Rick Rubin, Kanye West, and Anthony Kilhoffer in the control room
cuts a deal
Slang Music Group, the company founded by Black entrepreneur and Chicago House Pioneer Vince Lawrence, has signed four-time Grammy-winning producer Anthony Kilhoffer for commercial representation.
The move elevates the studio to a level of expertise, talent, wisdom and diversity that is matched by few, if any, in the country. It also extends the Slang focus far beyond the boundaries of music.
“Cultural relevancy and honest engagement is really what’s important to us,” says Lawrence. “We want our work to speak as part of a greater conversation. Our team is growing by helping artists, agencies, and brands connect authentically”
LA-based Kilhoffer is a likeminded visionary who wields a culturally diverse resume of epic proportions. He’s won Grammys for production on three Kanye West albums — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Graduation, and Late Registration — as well as John Legend’s Get Lifted.
Kilhoffer also served on the mix team for the iconic Watch The Throne album featuring West and Jay Z, and on the pop side he is the final mix engineer responsible for Iggy Izalea’s chart-topping hit “Fancy”
Slang Music Group packed thousands of easily licensed instrumental tracks and songs into a digital layout that operates like a record store. Vince Lawrence along with teammates Jere McAlister and Jim Marcus have created Slang Music Vault, moderately priced and officially launched in October.
Grouping genres, styles, and moods into categories that are represented by colorful “album covers,” the Vault provides users with previews, descriptions, and technical information for every title they click. The Vault offers a selection of diverse tracks, often created by thought leaders in each respective genre. Slang Music Group and Slang Music Vault are Black owned, minority certified businesses.
Composer and musician Vince Lawrence was officially recognized by the City of Chicago for his role in creating House Music during a ceremony at Millennium Park over the Memorial Day weekend.
An estimated crowd of 40,000 — on hand for the city’s annual Chicago House Party event — cheered as Lawrence took the stage to accept the award with his wife Tara, his mother Jean, his son London and his daughter Yasmine.
“Looking at where we started and where house music stands today,” he said afterwards. “It’s amazing.”
A teenaged Lawrence and DJ Jesse Saunders ignited the phenomenon that would become House Music from a bedroom on the south side of Chicago during the wee hours of a spring morning in 1983. The childhood friends were finishing off a weekly ritual that they had developed while hosting all-night teen dance celebrations in a juice bar called The Playground at 13th and Michigan Ave.
“It all kinda started from throwing parties in the late-70s,” Lawrence recalls. “We’d get an average of 1,500 to 2,000 kids a night, two nights a week.”
With the help of Saunders’s DJ brother, Wayne, the young impresarios filled the room by spinning the likes James Brown, Kraftwerk, Martin Circus, the B52s and “all the John Rocca songs.”
When the parties ended, they would fuel up on steak and eggs at nearby White Palace Grill before trekking down to Saunders’ home at 72nd and King Dr., where they would continue recording and playing music.
On one typical morning in the spring, they patched a Korg Poly-61, a Moog Prodigy, a Roland TB-303 and a Roland TR-808 into a “newfangled Yamaha MT44 Multitrack Cassette Recorder.” Then they recorded a song called “On and On,” which is considered to be the first house music track in history.
Within a few years, the sound could be heard “throbbing from the speakers at the hippest dance clubs in New York and Europe,” according to a 1986 Tribune article by Daniel Brogan. The catchy bass lines and dance appeal prompted many to nickname the genre “disco’s revenge.”
For Lawrence, the success was extra sweet. He had been an usher at Comiskey Park during the infamous “Disco Demolition” rally in 1979, when radio talk show host Steve Dahl started a riot by exploding disco records with firecrackers on the infield between a doubleheader.
Fans received free admission to the event if they donated a disco record for demolition. But, according to Lawrence, most of the records they brought were not disco.
“The people brought in specifically black records,” he says. “I said to my friend, ‘that’s a funk record, that’s a blues record.’”
At the time, the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever was midway through a three-year ride on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. Its cover featured John Travolta.
Travolta's unmistakably caucasian face represented disco to the mainstream, yet fans that night were willing to wreck the likes of Stevie Wonder's multiplatinum 1976 funk / soul / R&B masterpiece, Songs in the Key of Life, for a free seat at the destruction.
