Lauren Flax: 10 Nasty Jack Tracks
Jack truly is a feeling. It can’t be described by a sound that’s indicative to a particular synth, like the iconic acid from the 303, or the DX7, which gives you those lush, classic house chords. Back when I lived in Chicago in the early aughts, if you were on the dance floor and someone was playing jack tracks (also known as beat tracks or trax) you would grab the shoulder of the person next to you and “jack.”
If you’re new to jack, you can always put on Hercules’ “7 Ways To Jack” (Always get consent if you choose to follow said steps!). There’s also Chicago’s jackin’ house, which is different than the style of jack that I like to play. It’s hard to describe the differences in words, but classic jackin’ Chicago house is closer to house music, where the beats have a good amount of swing. It’s a very distinct sound played best by the likes of DJ Heather and Derrick Carter. There’s not really a current genre title for what I play, but I consider it to be more jackin’ techno than jackin house.
These 10 songs are always in my arsenal. If you’ve heard me play before, you’ve most likely heard me play at least one of these. I’m not one to hide the music I play; these producers deserve shine, and when people don’t share their tracklists, I always wonder what they’re so afraid of. Give credit where credit’s due and let other DJs discover these artists. So in no particular order, let’s begin.
Jammin’ The House Gerald – Black Woman [Strut]
This is one of those tracks that goes well with almost anything you match it with — this will be a common theme here. It makes you move a certain way, and that to me is what a jack track does. It’s the equivalent of giving a stank face because that song is just ew, nasty. To be fair though, this entire record is stacked. It’s the 63rd record to be released on Dance Mania back in 1994, and it’s still educating dance floors and inspiring new producers 26 years later. Self-described as a “Chicago Ghetto House Legend,” it’s hard to disagree. Jammin’ The House Gerald certainly is, and I am not one to throw the word legend around lightly.
Paul Woolford, Bobby Peru – Erotic Discourse [20/20 Vision]
The first time I heard this track it was already 10 years old. It’s such a weird and perfectly executed 8 minutes of spazzy delays and simple yet effective percussion. It’s actually just a kick throughout and nothing else. The synth could very well be just a flanged out drum sound that’s manipulated and delayed at different fractions. The fact that it’s always changing keeps the song from becoming monotonous — quite the opposite. I’ve been a big lover of 20/20 vision for most of my teenage/adult life, and this is by far one of the label’s standout releases for me.
DJ Slugo – Telegraph It [Dance Mania]
Slugo has an entire arsenal of music that’s must-have, and If you’re a DJ from the Midwest, Dance Mania is in your blood and Slugo is a household name (as it should be everywhere). This particular track is absolute perfection and a masterclass of all things jack. My favorite thing is to find and play three sparse tracks at once, and the ones that usually work best are by producers from Chicago or Detroit. Probably because Chicago birthed ghetto house and Detroit has its own accompaniment with booty/ghettotech and that style works best. This music thrives within the queer community too because a bitch can be any gender and you better believe.
Jerome Hill – It’s Time For The [Super Rhythm Trax]
Ghetto house, ghetto tech, booty music, etc often borrows or samples anything and everything, including each other. Super Rhythm Trax’s Jerome Hill put his stank all over Cajmere’s “percolator,” and in his version, he brings it back to the underground. It is not easy to do a version of a track that can be considered absolutely perfect, but he nails it with grace using the most iconic part of the original, only teasing us with the vocals while giving us Jerome’s signature drums. It’s brilliant.
Posthuman – Wake Up [Balkan Vinyl]
It’s my favorite thing in the world to find tracks that can be blended for almost their entirety, and this 8 minute track is no exception. Posthuman has nailed this to perfection. Sparse drums, random cowbell (my fave!) and rim shots here and there with just the right amount of swing on the hats. There is also an acid version, so it’s nice to dip back and forth between the two. Posthuman, who’s also half of Altern-8 with Mark Archer, has been a champion of acid house for decades, long before the resurgence. For people like him, myself, anyone on The Bunker and I’m sure also many of you reading this, acid house never left. “Wake Up” is one of my favorites from the man behind London’s I LOVE ACID parties.
Truncate – Pressure [Pets Recordings]
If you know me at all, then you know I’m obsessed with flange. Truncate really comes through with his signature and ever-shifting drums, vocal stabs and of course, those four-on-the-floor claps. The flange here sounds like it’s coming from the Ensoniq DP/4, but I could be wrong. I gravitate to his production style and enjoy writing in a similar vein so you’ll hear me play quite a few Truncate tracks in my sets. He’s inspiring, just like Jimmy Edgar and Vin Sol. I would like nothing more than to get in a room with those three (that’s what she said?) and write. Maybe putting it in writing will manifest and make it happen.
TV.OUT – Break It [Machine Jazz]
Again with the sparsely flanged out drums: its my kink! It doesn’t take a million tracks in Ableton, Logic, what-have-you, to create a big song. In fact, the less the better. As long as there are a lot of changes and movement, some of the best tracks out there are somewhat simple, production-wise. It’s a nice touch that they used a spring reverb on the kick too. Not everyone can get away with that.
Michael E – Teenage Hammer [Ultramajic]
If you haven’t taken a deep dive through Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic label, do so now. It’s almost embarrassing (not really) how much I play off of his label, and I do it with consistency! This one is another great track for a long blend that can go with anything. For those who don’t know, Michael E is one of the many Moniker’s of Jimmy Edgar, a fellow Detroiter. Side note: for those of us that grew up in and around Detroit in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, The New Dance Show inspired basically all of your favorite current Detroit DJs. Jit, booty, electro, footwork — it’s all in there. This shaped a lot of us.
Robert Hood – Clash [M-Plant]
Hood describes this track as a “nod to old-school Chicago minimal techno.” So many changeups and breakdowns that keep you guessing on the dance floor. It’s not typical, nor does it follow any set structure and I’m here for that. You’ll hear this track in the ballroom scene or the main hall of Berghain. It’s just one of those universal jack tracks that can offer a little randomness to a harder techno set.
Vin Sol – Rhythm [Delft Records]
The drum machine, or rhythm, is medicine. It’s really not easy to make a track with just a 909 or an 808, but when it’s good, it’s great. Here, Vin only used his 707 and it’s an ace in the hole for Vin and my absolute favorite track that’s only a drum machine. Although a very close second would be Huey Mnemonic’s “Stomp Track”. The key to success as mentioned earlier are variations and constant movement of the rhythm. Vin is masterful. Huge toms, big builds and masterful drops. So much cowbell! Which, like reverb on a kick, has to be done just right or it will be a total mess. He nails it. If you’re a loop person when you DJ, it’s really fun to play with those aspects too. Find the perfect a capella with this track and you will bring the house down. Trust me.
Lauren Flax’s remix of “Prism” by The Carry Nation feat. Alissa Brianna is out now. Buy it here.