by Daniel Finn·
Every month we take a deep dive into a specific genre, sound, or style. Through the lens of a playlist we compile some of the iconic and best artists to help understand and feel the roots and value of this music. This month we go deep into “To 1985” - L.A. electro funk, post disco & hip hop in the 80’s.
A dance party scene that took influence from new school funk, disco and East Coast electro, helped bring electro and a new sound of hip hop to the West Coast. One promotional and Dj group in particular was on top of this scene and managed to influence West Coast hip hop and g-funk as well as instil a progressive and modern style to hip hop. It would inevitably create a new sub genre as well as influence this regions take on making music forever. They were called Uncle Jamm’s Army and they changed the game forever.
In 1978 Arthur & Tony Martin teamed with DJ Rodger Clayton to begin creating dance parties in the South L.A. area. With a solid roster of local DJ’s they became not only one of the earliest crew bringing East Coast electro to L.A. but quickly became the largest. By 1985 they were booking arenas filling them with up to 10,000 party goers, all revealing in this new sound. DJ’s would initially mix funky disco but as record labels began to release rap, East Coast electro and modern disco records, they began to bring this sound into their repertoire. This shift in direction began a progression into modern and futuristic sounds that could not be stopped. Then one of their best DJ’s Gregory Broussard aka Egyptian Lover got his hands on the Roland TR-808, and the stage was set for a musical revolution. Broussard famously began using this drum machine in the middle of his sets and mixing in and out of it, holding it in the air to show the flashing lights of the machine and singing into the mic “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” The dance floor would go crazy and the mixing was working. There was a shift from instrumental based disco that was making way to an electro sound derived from drum machines like this as well as more synthesisers and vocoders. As well as this music, East Coast hip hop hop and rap were being mixed in too with floor shacking success.
The decline of Uncle Jamm’s Army in some ways signals the beginning of G-funk and the success of West Coast hip hop and gansta rap. As the promoters best DJ’s such as Egyptian Lover and Dr Dre’s World Class Wreckin' Cru began to leave regular spots at these events to begin recording their own records, the dance parties saw a decline in interest. What was accelerating though was a new sound of hip hop that was significantly different to the original East Coast style. With a new enthusiasm for modern production methods and equipment, the pioneers of G-funk and West Coast hip hop differed from the sample based hip hop they were hearing from the bronx and the East Coast. Instead of sampling their favourite records for hooks and beats, they would instead emulate and create this music from scratch. This was a major shift and we can hear this in the west coast hip hop genres.
Not only did these early dance parties influence a new genre of music, but the move to recording their records with electronic equipment has helped produce some of of the most memorable hip hop records in the golden era of hip hop. We can also see the DNA of this attitude towards music in the area with current artists creating some of the most forward thinking music in the modern era. Uncle Jamm’s Army has a large part to play in the artistic progression of L.A. as well as California as a whole. Deservingly so the Los Angele’s city council moved to cement their place in history by naming in 2017, that the 28th of October will forever be named Uncle Jamm’s Army Day.