“Disco demolition was widely anti-Black, anti-Latino and anti-Gay,” Lawrence continues. “That was the first time I had that kind of ideology thrown in my face.”
The misguided negativity did not prevent Lawrence and his crew from getting things done.
“All of us poor and middle class teens from the south side of Chicago were in the record business,” he says. “By osmosis, we were becoming black entrepreneurs. We were becoming Latino distribution companies, black DJs, promoters and studio owners.”
In 1989, Lawrence stopped by a recording studio to pick up his friend Dave, a member of the band Sonia Dada who was playing guitar for a commercial session. It would be a pivotal moment in his career.
“They were having some difficulties communicating with an engineer,” Lawrence explains. “So I just kind of blurted out the solution because I wanted Dave to get out so we could go to the Shelter and party.”
One of the clients in the studio was Bill Daniels, who cofounded Equinox Advertising with Bernie Washington. Impressed by Lawrence’s technical abilities, he wanted to hear what Lawrence could do on the creative side.
“He said ‘if you can make music that resonates with teens, I’ll have a job for you,’” Lawrence recalls.
Today, Lawrence’s Slang Music Group creates and records tracks for commercials, television and a select group of well-known artists. Big Sean, Oprah Winfrey and Honda are just a few of the artists and brands enhanced by the studio’s creations.
Lawrence also continues to work on original compositions. He is currently one-third of The 312, a trio that includes Felix Da Housecat and Jamie Principle. The group released “Touch Your Body” on the Crosstown Rebels label last summer.
Billboard described the collaborators as “three important figures in the history of Chicago house music.” While Lawrence is happy with the recognition, he responds with characteristic modesty.
“It’s awesome to even claim such a connection, because it’s way bigger than us as people,” he says. “We just wanted to make a record that would move a crowd.”
A couple of years ago, SoLow was rapping on CTA platforms (hence the Red Line title). Fast forward to today, and he’s down in Miami living it up, riding clean and shooting high profile videos with the likes of Zoey Dollaz. Pretty impressive.
In case you don't live in the US (or you just haven't heard the news yet), Donald Trump was just elected our next president. although stunned, I accept the result, and have braced myself for change, good, bad or indifferent.
Actually this is NOT a political email, but I think given the circumstances (and frustrations from all sides) surrounding this election, I am pressed to acknowledge a very powerful truth: that despite country borders or even political borders within my own country, there is still one simple thing that brings everyone together...music!
Music has been a common thread woven throughout all countries, in all of history, since the creation of the world. Music is an amazing gift of God that simply is beyond comparison. Music actually heals. Music can change things. we created this song when we recognized that the country was at a precipiece, brought with violence and unrest. I offer it again and food for thought, please share it if you can:
That is why you and I love music so much. For sure that’s why we work so hard at it here at Slang. We are driven to create and we only want the best sounding and most impactful music possible! These days, if you have great musical ideas and amazing songs, but lack the knowledge or experience (i.e. confidence) to turn them into a sonic reality, then you're in the right place! We are here to help!!
Personally, I go to work every day trying to create the most helpful and encouraging music so that you can do what you do best - Feel it!
So whether you are an American like me, or from one of the 200+ countries that have been moved by what we have created over the last 20+ years, thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting me and the rest of our team. And lastly, love one another, whenever and wherever you can.
You Wish, by the real name Gabriel Mican, is an artist & producer based in Chicago, USA. He classifies his style as Progressive House music with some Electro – all built around a love for a strong melody. His music has a feel-good vibe that is captured on his latest offering “Girl Like You” co-produced by house music pioneer Vince Lawrence, which debuted #1 on Dance Top 100 Releases as well as #3 Electro House Top 100 charts on Beatport.com.
You Wish cites early 1990s Euro-dance as a big influence back when he lived in Europe. Groups like The Prodigy and Faithless served as inspiration to become a music artist and producer himself. It was around that time that he got his hands on a Casio keyboard, a gift from his father! He became instantly in love with synthesizers! A passion which he shares with producer and fellow Chicagoan Vince Lawrence whom he met in 2010. Acknowledged universally as the producer of the first House record “On and on” back in the late ‘80s, Lawrence saw right away the potential waiting to be explored in “You Wish”.
