That’s My Jam is a weekly feature where one person from the Selective Hearing staff goes to wax poetic about music that is pivotal to their musical tastes. Whether that would be an album, a song, or anything in-between. We all had to start somewhere.
Release Date: October 30, 2000
- Get Enuff
- Down On Me
- Joy My Pride
- Back Up Back Up Back Up
- What’s Going On
What was I doing 13 years ago? I was a strapping young lad 3 years removed from college, working happily (at the time) as a computer operator. I knew nothing of the world of J-Pop or K-Pop back then and was deeply engrained in the Hip-Hop and R&B culture of the time.
I was also becoming disenchanted with what I was hearing and had abandoned the commercialized Hip-Hop I was playing as a DJ. I came to the harsh realization that I did not have the technical skill or passion to commit to it as my main genre of choice.
So I set upon a search for a new sound that was more catered to me, and dance music immediately came to mind. I experimented with various genres, but the one that seemed to stick out the most was House.
I had a particular affinity towards British pop music during the dawn of the new millennium, and I frequently tuned into Galaxy FM and BBC Radio 1 during night shifts at work. It was the only way I could stay sane during the 12 hours I was assigned to the night watch.
That is where I was first exposed to UK Garage/2-Step. Unbeknownst to me, I stumbled upon this genre previously thanks to early House tracks I had picked up, like Double-99’s RIP Groove and the Armand Van Helden remix of Tori Amos’ Professional Widow.
One of the first artists that caught my attention in the genre was a producer who went by the name of Wookie. Wookie (real name: Jason Chue) took his moniker from the famous Star Wars character. The name is a play on his nickname “Chuey”.
Normally pigeonholed as part of the burgeoning UK Garage/2-Step scene, his sound is more of a fusion of the technical aspects of Drum & Bass, the rhythm and melodies of American R&B and touches of Chicago and New Jersey-styled House.
Honing his skills in the studios of Soul II Soul, Wookie went from remixing to producing original tracks on the advice of his mentor Jazzy B. The result of his efforts is his self-titled debut.
The first thing to note about this album is that it has a distinctly British sound. While many of the tracks were perfectly radio-friendly in the UK, none of this would have been played here in North America.
That doesn’t mean that this is all weird late-night fodder that only the high-level punter would appreciate, but it certainly would not pass the requirements of what North American radio programmers would consider “friendly” to their listeners outside of, say a specialty program like a mix show.
Many tracks with vocals can be considered straight-up R&B. But not in the traditional North American way. There is no lover man, come to me baby type ballads, nor are there any traces of the Hip-Pop blend starting to become popular during that period. That means no unnecessary guest rappers.
These songs have some hard beats tempered down by soulful vocals. Songs such as Get Enuff, Battle, Joy My Pride and Time are examples of putting a twist on the UK R&B swing beat (a.k.a. New Jack Swing) sound. There is also a nod to Soul II Soul on What’s Going On for those who are train spotting while they listen.
The instrumental-only tracks are also some great stuff, although probably not for those who have little patience for anything they can’t sing along to. The best examples of Wookie’s production skills are Back Up Back Up Back Up and VCF.
The former is probably more accessible due to the Latin guitar and dramatic string stabs. The latter is a harder and deeper affair that maybe those with a sound system and a pair of decent subs would appreciate to the fullest.
There is a vocal version of Back Up Back Up Back Up called Back Up To Me, but it’s sadly not available on any of the 5 versions of this album that were printed. That makes it worth grabbing if you can find the vinyl or CD single of just that one track.
Given that this is 13 years old, this is going to be a hard-as-hell album to find, and it will require a bit of creative crate digging. But even now, it is a superb work that sounds as fresh as it was first released.