EGYPTIAN LOVER with DOUGIE BOOM, CRYO and BARBI at Wrongbar (1279 Queen West), Friday (May 30). firstname.lastname@example.org. Rating: NNNNN
It’s been about a decade now since the word “electro” was resurrected from the 80s to describe emerging sounds that fall somewhere between techno and rock, understandably raising the ire of partiers old enough to remember what it once meant.
Modern electro has more in common with 90s house than with early 80s hip-hop, but nevertheless the name stuck. It has actually ended up helping first-generation electro-hop producer Egyptian Lover get a second chance at dance club fame. Not surprisingly, the L.A.-based DJ/producer isn’t too concerned with misappropriation of genre terms.
“I don’t even call my music electro. I just call it old-school. It was called rap when it first came out,” he says. “It’s all just dance music to me.”
Egyptian Lover started as a DJ with Uncle Jamm’s Army, a crew who threw massive parties in L.A. just as hip-hop was beginning to define itself
. At their peak, they were pulling 10,000 partiers into their events, which gave him the name-brand recognition to consider putting out some of his own records. What sealed the deal, though, was discovering the sound of the Roland 808 drum machine through Afrika Bambaataa’s reimagining of German synth pop.
“I liked the electronic sound of Numbers by Kraftwerk, but it wasn’t the kind of song you could play at a dance, because there wasn’t any bottom end to it. When Planet Rock came out, I immediately noticed that it was Numbers but with some bass.”
Some sleuthing led him to discover the source of that booming kick drum. Even today the 808 is an extremely popular sound in hip-hop and electronic music
, but at the time it was a shockingly new texture to hear alongside funk jams.
“I started bringing the drum machine to the dances, and people thought it was records playing when I was really just playing the machine. That’s why we started making records under the name Uncle Jamm’s Army – people kept asking us where they could buy these songs.”
If you’re of a certain age and remember when we’d bring flattened cardboard boxes to school to breakdance on the playground, you’ll recognize his biggest hit, Egypt Egypt, within a few seconds of hearing that distinctive beat. That success led to touring and lots of studio work, but hip-hop was evolving quickly, and the high-energy beats he was known for fell out of favour in the 90s.
“I was still touring, but I wasn’t making a lot of records because the music industry had moved away from that old-school sound. It was strictly gangsta hip-hop, and I didn’t want to come out against that, so I figured I’d just chill and let it take its course, come back when the time was right.”
As it turns out, sticking to your guns and having some patience does pay off in the end.