DJ Godfather brings Detroit ghettotech to the Rex Theater | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

DJ Godfather brings Detroit ghettotech to the Rex Theater 

Pittsburgh has rarely had the pleasure of feeling the stripped-down thumps of "ghettotech" -- sometimes also known as "booty music" -- even though its city of origin, Detroit, is only five hours' drive away. For the uninitiated, ghettotech might seem to be a simplistic stew of basslines, lo-tech hand claps, fat Roland TR-808 beats and sampled lewd phrases, but underneath bubbles a whole cauldron of semiotic signifiers. 

More popular in the mid-'90s Motor City than hip hop, the raw ghettotech style reclaimed the African-American lineage of techno, originally invented by middle-class black youths enamored of European synthpop and new wave. Techno escaped Detroit, first entering the rave underground and then the mainstream via London and Berlin. But at home in Detroit, the cerebral, almost celestial strains weren't all that popular -- at least not until the rise of the now-famous Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF). 

Producers like DJ Assault (known for his 1996 classic "Ass-N-Titties") and DJ Godfather (a.k.a. Brian Jeffries) remade homegrown club tracks in a grittier, street-level mode, with tempos well above 150 BPM and influences drawn mostly from black dance sounds: Chicago's ghetto house, New York electro, Miami bass, and the lyrics of early gangsta rap (think Ice T or Sir Mix-A-Lot). 

Just like that, a regional dance style was born, similar to Houston's screwed-and-chopped or San Francisco's hyphy, or the more recent Baltimore club (which was heavily influenced by ghettotech). By the turn of the millennium, ghettotech -- the name was coined by a Jewish kid from Ann Arbor, Mich., Dave "Disco D" Shayman -- was worldwide. 

Ten years later, ghettotech has lost much of its initial momentum, as high-gloss studio rap has supplanted the regional black dance music scenes almost everywhere in the U.S. DJ Godfather is still highly respected both for his turntable skills and productions, as well as for several long-running labels such as Twilight 76 (founded with friends DJ Dick and Brian Gillespie) and Databass. With the Juke Trax imprint, he's also recognized the importance of juke, a newer Chicago analogue to ghettotech accompanied by a stunning display of footwork battles. 

While maintaining a foundation in the electro underground (DJing for Ectomorph, producing for Andrea Parker), Godfather's also made a name for himself remixing for the likes of Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk and Kid Rock, and is always one of the biggest draws of the DEMF. Once he takes the stage at the Rex Theater it'll be impossible to stay still, whether you breakdance, work those feet, bob your head or just whip that behind.


DJ Godfather with Walter Wadsworth and DVS. 9 p.m. Fri., Apr. 16 (doors at 8 p.m.). Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. $15.50 ($20 day of show). 16 and over. 412-381-6811 or

DJ's best friend: DJ Godfather and assistant
  • DJ's best friend: DJ Godfather and assistant


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