December 29th, 2007

Watch My Upmost Music Industry Nem

A tale of several videos ::

again about the wonderful work that music does, the vitality of digital (youth) culture, the persistence of realtime, peer2peer creativity and sociability, & the obvious shortcomings of corporate hackery

u kno the first, no doubt —

The maker of many a best of 2007 list, Dude Nem’s “Watch My Feet” was a notable mainstream breakthrough of sorts for Chicago juke. Sure, there’s a bit of corporate hackery a gwaan here what with Dude Nem being the first juke group to get a national push from an out-of-town record label, but there’s a whole lotta esprit de corps in there too.

I remember getting the e-promo like it was yesterday —

As you might surmise (or already know), DIY versions abound, all asking you to watch their feet (if sometimes assuming you’re watching other things, esp when the feet aren’t really visible, knamean).

But, for my clickthrough, the most ebullient of em all (nem) is the the (DJ Nate produced ?!) audition for the Dude Nem video —

I find this^^ a lot more watchable (and that’s what it’s about, no?) than the slightly more choreographed segments we see in the official video (tho there are some gems there too). There are just so many individual styles on display here, a lot personality animating the footwork. I’m impressed in partic w/ how gracefully big man (from around 1:05 to 1:20) throws his weight around. But they’re ALL amazing.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that we don’t get a sense of sync here. (Overdubbing music for live music/dance scenes — a la Rize — really kills me; I want to know what it sounds like THERE). It’s perhaps less vexing, though, considering that juke footwork seems to be more “floaty” in character, not unlike ravey liquidity or over-acrobatic b-boying, than dance styles which engage more directly with the musical pulse. (Got actual dance vocab for this distinction? Do enlighten.)

Not too surprisingly, before long there was a corporate bandwagon version, even on OldTube (i.e., TV), featuring a very virtuosic if uninspired set of footworkers and employing an obv/awk ripoff of “Watch My Feet” while abandoning juke’s frenetic digi-tom rolls for some watered-down, ol’timey, Miami Bass-ish — like some ignant studio hack heard Dude Nem and went scrolling through his “Gangsta/Dance” loop library. (I swear, if Gant Man produced that crap I would not recant.) The vids even attempt to capture the spirit of an audition (not to mention the authentic patina of amateurism, as evoked in part by the inclusion of video “counter” data at the bottom of the screen), and with various versions offering up “competitions” between the dancers (using a split-screen; they’re not actually dancing simultaneously). It’s a YouTube-ready ad campaign, fo sho —

Not only do the Verizon vids pale in comparison to watching kids do kid things outside of stifling studios, for all their YouTube-readiness, they lag behind actual YouTube-savvy riffs.

I’d be remiss, then, if I didn’t conclude this brief survey w/ one of the most delightfullest mashup vids for “Watch My Feet,” wherein Dude Nem’s boastful, upful anthem is set to loops’n’clips from Happy Feet — as produced, apparently, by the same kid, an 18yr-older from Cayman, who did Soulja Boy Pooh (which has now garnered over 6 million views!) —

We can waffle over whether YouTube’s newly unleashed audio takedown worm will make this activity move elsewhere, but it’ll keep on moving, no doubt. (& I’m sure Dude Nem / TVT would be happy to rake in some ad revenue from all these plays, if GoogTube could get its act together on that.) At any rate, I’d say archive em while you can.

But don’t watch me, watch my tube.


  • 1. Elle  |  December 29th, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    I’m new to Chicago juke, but am curious as to the dance itself… is it ALL completely spontaneous (and freestyle), or is there any “basic step” to speak of?

  • 2. Birdseed  |  December 30th, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I like how the focus of the blog switches with your interests – it was only a year ago (about the time I started reading it) that you publicly announced a switch of direction from dancehall to reggaeton, and now your juke posts vastly outnumber your reggaeton posts, at least that’s how it feels.

    It’s all very interesting and I hope to see it spiral on in the future.

  • 3. wayneandwax  |  December 30th, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Thanks, Birdseed. Glad you’re along for the ride! Glancing at my tag cloud, though, reggae remains a bigger topic than reggaeton which remains bigger than juke. We’ll see how it looks a year from now.

