Ahead of the 2022 ARC Music Festival, Chicago’s house music queen revisits the history of her genre, from Lil Louis to Ralphi Rosario to a song selected by Beyoncé
“If you want to learn more about house music, start with the fact that Chicago is its birthplace and go from there,” says DJ Lady D. As one of the pioneers of the genre – named the “Queen of Chicago Music” in 2008 – she is fine. – well versed in its history and tradition, constantly performing, reworking and producing in the true spirit of the house.
Ahead of her appearance at ARC—Chicago’s music festival dedicated to the innovators of dance music and heavy hitting—Lady D picks the Gramaphone Records songs that define the city’s house culture. It bridges its past and present, highlighting the genre’s roots in soul and disco, while making connections to its modern manifestations.
“A lot of big and mainstream artists are making house music really popular right now.” she said. “People say they’re reviving it, which is only true in the radio sense. I am really happy that [mainstream artists] house music making is now coming back and working with authentic house producers. Drake has worked with Black Coffee, and Beyoncé has worked with Honey Dijon and Terry Hunter. She even got some of the records in this stack!”
“Lonely Club” by Lil Louis feat. Joey Cardwell
Lil Louis is definitely a trendsetter, and a mainstay in Chicago. He had such a huge following and was one of the first to make a full house album to be picked up by a major. [label]. “Club Lonely” (1992) is just a jam, and features one of my favorite vocalists Joi Cardwell. We’re all proud of Louis because house music producers didn’t always have those mainstream looks, and were mostly forced to just remix.
“Get With U” by Lidell Townsell & MTF
Liddell is really known for two songs, “Nu Nu” (1991) and “Get With U” (1992), and both were on the same album. He’s another house music artist who got major label exposure when Mercury Records put out an album with him. “Nu Nu” was a bona fide hit that’s been covered a million times, but this is another sleepy, underground track that you could play and people would still be like, Oh my God. There are excellent remixes by David Morales and Cajmere (aka Green Velvet), who co-wrote the track. Honey Dijon just tried that on “Cozy,” which she produced with Luke Solomon and Chris Penny on Beyonce’s new album. rebirth.
“Can’t Stop The House” by Thompson & Lenoir
Thompson & Lenoir released “Can’t Stop The House” (1987) on House Jam Records. Their label has a nice little catalog of early house classics – some of them very rare, hard to find. I’m pretty sure this is a pressing, but I’m glad because we all want this piece of vinyl in our collection. It was recently covered by Sam Divine and Defected Records because it’s that good. When she says, “I pledge allegiance to the home groove,” it hits me right here in the heart. If Sam Divine hadn’t covered it, I sure would have.
“I’m Hungry” by Stopp
“I’m Hungry” (1983) is only one record, but it should be representative of all the Italo disco that flowed through the house parties from the beginning. Soul and disco were part of early house and proto-house, but then you also had Italo disco, which was very different. Back then, we were so eclectic and really open to all kinds of sounds. Disco Italo played a big role [in developing] early Chicago house sound.
“You Used to Hold Me” by Ralphi Rosario feat. Xavier Gold
Ralph Rosario is one of the heroes of our hometown. He’s up there with Frankie Knuckles and Lil Louis. He’s definitely one of our go-to guys who’s done major label remixes and entire albums, and This is Ralph Rosario it’s like a retrospective of all his amazing classic hits. People know him for being part of Hot Mix 5 – he was the youngest member then – and for his classic with Xavier Gold, “You Used to Hold Me” (1993). History of the house! He continues to do things to this day. I was honored to add spoken word to his track with Craig Snider, Eric Kupper and The Shamanic called “FK Always,” which was a tribute to Frankie Knuckles released earlier this year. Frankie was one of us [shared] heroes. It was my honor to work with him.
The ARC Music Festival takes place in Chicago’s Union Park from September 2-4. Tickets are available here.