Chicago producer Steve Poindexter helped mold the raw underground sound known as ghetto house during its formation in the late 80s. His irreplaceable 1989 Work That Mutha Fucker 12-inch is a standard-bearer in ghetto house—the title track propels forward atop dirty, interlocking drum patterns, brittle hi-hats, and a sample of the words “work that mutha fucker” sporadically played on a loop. Poindexter crafted an arsenal of tracks he’d play live, but not all of them saw a physical release. That changes today, as buzzy label LA Club Resource—founded by 24-year-old California producer Delroy Edwards—releases Poindexter’s Street Fighter EP.
Poindexter originally recorded the EP in the mid-90s with producers Johnny Key and Track Master Scott, the latter of whom is his cousin. Back then Poindexter held down a side gig as an A&R man for renowned house label Trax Records; Street Fighter could have come out on Trax, but Poindexter convinced Key and Scott to hold off. “I told ’em, ‘No, don’t accept the money,’ so they got the contract back and they tore it up,” Poindexter says. As he tells it, his experience working in A&R gave him the insight to know that jumping to sign a contract wouldn’t have been the way to go. “The deals was OK, but they wasn’t the best deals—even if I was the A&R, it wasn’t a good deal,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of records come out, just artists wanting to throw something out there.”
The trio decided to sit on Street Fighter. “We had put a lot of work into it, and to me it was not ready for that label,” he says. The years passed as Poindexter, Key, and Scott sat on their recordings, but recently house has bubbled back up to the surface in a big way. “It’s coming back, like the old sounds—it’s the perfect time to put it out,” Poindexter says.
The release of the Street Fighter EP is the latest chapter in Poindexter’s lengthy musical history, which stretches back to 1975. Poindexter dipped his toe into music at the age of 10, which is when he began helping his older brother Tony Poindexter and friend Kurt Townsend throw parties at Mendel Catholic High School in Roseland. “I was carrying equipment for about six months before they even knew I knew how to DJ,” Poindexter says. “Then one day they gave me the chance to get on. Tony was playing a record, and he turned around and he was doing something—the record was ready to go off, so I put the record on and started playing the next record for him. He was like, ‘Wow, I ain’t know you know how to play.'”
Poindexter soon became a fixture at the jam-packed Mendel parties. “At that time I was the youngest DJ in Chicago playing different styles of music,” he says. “I was playing R&B—steppers records, you know, the Chicago steppers records—and old disco. And I went through the different eras of playing the old disco, into the punk rock, into the house music, and into the tracks.”
When Poindexter began releasing his own records he made sure to control the flow of music he physically released—as Track Master Scott puts it, it was de rigueur. “There was certain things you’d play, but you dare not have nobody get a copy of it—unless they had a mini-cassette deck or a tape recorder, and they was recordin’,” Scott says. “If Steve came out with a track and he didn’t want nobody to have it, guarantee he didn’t have nobody have it.” Poindexter didn’t keep every track under lock and key, and knew who’d make good use of his music. “We would give certain tracks to Ron Hardy and Frankie [Knuckles], and we let them check it out, see if they would play it,” Poindexter says. “Majority of everything we gave them, they played it. Even down to ‘Work That Mutha Fucker’ and ‘Computer Madness.'”
The general competitiveness in the scene is part of what inspired the name of the unreleased Street Fighter EP. “We’d basically be like, ‘Man, I cannot get a copy of this, who do I have to fight to get it?,'” Scott says. That said, Scott is something of a library when it comes to house music. “A lot of people know if you got a master and you go and gave him a copy of a record that you want to produce—some old tracks—he still have ’em, he keeps the copies” Poindexter says. “So anything somebody looking for, Track Master Scott most likely got it on vinyl or cassette or on CD, I bet.”
Street Fighter was among the recordings in Scott’s possession through the years. “I went down to granny’s basement and found the whole thing, man—I found the label with the whole thing,” Scott says. The find came as a surprise to Poindexter. “We was playing some stuff and [Steve] put the Street Fighter on. I’m like, ‘Where did you get that from?,'” Poindexter says. The LA Club Resource 12-inch presents Street Fighter in its original form, though with a few minor tweaks. “We EQ’d it a little bit more—it sort of had that old, original Chicago sound, we wanted you to hear that hum,” Poindexter says. “It’s the noise from the four-track when it was recording. Those are actually mastered on a four-track recorder.”
With Street Fighter finally out in the world Poindexter aims to drop more material from the archives, and he’s working away on tracks—that is, when he’s not too busy with his day job. “I own a construction company, a rehab company—I redo houses and stuff like that,” he says. “When we doing houses, we do tracks too, old tracks—we rebuild music and houses.” Scott has his hand in rehab projects too. “My cousin say, ‘We got a project to work on,’ I say, ‘Is it music or is it with a hammer and nails?,'” Scott says. “He say, ‘Both.’ So I bring the music and he bring the hammer and nails, and we construct some things together.”