    As for footwork, Elle, as far as I can tell there’s no “basic step.” As one can see, there’s quite a lot of shared movement among dancers — especially the focus on fast-moving legs (and feet!) — but at bottom it’s definitely an individual / idiosyncratic, spontaneous / freestyle sort of dance. One thing that can help give a sense of its distinctive character, however, is to compare it to something like Detroit jit, which is similar but takes a different approach. (I’m not the one, at this point, to distinguish the two, however — see the arguments, and dance moves, here to get a sense of how they compare.) Unlike something like the SouljaBoy or even the Cha-Cha Slide (to bring it back to Chitown), there are no instructional videos for juke / ghetto house footwork — “juking,” incidentally, describes a back-to-front female-to-male dance associated with the genre — just a lot of videos of kids in their bedrooms, driveways, rec rooms, etc.

  • 4. Elle  |  December 30th, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks for the reply. I think the fact that it’s all improvised makes it that much more mind-boggling. I am more familiar with Cuban music and dance and know that when dancing despelote (a sort of wining that correlates to a rhythmic breakdown in timba music) that there comes a moment when a basic, repetitive movement can be established. From there, you can improvise at will or as the music inspires you. I suppose you could say the same of samba – there is a constant step you can always return to – but, seeing here that these dancers are constantly innovating is pretty amazing. Do you have recent (academic or popular) bibliography you can recommend on these regional African-American dance styles?

    Also, concerning your YouTube and academia post (I tried to comment on that post but couldn’t)… I worked with a professor who teaches African art history and used YouTube videos for the first time in class and on the web with a distance education course. She said that they elicited a very strong reaction from the students and that she planned to use them again in the future. It makes sense, especially when teaching masking traditions, that YouTube would be a goldmine for that sort of material.

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  December 30th, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Hey Elle,

    Sorry you couldn’t comment on that earlier post. After I while I tend to close comments, esp once certain posts start getting slammed w/ spam.

    There’s no doubt that YouTube — and the various emerging sites like it — have become pretty indispensable to academics who study culture. It sure has for me, which is why I do my best to “archive” (save copies of) any videos I think I might want to use in the future. These days, though, I actually worry a lot less about ephemerality: as fleeting as these things can seem, they are, on the other hand, totally promiscuous (as digital files, always being copied) and hence — save for a Martian magnet meltdown of all data — pretty much indestructible. It sure would be nice if such stuff were a little more stable, though.

    My sense of spontaneity in the Cuban and Brazilian forms you refer to is that there’s quite a bit of it, but — unlike juke, or rave dancing for that matter — there’s definitely a “base” of sorts that dancers work from. Of course, in a lot of cases, that “base” is something that never need be explicitly learned, enculturated as it tends to be.

    I wish that I could point you to any sort of bibliography on (contemporary) Af-Am regional dance forms. YouTube has really stoked my interest in these dances over the last couple years (and, I suspect, stoked the cultural heat around the dances themselves). I’ve discussed this in previous posts (and unpublished papers), but I haven’t really come across — or, to be honest, searched out — other writings on the subject, though I’d love to see some more ethnographically-informed, historically-contextual studies of all these forms. I’m hoping for a groundswell of research from the MySpace / YouTube generation, though, and doing my best to encourage it. (And if I can clear my desk of some things, I may devote some serious time to it myself.) Do let me know if you turn up any promising leads. I’m particularly curious to know whether there’s any anthro/dance scholars who could shed some light (and offer some vocab).

    Incidentally, I noticed a post on kuduro over at your blog. In another post of mine (related to another unpublished paper) I attempted to make sense of the representation / circulation of kuduro and juke together, at least for a certain class of listeners / mediators, under the rubric of “global ghettotech.” You might find that discussion of interest, never mind some of the outgoing links (which I far prefer to footnotes).

  • 6. Elle  |  December 30th, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    We actually had major headaches when archiving YouTube videos… well, not actually with archiving, but with making the videos PowerPoint compatible. We were able to download a semester’s worth of YouTube videos through KeepVid, I think. However, the professor wanted to embed them in PowerPoint (to go along with images she needed to show and to circumvent internet connectivity issues that might arise when trying to show them directly off the internet). Unfortunately, you can only embed .AVI videos in PowerPoint, which meant we had to find a way to convert them from .FLV to .AVI, which wasn’t as seamless as I had hoped. Theoretically, she could have toggled from PowerPoint to the FLV player, but seeing as that when teaching these things don’t always go as planned, we really wanted to put everything into PowerPoint. Too bad it wasn’t easier to do.

