An introduction to the founding records of house music, courtesy of DJ Lady D

Ahead of ARC Music Festival 2022, the ‘Queen of Chicago House Music’ reviews her genre’s history, from Lil Louis to Ralphi Rosario to a track sampled by Beyoncé

“If you want to learn about house music, start with the fact that Chicago is its birthplace and go from there,” says DJ Lady D. As one of the pioneers of the genre, dubbed “Chicago’s house music queen” in 2008, she is well-versed in her history and lore, consistently performing, remixing and producing in the true spirit of the house.

Before his appearance at BOW—the Chicago music festival dedicated to dance music innovators and heavy hitters—Lady D selects the Gramaphone records songs that define the city’s house culture. She bridges her past and present, highlighting the genre’s roots in soul and disco while drawing connections to its modern manifestations.

“A lot of major and mainstream artists are making house music really popular right now.” she says. “People say they resurrect it, which is only true in the radio sense. I’m really happy that the [mainstream artists] making house music now comes back and works with authentic house producers. Drake has worked with Black Coffee and Beyoncé has worked with Honey Dijon and Terry Hunter. She even sampled some of the records in this pile! »

“Club Lonely (Lonely People)” by Lil Louis feat. Joi Cardwell
Lil Louis is definitely a trendsetter and one of the mainstays of Chicago house music. He had such a big following and was one of the first to do a full house album that got picked up by a major [label]. “Club Lonely” (1992) is just a jam, and it features one of my favorite singers, Joi Cardwell. We’re all proud of Louis because house music producers didn’t always have that mainstream look and were mostly relegated to making remixes.

“Get With U” by Lidell Townsell & MTF
Liddell is really known for two songs, “Nu Nu” (1991) and “Get With U” (1992), and they were both on the same album. He is another house music artist who got noticed by a major label when Mercury Records released an album with him. “Nu Nu” was a bona fide hit that’s been covered a million times, but it’s the other underground, dormant track you could play and people would still be like, Oh my God. There are great remixes from David Morales and Cajmere (aka Green Velvet), who co-wrote the track. Honey Dijon just sampled her for “Cozy,” which she produced with Luke Solomon and Chris Penny on Beyonce’s new album, Renaissance.

“I Can’t Stop the House” by Thompson & Lenoir
Thompson & Lenoir released “Can’t Stop The House” (1987) with House Jam Records. Their label has a nice little catalog of early house classics – some of them are very rare, hard to find. I’m pretty sure this is a repress, but I’m happy with it, because we all want to have this piece of vinyl in our collection. It was recently covered by Sam Divine and Defected Records, because it’s so good. When she says, “I swear allegiance to the house groove,” it hits me right in the heart. If Sam Divine hadn’t covered it, I probably would have wanted to.

“I’m Hungry” by Stopp
“I’m Hungry” (1983) is just one record, but it has to be representative of all the Italo disco that has been going through house parties since the very beginning. Soul and disco were part of early house and proto-house, but there was also Italo disco, which was very different. Back then, we were so eclectic and really open to all kinds of sounds. Italo disco played a big role [in developing] the house sound of early Chicago.

“You Used to Hold Me” by Ralphi Rosario feat. Xavier Gold
Ralphi Rosario is one of our hometown heroes. He’s right there with Frankie Knuckles and Lil Louis. He’s definitely one of our guys who’s still around, who’s done major label remixes and whole albums, and It’s Ralphi Rosario is like a retrospective of all his incredible classic hits. People know him for being part of Hot Mix 5 – he was the youngest member then – and for his classic with Xavier Gold, “You Used to Hold Me” (1993). History of the house! He still does stuff to this day. I was honored to add spoken word to his track with Craig Snider, Eric Kupper and The Shamanic called “FK Always”, which was a tribute to Frankie Knuckles released earlier this year. Frankie was one of our [shared] hero. It was an honor to work with him.

The ARC Music Festival takes place in Chicago’s Union Park from September 2-4. Tickets are available here.