Having lived in different parts of Europe (Romania, Monaco and France) and now in the USA, Wish knows first-hand the impact that electronic dance music has on people. Its message is that of love, unity and respect. It’s the sound of hypnotic synthesizers and hard kicking drums that brings fans together who share a common love for dance music. It is out of this love that his music label “Wish Music” was born in 2013. He wanted to build something that Chicago, the city that started it all, would be proud of.
His latest release, Girl Like You, mixes a perfect blend of melody and atmosphere, addictive guitar chord progressions, and a laid back beat, this new tropical house jam by Chicago artist & producer You Wish, will surely bring back all those feel-good summer vibes! Featuring vocalist Chaddy (of "The Streets on Fire") on the hook, and co-production by Chicago House pioneer Vince Lawrence, this romantic euphoric banger will surely have you up on the dance floor in no time! The 2 track release also features an Electro House remix produced by New Jersey DJ and producer, Draco Savon, resident on London's Real Dance Radio.
American producer Felix Da Housecat, veteran vocalist Jamie Principle, and early Trax Records affiliate Vince Lawrence have teamed up as The 312 to present the darkly-lit and sensual video for their debut single on Crosstown Rebels, "Touch Your Body." Directed by London/NYC-based filmmaker David Terranova, the clip pairs footage of Felix and Principle jamming along to the song with thematically-appropriate shots of women dancing, bringing the track's sultry vibe to life.
Over email, Felix Da Housecat gave THUMP backstory on the track's production. "We all sat in one room and jammed," he said. "I sat there by the synth, played the bassline first, and had the music done in about an hour. That's when Jamie started writing away whilst Vince joined him. While I was finishing overdubs on the music, I said, 'Jamie can I pretend to be you and lay down melody for verses?' He looked at me like I was crazy, so I took that as a yes. I sang the song melody without words, pretending to be Jamie. Then Jamie cloned me being him and Jamieized it. He then whispered in my ear and said, 'I got the chorus,' and I was like, 'cool, sing it.'"
Back in the summer of 2014, Felix Da Housecat recorded his THUMP mix while cavorting around Ibiza, and made something a bit more introspective than what he's known for on his Narrative of Thee Blast Solution album.
The single is out now, featuring two additional remixes by Detroit favorite Moodymann.
"House has survived and is constantly being reinvented."
The 312 brings together three important figures in the history of Chicago house music: Felix Da Housecat, Vince Lawrence, and Jamie Principle. "We [have] all known each other since early 80s," Felix tells Billboard in an email. "We all grew up together on the same scene. It was like a movement and they were the driving force. Especially Jamie – his voice pretty much carried house."
On Friday, the three release the Touch Your Body on the Crosstown Rebels label, and the title track is premiering today exclusively on Billboard. Principle sings in his usual mode – tense, pleading, lusty – while a big bass line steps purposefully in the background. The song ends in a whisper, as if Principle is about to evaporate.
How did you meet Vince?
I've known Vince since the beginning of House Music when he was A&R at Chicago Trax. We became very good friends in 1991 and remain friends to this day. I look at Vince as like a Guru Ala Rick Rubin of House Music.
What do you like about Jamie’s voice?
Jamie and Prince were my childhood heroes. His voice to me you can't explain – it's like you asking me, "What does the Holy Spirit feel like?" Or, "what is it like to feel the creator's presence?" You can't put a question like that into words.
Did this track come together in the studio or remotely?
I flew to Chicago with the plan to create this song. Originally it was supposed to be myself and Jamie, but I asked myself who would be the perfect person to sonically destroy the dancefloor with, and Vince and his recording studio came to mind.
What was the creative process like?
We all sat in one room and jammed. I sat there by the synth, played the bassline first. I asked Yuki (the engineer) to give me a simple kick snare, so I can just get a simple vibe and I had the music done in about an hour. That's when Jamie started writing away whilst Vince joined him. While I was finishing overdubs on the music, I said, "Jamie can I pretend to be you and lay down melody for verses?" He looked at me like I was crazy. So I took that as a yes. I asked Yuki to mic me up at the start of the track, and I sang the song melody without words, pretending to be Jamie. Then Jamie cloned me being him and Jamieized it. Jamie then whispered in my ear and said, "I got the chorus." I was like, "cool, sing it."
