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25 July

Moodymann: urban myth or house music monster?

 

For many people, Moodymann is the true genius of 90s house music. As bonkers as he was sexist, this mysterious melody-maker from Detroit would hand out shots of vodka to the crowd mid-set before disappearing, transforming his story into an urban myth. The title of his new album, Sinner, wasn’t chosen by chance…

By Alexis Thibault

 

 1. An indecipherable musician

 

Forehead sweating, scarlet hippie glasses perched on his nose, Kenny Dixon Jr. entrusts the braiding of his afro to a professional. His new cut will look perfect with his horseshoe moustache and his questionable mustard-hued t-shirt. In an improbable interview of 2010, the musician answered the Red Bull Music Academy’s questions as they tried to decipher his infernal and mysterious alter ago. Moodymann: “Some folks take a bath when they get home from work. Others make love to their wives or mow their lawns. When I get home, I go crazy every fucking night on my sequencer,” he casually states…

 

An indolent challenger to the pioneers of house, a sexist and totally out-there musician, Moodymann – just like Mike Banks and Jeff Mills – illuminated the grim city of Detroit with his sampling from the 90s onwards. Sometimes in the shadows, masked with a fishnet hoodie, other times under the spotlight handing out shots of vodka to clubbers, Moodymann remains the champion of an underground scene allergic to the jet-set when it suits him. His latest EP, Sinner, quietly released on the internet at the end of June, wears its name well: the musician conserves his status as a monarch absolved every time by his public.

 

 

The erotic house of this underworld genius is not aimed at the “masses” but a reckless squadron that listens (truly) to the murmurings of his cavernous voice.

Moodymann - “The Day We Lost The Soul / Tribute!”

 

2. A genius of 90s house music  

 

 

He arrived on the scene in 1994 with “I like it” and “Emotional Content”, two deep house tracks that mix elements of soul and jazz in an ambiance that’s pure lounge. The original vinyl format, released on his own label KDJ, today sells for more than 300 euros. Three years later the DJ released his first album Silentintroduction (1997) and then a second in its wake: Mahogany Brown (1998), considered by many to be his masterpiece. At the time, Moodymann had only two words to say “groove” and “sex”. It was no surprise that this Prince fan seized the tracks  I Want Your Love by Chic and Desire by José James. Today we can count 12 albums (of varying lengths) by Moodymann. Between soul classics and old funk samples, the erotic house of this underworld genius was never aimed at the “masses” but a reckless squadron that listens (truly) to the murmurings of his cavernous voice.

 

 

Resolutely deep house, his new EP Sinner, isn’t really made for dancing: Moodymann goes in all directions but knows the way home by heart.

Moodymann - “I Think Of Saturday”

 

3. Drake, samples and jazz clubs 

 

 

In 2014, on the cover of his album Moodymannhe appears, bottle in hand, as a ventripotent creature with sharpened teeth. Dressed in bikinis, the tiny Afro-American women that surround him seem to appreciate him as a virile man, these ‘bitches’ are actually eulogising him. But since then, nothing apart from a “fuck dat shit” on Drake’s Passionfruit track of 2017… While he might prefer fishnet hoods over white lab coats , Moodymann remains a technician for whom the science of climax holds no secret. In his multicoloured videos it’s a mosaic of handpicked samples. Resolutely deep house, his new EP, Sinner, is not really made for dancing. Between neo-soul and memories of his grandfather’s jazz club, scorching hot house and psychedelic delirium, Moodymann goes in all directions but knows the way back home by heart.  

 

 

Like his mentor The Electrifying Mojo, the legendary Detroit DJ, he seeks to become a simple voice on the radio, a shadow in the crowd, an imaginary figure.

Moodymann - “I'll Provide”

 

4. A child of Blaxploitation

 

 

Physically Kenny Dixon, Jr. looks like a cross between Spike Lee and Andre 3000, the dynamo behind Outkast. Like the first he has long been a defender of black culture and shares with the second an unflappable nature, especially in his rare interviews marked with frequent bursts of motherfucker. His veins flow with Blaxploitation, that socio-cultural movement that elevated the image of Afro-Americans in 1970s movies, making them the heroes. Bottle-fed on Motown, Moodymann never uses a computer, always plays on vinyl and his MPC [Music Production Centre], evokes Martin Luther King and celebrates Marvin Gaye [The Day We Lost The Soul / Tribute !, 1995 ]. But his real mentor remains The Electrifying Mojo, the legendary Detroit DJ. Like him, he seeks to become a simple voice on the radio, a shadow in the crowd, an imaginary figure.

 

January 2019. An exasperated Kenny Dixon Jr. looks at the Highland Park cops who point their assault rifles in his direction. Sitting in his vehicle, he turns on them, filming the whole scene on his mobile phone. He’s under suspicion of having robbed a nearby house… his own. But shaking the keys too much could lead to a bullet in his head. “Let’s finish it!” he shouts on the social networks when he publishes the video. Echoing the Black Lives Matter era – still highly relevant now – this brush with the law certainly comforts Kenny Dixon Jr in his desire to embody a Detroit antihero who remains in the shadows. 

 

 

Sinner de Moodymann.

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