    Oh, and thanks for all the references.

  • 7. wayneandwax  |  December 30th, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Definitely too bad it’s not easier to do this sort of thing. Too much collusion between corps like Microsoft and the content industries (who really represent far fewer creators than they claim). Something like zamzar makes it fairly easy to convert across formats, but it’s a time consuming process at the moment. (They do the conversion in anywhere from 5min to a day and then email you a link.) Still, it’s better than nothing.

  • 8. Birdseed  |  December 30th, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    I’d really like to read a more generalised volume on the history of regional/local novelty dances in the United States, possibly one that gives a decent answer as to why some periods (the 1900s, the 1960s) have had such a huge flora of novelty dances while there are other periods that are more or less dance-monolithic, or at least publicly so. Any suggestions?

  • 9. Elle  |  December 30th, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    I am not sure if this is what you are looking for, but I have these in my notes to read:

    Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance (Studies in Dance History) (Paperback)
    by Thomas F. Defrantz (Editor)

    Black Dance: From 1619 to Today (Paperback)
    by Lynne Fauley Emery (Author), Katherine Dunham (Foreword)

    Jookin’: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture (Paperback)
    by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon (Author)

  • 10. Kevin  |  January 8th, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    The Verizon ads are nothing short of perplexing. Some speculate that the phone was dubbed “Juke” before the subsubgenre had achieved national attention. Release dates coincided, someone hired a sharp intern (or read ya blog), and thus that strange advertisement was born.

    Juke is getting some heat in the French/ Belgian booty communities, too. Check out this thread about the int’l Violator Juke Squad:

  • 11. wayneandwax  |  January 8th, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    That’s some interesting (and persuasive) speculation about the Verizon juke campaign. It makes sense as a name for a phone that’s supposed to be a media player (aka, juke box). I suspect you’re right that the tie to Chi-town is a late add-on.

    As for France/Belgium, I’ve been quite astounded by the particular popularity of juke over there. Switzerland too! (E.g., Ghetto Factory, the FL-using, juke remixing entity representing “Tha Juke Sound Of The Swiss Mountainz”!) Not sure how that happened. Be curious to know about how that connection came about.

    Booty communities, eh?

  • 12. Kevin  |  January 13th, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    One thing in common among young people in Chicago, Detroit, and European cities is that they’ve grown up with house and techno. This might clarify the perplexingly international appeal of juke a bit. I’m still thinking about hearing old Strictly Rhythm tracks on the Chicago top 40 hip-hop station.

  • 13. DJ Gant-Man  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 9:30 am



    Not too surprisingly, before long there was a corporate bandwagon version, even on OldTube (i.e., TV), featuring a very virtuosic if uninspired set of footworkers and employing an obv/awk ripoff of “Watch My Feet” while abandoning juke’s frenetic digi-tom rolls for some watered-down, ol’timey, Miami Bass-ish — like some ignant studio hack heard Dude Nem and went scrolling through his “Gangsta/Dance” loop library. (I swear, if Gant Man produced that crap I would not recant.)

  • 14. wayneandwax  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Yo Gant-Man! Thanks for the comment. I’m afraid you misunderstood — far from criticizing you, I was actually paying you a compliment. I done my homework, and I’m a fan, dude.

    What I was saying is that that Verizon “juke” track was wack. So wack in fact that I would still think it’s wack even if I learned that an actual dope juke producer — such as yourself — had made it.

    But you didn’t, so you cool.

  • 15. wayneandwax  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 11:12 am

    While we’re here, I should note that re: comment #5 and the discussion with Elle, I have since been enlightened on the matter, and it appears that juke dancing does have a base of sorts (or several). Assuming it was improvised a la liquid rave moves belies my general ignorance in this realm, despite my attention and enthusiasm. Check this vid, in partic the last minute or so where King Charles breaks it down —

    and the beginning of this one (part 2 of ?) —

  • 16. lone wolf  |  November 23rd, 2008 at 11:23 am

    yup. i finally saw a verizon juke phone in the wild last week.

    and gant-man’s “watch my feet” remix is the shit – better than the orig.


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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