music moots: Ashraf El Gamal

music moots: Ashraf El Gamal

It's the day after Labor Day, I feel like a lost shaker of salt, and it's time to get back to Music Moots™. As a reminder, Music Moots is a blog series where I ask people I know, either from IRL or URL, to tell me a song they've been listening to lately, and then I listen to the song, and then I write a little about it....simple as. 😎

Today's song recommender is Ashraf, aka @shraf on Substack, aka @shraffihendrix on Instagram. Ashraf and I worked together long ago at a now-defunct streaming video platform that was a little too ahead of its time, and I've stayed abreast of his adventures through social media ever since. Ashraf curates amazing playlists like "the soft gaze" and "therabeats," writes about music, and DJs (I really enjoyed this beachfront Afro Vibes set ) He has great taste and I knew a rec from him would be fruitful indeed.

His rec, in his own words:

I've been really enjoying this one which is having (or already had?) a TikTok moment. This one was shared with me by my colleague/friend Mel. Two things I love about this track: 1) I love hearing genres come together and the combo of R&B+Jersey Club is v fun. 2) Cool that these artists are actually from Jersey and getting recognition. Jersey Club has influenced recent stuff from Drake (doon poorly imo) to NewJeans (they can do no wrong). It's also fun to see things come back around because I remember blogging about things like DJ Sliink & Trippy Turtle (side project of Lido) back in the early 2010s.

"jersey luv" by GROOVY feat. B Jack$! Ooh, I was excited. The increasing popularity of Jersey club is something I have been paying attention to over the past few months. John's Music Blog did a great overview of Jersey club's precursor, Baltimore club. Finals Blog covered the new wave of Jersey club. It's getting so popular that the Jonas Brothers, who were already making a concerted stab at 2020s relevance with a K-pop collab, went Jersey club for a remix. I love listening to music that precisely surfs the popularity wave.

Briefed accordingly by Ashraf, I pressed play. I thought the "combo of R&B+Jersey Club" was going to be a simultaneous thing — maybe a Jersey club beat with some extra-smooth singing? — but no! There's an incredible tempo switch-up about halfway through the song. We start with a medium-speed jam, with GROOVY singing about being "closed off" and "wound up tight" and meeting a girl who can "make [him] feel alive" and "take [him] out [his] mind." A hint of what's to come lies in the syncopated triplet kick drums, which start slow, then, after a pause in the music and a pair of percussive gun shots, kick into full Jersey club glory. 156 bpm!! Let's goooo!! I was bopping. The rest of the song played out at heart-thumping pace, with an impish verse from B Jack$ rounding things out. (After listening to the song, I did a little rooting around on the internet for info on both artists, and I was tickled by B Jack$'s energy in this video interview: "My name is B Jack$, I'm from New Jersey, I make hits and I act like a slut."

2023 has been the Year of Speed. "Boy's a liar Pt. 2" sits at a zesty 133 bpm. The unbelievably popular "Just Wanna Rock" by Lil Uzi Vert has a reckless 150 bpm. On the dance side of things, fast techno songs like "Push Up" by Creeds and "My Barn My Rules" by horsegiirL have been inescapable at the club. We're all quite cranked these days, perhaps still burning off pent-up energy from the fallow years of the pandemic, or maybe we just haven't gotten over the Nicki Minaj Roman Holiday meme.

And when Ashraf wrote that "jersey luv" was big on TikTok, I would have expected the faster portion of it to be the viral bit. But it's actually the slower jam that created the dance trend: a hip-thrusting, rotating squat with twirly hands, which can be deployed alone at home, or in public toward unsuspecting ladies. Even as social video tends to push the tempo, we cannot stop society from 'grinding.' We're going to find ways to grind, no matter what.

Subscribe to Ashraf's Substack, you will not regret it.