Frugal Grips #6: Derrick Carter
Deep Cuts from DC
Welcome to Frugal Grips, the monthly paid subscriber-only column where I share some of my favorite easily-had second-hand records. To access the body of this post please become a paid subscriber
Recently, I was chatting with my friend Colin, a longtime Chicago head and Record Man extraordinaire, about the usual fare: cool and cheap records. An unfortunately cheese-tainted remix by Derrick Carter came up which got my wheels spinning, thinking about and eventually sending him a (hopefully welcomed) deluge of lowkey bangers from the DC golden era. Thus, the inspo for this month’s post.
Unlike Colin, I am definitely not a DC head. I’m sure it’s partially a matter of geography. Derrick has been inescapable presence in Chicago for 35-odd years. Everybody I know that’s lived there for a significant amount of time has some level of friendship with him and sings his praises as a Top Human. Hearing about how Derrick would engage, befriend and welcome these fresh-out-of-college neophytes into Chicago’s scene struck me as a really selfless and forward-thinking investment in the next generation. It’s paying dividends as our mutual friends are now, years later, movers and shakers in the scene. My own orbit has always been around Detroit, which has it’s own DC’s (see: Mike Huckaby), so my acquaintance with the man is limited to records bearing his name.
Fortunately, there are many. Derrick has forged a huge discography of solo releases, collabs and remixes, but what will never cease to amaze me and warrants infinite repeatings is just how hard DC came out the gate in 1989 with his first three records. Like, out-for-blood, change-the-whole-game hard. There’s Get On It, which, in my humble opinion, absolutely bodies the entire corpus of Acid House history in terms of funk and complexity. I see ‘Abstract Expressionism’ and ‘Non-Music No. 3’ as the bookend on Chicago’s Acid House heydey. Game Over. On to garage house.
We're Gonna Have A Good Time / Release Yourself advances the Chi-town jak and vox-chop formulas of latter day Acid and Hip House via rearranged breakbeats, next-level vocal mangling and an energy that ups the ante for Chicago while also presaging UK Rave. PT regulars know that hyperbole is always in the soup here, but like c’moooooon with this one:
Lastly, there’s the all time joint – and certainly one of the very first records I would pack in my desert island record bag – Mood by Derrick, Mark Farina and Chris Nazuka’s Symbols and Instruments project. I’ve been laying it on pretty thick so far, but in a for a penny, in a for a pound: “Mood (Optimystic Mix)” is the pinnacle. There may be a few other tunes seated next to it on Techno Mount Olympus, but “Mood” was certainly the first to arrive and cozy up the spot for the rest.
So that was 1989 for DC. Greatness would follow, but he would never surpass the heights of that trifecta of 12”s. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of S-tier bangers that would elaborate on these styles and forge new ones throughout the 90’s. Below the paywall are four of choice bits shared in the spirit of frugality.