The juke veteran’s tracks rarely drag given their frenetic BPM.
Chris Power 2010
Following DJ Nate’s Da Trak Genious, DJ Roc’s The Crack Capone continues Planet Mu’s sequence of juke releases. Juke is a faster variant of ghetto house, the raw, minimal house style that developed in Chicago in the 1990s, and until now much of it has only been available in the UK as low quality YouTube rips. The juke variant currently in vogue – particularly, on this side of the Atlantic, with DJs and producers occupying the loosely defined areas of post-dubstep and UK bass music – is primarily designed to soundtrack footworking, a physically and technically demanding dance style that’s often performed in a battle environment.
From a musical perspective the short, rapid tracks juke trades in mash together house, techno, hip hop, dancehall and RnB. This blend, muddled together and shot out of a laptop at around 160 BPM, results in a dynamic that sometimes seems closely related to the half-step rhythms and industrial sub-bass of dubstep.
Chicago native DJ Roc, a veteran of the juke and footwork scenes, has been making tracks since 2001. His style is spartan: he usually restricts himself to a handful of vocal samples stretched over skittering drum patterns and brute basslines. Spacious and uncluttered, it’s the variety of styles Roc clashes together that can make tracks seem more crowded than they are: Let’s Get It Started combines a snatch of hip hop, a drifting Beach Boys-style harmony, orchestration straight off a Moondog score and the Twilight Zone theme, and underpins it all with rolling sub-bass and an intricate hi-hat pattern. Phantom Call summons bass swells of even greater turbulence, around which drop shattered chunks of a Russian military choir.
Although individual tracks rarely last long enough to drag, The Crack Capone flags in its second half. Footworking demands music that performs a specific function: soundtracking dance battles. For that reason, the shifting dynamics necessary to make albums coherent pieces of work are largely absent here. Understandable as that is it’s still a shame, because those tracks that step away from Roc’s typically hyped-up style – like the Maxwell-sampling Detroit techno of I Can’t Control the Feeling – are often his best. Despite that, and assuming you’re not too put off by the occasional track built from an Oompa-Loompa sample, DJ Roc is worth investigation.