#dancemusicisblack: Bubba Track by Track
Dance music is a direct line to freedom guarded by our inhibitions - the unwillingness to ‘let it all hang out.’
For as long as I have been breathing I have been listening to the infamous beep boop music. In middle school my iPod nano was filled with your typical white dance music: Avicii, David Guetta, Empire of the Sun, Disclosure, Cash Cash, Tritonal. However once I got to high school I started revisiting go - go music, something I listened to constantly growing up from ages 3 to 11 in Washington, D.C. I remembered early morning car rides listening to divas like Chrystian B, of GoGo band TCB; bumping Jersey mixes of my favorite songs from the early 00s; and of course House music from Chicago, Atlanta, Canada, and California I found on SoundCloud. I would listen to the music on repeat at night dreaming that I was the one creating these remixes. I dreamt that my music would make others want to do what I always did - dance my ass off.
Most recently, I began to notice exactly how much of my DJ sound is inspired by the artists who flooded my SoundCloud playlists and packed my iPod nano. AlunaGeorge (now Aluna) and Kaytranada are all up and through my ears' lifetimes. I heard Black voices on their songs, slang, famous hip-hop lines, infamous bass lines. They were able to get rappers and R &B artists to hop on their tracks - something I had never experienced in Dance music before. It was like being at a rave and the cookout at the same time.
“Yeah this is the music I’m tryna make.”
When looking at the state of Dance Music in 2021 one can see it is still heavily white man dominated. Thankfully Black DJs, Ravers, flow artists, and producers are taking to the stage to reclaim dance music using the hashtag #dancemusicisblack.
In September 2020, Aluna Francis sat with Vulture to explain the history of dance music and its heavy white audience and listeners. She detailed her most recent project Renaissance, as “shedding expectations of what electronic dance music is supposed to sound like for a mainstream audience while reminding us of the genre’s roots in musicians from the African diaspora, like Black Coffee and Frankie Knuckles.” Black DJs and producers are world building with each project release, determined to map out exactly where Black dance music is adequately praised and empowered - amongst ourselves. The releases of Bubba by Kaytranada, Renaissance by Aluna, and the flood of Black artists included in the most recent Disclosure album prove that Black people not only originated the genre but simultaneously act as the key to innovation within it. Each bar, each chorus, each song creates a space for us to be fully ourselves. These artists remind us of our Black ass pasts allowing us to travel to places where our ancestors might have been. Their music takes us to the ancestral dance floor where we can throw ass with the best of them and remember to find joy in times of pain, confusion, and unrest (perfect for living through a panny). Black dance musicians created the genre in protest of - as a gateway for - Black folks to travel to magical and happy places. To see ourselves fully.
I want to look specifically at Grammy Award Winning Best Dance/Electronic Album Bubba by Kaytranda as a ride that forces you to get up out yaself, a dance circle, a call out. Let’s take a look track by track.
James Brown, the king of commanding audiences to boogie, says it best - Do It. The song starts as a slow repetitive call out to the listener that also acts as a type of flight safety video. The song is working on preparing you to take flight or to go somewhere, all you have to do is do it. The build lands you into a commercial jingle type - time to take off.
2 The Music
This song makes me feel like I’m at the hookah bar. It starts with the ‘boom ba boom’ of the clash. More of a clap than a clash really. The clap keeps your head bopping, Iman’s melodic voice carries over the crashes taking you into the land of soft bloops waving in the back. There you are in the middle of the beat ocean smoking and bopping - yet another call out to ‘just vibe’. Turn up the speakers and listen to da music hoe. The smooth beats transcend into an ending straight out of a video game.
This song feels just like a hype circle. The ‘go,go,go’ takes you to the cookout dance off of the century. But this hype circle isn’t just for the participants but one that empowers the master of ceremony - the DJ. This is my new dj anthem something to play to remind mufuckas to tip and appreciate the bringer of funk the conductor of ass shakinng. sIr’s flow keeps ya ass shaking and makes you wanna sing along painting the perfect picture of a bomb ass party with the littest DJ in town.
I love the way this song starts. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. The addition of Mick’s voice elevates this wompy beat making it feel like you are sitting in the middle of a kaleidoscope. The sounds create a picture of slow motion for me - the ringing in back consistently bringing us back to center ready to start again.
This is the video game waiting room music I was waiting for. No lyrics - just vibes. the repetitive sounds of what feels like yoshi island.
This song screams “if you ain’t paying my bills suck my dick.” Kali effortlessly takes me on a journey to her dungeon of objectifying men. If you are not paying me my 10% to be in my presence, what the fuck are you actually doing? She calls out to fuck niggas everywhere - GIVE ME YA MONEY! And what a beat to put it to. Boppy, fun, island vibes all to tell a nigga to step up and give me a bag - love it.
Y’all ever imagine driving down a tunnel super fast to some bomb ass song (other than Replay by Lady Gaga)? This is the song. It starts fast and keeps that same energy from beginning to end. Masego’s voice adds to the jump beat - “I need it in LA!!” I hate playing this in the car I end up swerving up and down the street, The lyrics make you want to shout them outside of a sunroof - catching eye contact with someone on the street and dancing your life away.The ‘tick - tick’ in the back makes me want to gyrate furiously.
