A merchant crosses your path -
"I've got nothing, I tell ya."
here are some words of wisdom about juke from gyms
"Footwork(Juke) tracks are instrumental tracks made for Footwurking, or Jukin'; a dance style that’s local to Chicago that kids use to let off steam in group competitions with each other. It’s a distant relative of the competitive hip hop style of up-rocking but with frantic foot moves that have their roots in Jazz dancing.
The Footwork sound has its roots in Chicago House especially the accelerated ‘Ghetto’ house, and the influence and speed of the pioneering Ghetto house label 'Dance Mania' is clear: the tough sentiments and hip hop influence is all there, but the fast linear hypnotic 4x4 sound of those records has been re-calibrated and given an ultra-syncopated treatment to test dancers, the samples and repeated lines are pitch adjusted up and down giving the music a strange hypnotic feel."
This was taken from a DJ Nate album description here: http://www.planet.mu/discography/ZIQ280
I'd also consider this album quintessential juke and required material for anyone who wants to get a feel for what juke does.
I'd also recommend this mini-documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_MlM6ShOTQ
GYMS' OPINION AND OBSERVATION SECTION:
I think it's real easy, at a first listening glance, to dismiss this style as pure shit music made by beginner producers who have no sense of organization or meter. But if you listen a bit, you'll start to notice that all the wacked out syncopation and stutters are actually danceable; the offset nature of the rhythms are intentionally crafted that way. There is definitely an implicit beat worked in the middle of everything and the combination of all these elements produce a very sinister and hypnotic effect.
It's dance music for footworkers. I think that one guy from the docu had some great insight, "It can be something frightening, something spooky...anything that puts you in battle mode. The battle that's basically nonstop, but it's about the individual who takes control of themselves with the music."
What's great about it is how creative you can be with the rhythms. The style encourages you to explore wacky rhythms, accents and syncopation. It's not about counting out some calculated 2-2-3 , 3-2-3, etc. beat, it's about stretching rhythmic harmony, it's about taking polyrhythm to the next level. These juke producers are essentially mixing 3 and 4 different meters together, even applying different types of swing to each. The apparent harmony of the rhythms aren't always completely obvious, but the beat is there, it's felt.
If you've had the pleasure of being in a very large drum circle or listening to a group of legit African percussionists, you know what I'm talking about. There can be a guy playing some 4/4 rhythm, another guy playing 3/4, another guy playing 7/8 and another guy playing 5/4. That's 4 separate meters given individual attention while reacting to what the rest are doing. There is a beat within all these rhythms where everything comes together and breaks apart again. And Chicago juke producers are aware if how this rhythmic thinking can be traced back to how things are done in Africa and it's a source of pride. I've read some people say that footworking itself is traceable back to African tribes.
For me, the listening pleasure comes from the same spot in my brain that loves listening to Bach. There's an appreciation I have through understanding how difficult and complex it is to have 4-5 separately solid melodies somehow existing together in harmony. It gives me a different set of ears to listen with and allows access to the emotional content that might be hidden for some without such appreciation.
I'm no juke expert or anything, I'm still quite new to this stuff, but these are my opinions and observations from what I've come to appreciate so far. I'm finding it's pretty damn hard to make something that sounds honest and convincing; it's a completely different way of musical thinking than I'm used to.
QUICK TIPS FOR MAKING SOMETHING JUKEY:
*Vocal samples, instrument samples and TR-808, the breads and butter of juke sound. Have a listen to the DJ Nate stuff with this in mind to help build a better sense for it.
*Avoid making a structured song with resolving chords, basslines and all that. It's more about the atmosphere and footwork aesthetic more than anything else.
*Avoid 4 to the floor, this isn't house or trance music. Keyword: Syncopation
*Don't be afraid to try something crazy with the rhythm, it's encouraged and what makes it an art. But don't throw down random beats either, thinking you're good with a mindless imitation, it's noticeable instantly cos you won't be able to sense the hidden pulse. You really have to feel it out the more you become familiar with the style.
*Having the exaggerated stuttering vocals and samples at points is a staple of the sound, which can be tricky to pull off if you don't have a good sense for it. If it sounds uneven and like it's getting away from the beat, you're probably nailing it. Again, listen to some footwork examples with this in mind. I've noticed that choosing to stutter on vowel sounds work better than consonants.
*Feel free to use wacky panning.
And of course, google, youtube and "juke music"/"footwork music" are your friends if you want to explore more for yourself.