How did you first hear about Crosstown Rebels?
I've known Damian Lazarus since him signing me with Phil Howells on City Rockers in 2000, Kittenz and the Glitz. After that he would start Crosstown. So he's always been like a brother and mentor to me.
How do you feel about the current state of house music?
House Music is here to stay; it's not going anywhere. It's always been changed up with names, trends, titles. Trends always die. House has survived and is constantly being reinvented.
Have you worked with Moodymann before?
No – always been huge fan of his work, so I reached out to him, and he smashed the rework. Best remix I've heard in ages.
I was already planning on writing about this track weeks before the events that took place in Orlando early Sunday morning. It seemed a no-brainer. Because whether you like house music as deep dance music, as great pop music or as secular gospel, there's little not to love about this incredibly potent collaboration between three Chicago house giants (producers Felix Da Housecat and Vince Lawrence, with vocalist/producer Jamie Principle) and one of Detroit's best contemporary musicians (the one and only Moodymann, a.k.a. Kenny Dixon, Jr.). It's a great, sensual love song that takes place on the dance floor, with a release both carnal ("I want to touch your body one more time," Principle coos in the chorus) and spiritual ("I need relief" is the vocal loop Moodymann's remix brings to the fore — a reminder that, no matter when it may've been recorded, we all live in a world that requires a modicum of "relief"). It might seem like hyperbole to call the song an instant classic, an addition to the vocal-house pantheon of which Principle is a co-founder, but that is exactly what it sounds like.
Yet in light of the horrific attack at the Pulse nightclub, the murders of 49 men and women who almost all identified with the LGBTQ community, there is something else that is important to point out about "Touch Your Body": This is music rooted in the gay experience, in the experience of people of color and in the culture of gay nightclubs — experiences that took place long before the victories of the gay rights movement made progress seem inevitable. That's why listening to this song this week and not thinking of what happened in Orlando isn't really an option — especially when the sounds and codes of "Touch Your Body" hearken so prominently to sites that once offered temporary reprieves from gay discrimination. Sites like Pulse.
Here's a reminder: House music was born almost entirely of gay liberation, in the post-Stonewall Inn disco parties of New York and then in a Chicago club called the Warehouse (hence, "house") commandeered by a gay expat New York DJ named Frankie Knuckles, who first put on Jamie Principle. The dance floors at these clubs may have been integrated (all races, genders and sexual persuasions welcome), but there should be no mistaking that this was music first and foremost programmed by the gay community, for the gay community, based on things deemed important in the gay community. All lovers of late-20th century American culture have profited immeasurably from the creative ideas and the unadulterated emotion initially nurtured in the safety of gay clubs populated by bodies of color. As "Touch Your Body" asserts, we continue to bask in the wonders of that creativity and in the open-hearted notions of inclusivity it fostered. Never forget that.
Felix Da Housecat, Jamie Principle, Vince Lawrence are The 312 on Crosstown Rebels “Touch Your Body”
Crosstown Rebels curate an A-star team of pioneers and legends for the labels next release ‘Touch Your Body’ by way of Felix Da Housecat, Jamie Principle and Vince Lawrence aka The 312 with two invigorating remixes from Moodymann to be released 24th June.
With a career spanning more than 30 years Felix Da Housecat now brings us his latest venture as producer of The 312 project. One of house music’s most recognisable voices Jamie Principle alongside another true Chicago house music innovator, Vince Lawrence and Detroit Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann is “the coming together of three of house music’s legends” label boss Damian Lazarus explains and “was always going to produce something special, in ‘Touch Your Body’ we have nothing short of an all time classic. Add to that incredible remixes from Moodymann and the dream release is complete for Crosstown.”
Felix Da Housecat explains how “growing up on south side of Chicago I was a huge fan of Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle. Vince Lawrence was over at Chicago Trax and was the blueprint A&R and catalyst there signing anything hot.” “Frankie’s passing woke me up. I wanted to go back where it all began and work with the originators.” “I called Vince and said I need your mind, guidance and your studio and all of us in one room to bring that spirit back in my soul. I told him we had Jamie Principle and the rest I guess is history. I wanted Crosstown for the project as I felt Damian was the only guy worthy and would understand and treat this project right. House Music needs this right now.. So here we are.”