Now VanJess? VanJess is a duo that I will have to detail another blog post on solely - they continuously release amazing music and have been doing so for more than a decade. The melodic and smooth voices over this soft beat makes for perfect shuffling material. VanJess and Kaytranda have made many a bop prior to this hit but once again the girls are giving what they need to have had gave. “Taste...yeahayee..taste..ayee” Anyone else foot still tapping?
Estelle is a longtime favorite musician of mine. She actually performed at my homecoming in 2018! I love her raspy and singsongy voice not only for Garnet but for this song specifically. “uhohNo..” The “I’m on the way - we on the way,” in the back keeps the tempo reminding you of the lyricism that is Ms Estelle. The build during the chorus into a sitar sounding melody makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand at full attention. Run it back for me.
What You Need
This song reminds me of an old school House song with a Black woman belting a chorus to a repetitive beat in the back. While Charlotte has a softer singing style - the inspiration is well heard and felt throughout the song. The ending truly feels like I’m falling infinitely - but differently than the falling motion I feel from Freefall.
Vex Oh transports us straight to the dancehall, red lights blaring, wining, steam-filled dance floors. Songs like this make me miss sexual tension in the club for real. Goldlink pulls up and continues the sexy vibes by dancing over the beat - perfect for wrapping a hand around a waist. Similar to its name, this song expels the bad vibes from the room - acts as a musical Palo Santo.
Scared to Death
This one reminds me the most of the album cover. When you think ‘double - sclera’ but in song form - this song appears. The weaving and overlapping of beats and sounds both with reverb and then without simulates driving in a car with the windows up and then rolling them back down. This beat makes for the perfect mixer when practicing transitions from songs with no lyrics to lyric music. First time DJs start here.
Now this song is mesmerizing. Durand is someone a Virgo put me on to and I have legitimately never turned back. Durand’s melodic and RANGEFUL voice calls out for the listener to “catch me.” The lyrics, the quiet builds within the songs, and Durrand’s angelic and high notes takes me to a cloud where I want to live forever. Falling out of the sky at a steady speed, arms stretching to the sun, feeling the air on my face, thinking of freedom. This song has been played everyday since I heard it first and I will keep it that way. I don’t make the rules.
This song makes me want to do the electric slide to it...maybe that’s just me. Teedra sings about wanting someone who knows where she’s coming from, someone who understands her slang, in her words being done with “all that lame shit.” Somethings you just gotta be Black to understand. Like wanting to do the electric slide to music in public and a group of other Black people start joining (and ferociously kicking that one leg). The bridge of this song creates the moment of freedom for me. The mix of the softness of Teedra’s voice with the “boom - cat - boom” makes me wanna stare out the window - think about the last time I was in love and shit. And be around my niggas.
The Worst In Me
Now Tinashe knows she ate this song. Quintessential Tinashe we have a dance bop meant for sick choreography or your best freestyle moves. I love the talking singing that Tinashe does - it makes me feel like I’m the one holding the mic. Sharing the spotlight with Ms. Nashe. Also, the lyrics chile. My toxic ex anthem. Sometimes you really can’t believe you still fucking with somebody until after you fucked them...for the 3rd time that week. Shit it just feels better when you know you ain’t supposed to be doing something - haha!
Another lyricless bop transition. Perfect for smoke sessions, at work playlists, or getting work done.
Nigga, am I on a boat? The beginning of the song makes me feel like I am on that island that Moana found the demigod at. Seagulls...yeah this song sounds like seagulls - it feels like seagulls on the beach. Pharrell once again commanded us to ‘get down.’ While this song is noticeably slower than most of the other tracks - ya still wanna shake ass to it.Probably my least favorite song on the album simply because of the slow tempo to it - but still a fire song.
Bubba came out in December 2019 exactly one month before everyone started coughing and feeling funny. Bubba didn’t know that it would end up being the anthem album of quarry but girl that’s exactly what happened. With lockdown in full effect across the nation by March - there was literally nothing else better to do other than listen to Bubba and dream. Everyday of 2020 felt like the longest day of the year, time went back to being a concept and needing to be questioned. What’s the pain of blasting the same album for an entire year and some change? Some shit just been hitting all year - summer, winter, spring, shit we jammed all the way till Christmas. But that’s Kaytranada for you, he is the ultimate curator of timeless dance music. From his SoundCloud only releases to his album releases he always hits the mark. Bubba continues to last the test of time - finally getting a grammy nod and recognition despite his Kaytranada’s LONG career as a producer, DJ, and dance musician. Similar to my entrance to Dance music - I was pushed into Bubba. Forced to sit with it and listen to it over and over again. Everytime I press play I am taken to a new place in time. Told to just let it go, dance, hang loose, listen, move, relax, go, sit, live, laugh. Turn on Bubba, turn on Black dance musicians, and groove.
Written by Taylor Waits
Taylor Waits is a PhD student, DJ, blogger, cofounder of #ChangeRapeCulture, and creative currently pursuing a Doctorate of Philosophy for Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Born in Houston; raised in Washington, DC; and living her young adult life in the Texas; Waits combines all of her experiences in her projects. She currently teaches media after school with high-school aged students, provides graduate school consulting services, scholarship and fellowship application assistance, and deejay as well as produces music. She aspires to open her own high school after her graduate work, continue to service her community, and work in the academy.