I mentioned a few days ago that we lost Frankie Knuckles last week at the relatively young age of 59. Frankie Knuckles was to house music as Afrika Bambaata was to hip-hop. I’m in the process of writing a piece thinking about Frankie Knuckles in tandem with sociologist Stuart Hall and theorist Richard Iton for Contemporary Political Theory. A great deal’s been written about black politics and hip-hop, but little to nothing about black politics and house. I’m obviously guilty of it myself. But this gap is a pretty large one as house music’s done more than any other musical genre to provide a space for what could be called a thick blackness.
There’s a slight romantic theme present in the interviews above. Placing that aside for a second though what I hear is a discussion about the political economy of music. We lose something when we move from a moment where it took a number of people to produce a record (at the very least we lose jobs) to a moment where it only takes one (plus a vocalist if the record required one). What I also hear is a discussion about creativity and tradition–in the first interview Knuckles talks about hearing a variety of different sounds that kind of percolate until they make their way “onto the page”, and then in the second interview he talks about having a distinctive sound that he didn’t even know he had until he heard his own catalog.
I had the opportunity to talk about Frankie Knuckles and about house music on Marc Steiner with Neal Conway.
And I created a mix, which I include below. Hopefully we’ll have a longer feature on Marc Steiner about house music in the future. I owe more to it than words or a single mix can possibly describe.
And one more for the road