Chicago photographer Ray Contreras captured my favorite moment of Friday night’s downtown inauguration protest. He tweeted a video clip of a young black DJ in a reflective safety-yellow vest rolling a jury-rigged mobile sound system through the crowd, pumping a raunchy ghetto-house track. Its lyrics don’t exactly scream civil disobedience (“Aw shit / Here I come / Hit it from the back / Make me cum”), but the protesters didn’t care—they chanted “Fuck Trump!” along with the beat. Those bluntly, unapologetically sexual lyrics are their own kind of antidote to the new administration’s extreme right-wing policies—and the fact that they’re delivered by a woman can be seen as a rebuke of Trump’s chauvinism, misogyny, and admitted history of sexual assault. Protest songs don’t need to specify a target to be effective—spreading the voices of the marginalized and oppressed can do the job just as well.
“Aw Shit” helped bring people of different races together for a public burst of joy on a day when it was sorely needed, and it was perfect fit for Chicagoans marching against a grossly racist administration for other reasons too: the song works like a thread linking the histories of ghetto house, juke, and footwork, three closely related genres that were all born here. If you know anything about those styles, the track will feel familiar even if you’ve never heard it before—it’s almost the Platonic ideal of ghetto house. Well, the original is, anyway—several other versions have arisen that sound slightly different. After original Dance Mania owner Ray Barney shuttered that influential ghetto-house label in 2001, DJ Funk took the name, releasing a 2004 CD compilation called Best of Dancemania that includes a 26-second DJ Skip version of “Aw Shit” (with male vocals). In 2011, Teklife producer and dancer DJ Manny dropped a footwork edit of “Aw Shit” on the EP Harvey World. A bit of poking around on the Web will turn up several more—the track seems to belong to everyone.
Even the man who made the original “Aw Shit” has put out several versions, at least by his own account. DJ and producer Fulton Nolen, aka DJ Chip (or Stak Chip), released the first of them, “Aw Shit (Female Version),” on the 1999 Dance Mania 12-inch Haters. Raised in Auburn Gresham, Chip cut his teeth in the 90s, spinning records for juke parties at a roller rink on 87th Street where the crowds kept the DJs in their place. “They pretty much dictated what was hot,” he says. Three songs Chip had a hand in making passed muster and lit up the floor: his own “Juke Slide” and “Bang Ski!!!” and Jammin’ Gerald’s “Hold Up” (with Chip on vocals). The hook for “Bang Ski!!!” (“Bang bang bang, ski ski ski”), which came out on a Dance Mania split in 1998, has enjoyed a second life in modern-day Chicago hip-hop and R&B. Chance the Rapper includes it twice on Acid Rap, rapping it on “Favorite Song” and using a sped-up version on “Everything’s Good (Good Ass Outro).” And Jeremih drops the hook in the juke-influenced “Belgium (Get Down),” off last year’s Late Nights: Europe mixtape.
“Aw Shit” was Chip’s last release on Dance Mania. “It was a rap that my next-door neighbor wrote,” he says. “Her name is Tish. I haven’t seen her in maybe 15 years.” Chip has kept his career in music going, and he says he stopped throwing juke parties only a couple months ago. These days he says he’s focusing on promoting them. “I’m the king of juke and I’m gonna stay,” he says, and tells me it’s OK for me to publish his cell number in this story. (If you really want it, it’s on his YouTube page, where he recently uploaded footage from 90s juke parties.) Chip’s music has permeated Chicago culture to the point where he can’t necessarily keep track of its influence—when I reached him Tuesday, I had the privilege of breaking the news to him that his 18-year-old song had soundtracked a euphoric moment at a downtown protest four days earlier. As Contreras captioned his video: “This is the most Chicago thing I’ve ever seen.”
Chip’s original “Aw Shit” is difficult to track down online, but below are a couple other versions—and Contreras’s clip.
This is the most Chicago thing I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/EG4rzqhXSA
— Ray Contreras (@SkateandListen) January 21, 2017