, he argues, pointing out that it can cover housey terrain or fall into a more rap-friendly category. Jersey club places an emphasis on kick drum triplets and frequent changes to the main beat, which often switches up every four to eight bars. It’s played at around 140 BPM and is full of chopped vocal samples, generally pulled from radio hits. The scene started in the early 2000s, inspired significantly by Baltimore club. Kids get involved at a very young age, often as young as 13.
Before trap took over, it was a Jersey club record, ”Vibrate” (Body High), that brought Sliink to the international circuit. “I felt like I was the only one on the worldwide scene doing club,” he says. “I was kind of getting bored with making it before, but now I’ve started experimenting more and mix it with other stuff. And to see people from all around the world making it, I feel like there’s competition again and I have fun with it. I get a push from competition–I gotta hold it down.”
Sliink, who uses Sony Acid Pro to produce, is a second generation artist following in the steps of originators like Tim Dolla and DJ Tameil. His name carries a lot of weight in the genre’s birthplace, but it’s a scene that rarely moves beyond the borders of New Jersey, primarily Newark. Up until Vibrate, he was almost never booked for parties outside the area, not even in the related Philly and Baltimore club scenes.
More recently, a new generation has emerged and shifted the focus to dance routines. The party has become a battle where dance crews compete with each other. ”They’ve got a bunch of popular dance groups out in Jersey, so they’ll come and make a dance at a small party when a DJ plays a song and maybe runs it back a few times,” he explains. “Then you go to the next party, and everybody’s doing that dance. At the next party it’s even bigger. Then, they’ll make a video and that’s how the kids learn it.”
Jersey club music not meant for dance routines is sometimes differentiated with the name “booty bounce music.” You’ll often see the acronym “BBM” used on SoundCloud.
This emphasis on routines is one of the reasons Sliink has fallen back from the scene a bit, but he understands the appeal. “It’s kind of a crazy scene. But it’s cool because it keeps the kids out of trouble. If I was younger, I’d probably be doing that too.”
As an alternative, Sliink throws the #THREAD parties, alongside fellow Cartel Music Group members Nadus and Ezrakh. People dance however they like, and women dance as well, unlike the dance routine parties which are mostly male-dominated battles. It’s also more musically diverse, “threading” together a broad range of underground electronic dance styles, and drawing crowds from various scenes.
A typical Sliink set runs from 80 BPM to 150 BPM, spans about five genres, and is played on CDJs. “My sets are all over the place. I read the crowd and try to keep my range wide.” But, while he’s excited by all the new styles and likes to pull them into his orbit, it always circles back to club: “It’s cool to do other things, but I think club will provide some type of legacy for me.”