Thursday, July 3, 2008

That's the joint... that's the jam. Turn that shit up then play it again!

Q: Why is it that every song on the radio is "The Jam" to a black person?

A:  Jam... OH Jam... Teddy's Jam! I'm not talkin' about Teddy's Boysenberry Jam... I'm talkin' about a throwback to the R&B group Guy (you can click the link for this and remember the time).  To make things a bit simpler and add to the ambiance -  I invite you to watch this clip before you read this entry. 

As you were watching this clip... doesn't it just make you wanna dance? That's what a jam does.  Makes you wanna dance, it gets you hype, and just makes you feel good!  Most music makes us feel good unless you're EMO - then you just wanna feel pitiful and wear black all day.  I want this blog experience to take you back to a great memory and/or introduce you to a new tune. 

You see, we all have jams no matter the race, nationality, social circle, etc.  The difference lies in how we respond.  Let's take Jonathan B. White.  He knows the song, "Brick House".  He knows the lyrics and even has a couple of dance moves to accompany the beats.  He starts by tapping his foot - maybe even snappin' his fingers on the first and third beats (that's on the 4/4 beat rhythm). He begins to close his eyes to get into the groove.  As he dips deeper into the groove he unknowingly does this - bites his bottom lip as if it gave him soul.  When he's REALLY feeling the song, he might even say, "Man, I love this song!" Sometimes you'll hear people say, "Oh my God!  This song is so awesome/kick ass/the shit!" However, most typically, a black person will refer to a song as THE JAM!  Something that just brings you back to a good ass time you had.  

If you remember Soul Train you will recall the Soul Train Line.  That's when they would play The Jam and people would dance down a row lined with black folks (and the occasional "down" Asian or White person) and get their non-sexual groove on.  That's when you showed the world your best dance move without looking crazy, but instead, sexy and cool without breaking a sweat.   Back in the day, when I lived in metro Detroit, we had a little show we'd watch each weekday after school.  It was our local version of Soul Train.  The program was called The New Dance Show.  The song that's playin' in the clip is one of my jams!  I was lucky to find this clip and damn glad to share it with you.

"Jams" come in many varieties.  There's the "slow jam", the "dance jam", the "freaky jam", and "general jam".   "Drop that Base - the song featured in the previous clip, is a dance jam.  You would play this to get extra hype before going out.   A freaky jam is one of those songs that is quite explicit (sexually or otherwise) - something along the lines of a 2 Live Crew song.  Then there's the slow jam - i.e.  Luther, Chante Moore, Anita Baker, or any other slow song by an R&B artist that made you wanna sex someone up because tick tock - those love jams don't stop.  A general jam is usually one of those pop songs that, as a black person, you hate to admit you like to other black people but have no problem admitting it to white people.  It's kinda like you say, "I can be down with white people music" when you admit it.  Songs in this category is everything that's not rap or R&B.  Artist like Shania Twain, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N Roses, Britney Spears, and Hootie and the Blowfish fall into this category.  "But Dennis", you ask, "Isn't Hootie.. eerr.. Darius Rucker, black?"  Yes, yes he is.. but if you recall one of my earlier posts - he is indeed a blonkey. 

You might notice that you like these songs too - but you might not call it your jam.  You might simply move your shoulders or tap your foot to the beat and say, "Man, this song rocks!".  However, like our brother Jonathan B. White, most black folks LOVE to sing and groove even if we can't do either very well (killing the stereotype that we all can sing and dance). We will sing along to a song and begin the motion of utter enjoyment of the melody by doing a soulful rhythm sway at ANY PLACE and at ANY TIME.  My mind quickly jumps to The Isley Brothers "Groove with You" - a quintessential slow jam.  As we begin to sway to the rhythm of the beat, close our eyes, and snap our finger on the twos and fours (as opposed to the ones and threes) we remember a happy time while we're waiting in line at the local grocery store buying collard greens.  

Music plays a major part the lives of people. Whether you're white, black, or Puerto Rican - Everybody's just a freakin' - Oops. Sorry, I slipped into verse.  But that's one of MY JAMS too!  I got a million of 'em folks and this is exactly why you will often hear black people claim that every other song on the radio, playing in the restaurant, heard on the street, etc. as their jam. When in fact, it's most likely everyone else's jam too. They don't own that shit but we get into our music like we're getting some royalties from the record company for encouraging sales.  We compare singers - not lyricists. Who CAN sing and who CAN'T.  We listen for the beat and not the tempo - this is why most of us can dance to ANY song. And we're quick to tell someone younger than us that, "They don't know nothin' 'bout this" because it's for the grown and sexy bunch. 

I invite every reader to list some of their own jams in the comments.  What's in your Jams List for the slow jam, dance jam, freaky jam, or general jam?

Be sure to take the poll too!  Let's see what people consider a "jam".

Some of my favorite Jams for you to indulge in:


Rod said...

This entry has me thinking about some of my "Jams"...

Don’t Walk Away – Jade
You Remind Me – Mary J Blidge
I Feel For You – Chaka Khan

I enjoyed this one.

Ri Ri said...

OMG! You know I be jammin'!! And will scream it ANYWHERE in front of ANYBODY when the hit comes on!! Let's see...where should I begin...

Do I Do-Stevie Wonder
If This World Were Mine-Luther!!
You Give Good Love-Whitney
Baby Come to Me-Regina Belle
If I Ever Fall in Love-Shai
Square Biz-Teena
It Must Be Magic-Teena!!
It's Such a Shame-Solo
There You Are-Sam Salter
Ole Skool R. Kelly stuff (Step in my room, I Can't Sleep, Honey Love, Hey Mr. DJ!! Oh my goodness!)
Butta Love-Next
Reminisce-Mary J.

Friend, I could go on for days!!