Various Artists Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness
A second collection of gems from the archives of the stalwart Chicago label.
With a back catalog spanning 30 years and more than 300 releases, Dance Mania is a label with few peers. Beginning in Chicago back in 1985, it began as an answer to the sleek, polished sound that ruled the Windy City at the time. Dance Mania aimed to offer an alternative, and eventually became known for its frequent pairing of raw sounds with unforgettably filthy and humorous lyrics. 808 kicks and outrageously infectious hooks also became a key part of the label’s signature aesthetic, and once the Dance Mania release schedule slowed in the ’00s, its records quickly became collectors’ items.
Of course, there’s a good chance that even semi-serious fans of dance music already know this history. Even those who weren’t around (or simply weren’t paying attention) during Dance Mania’s peak output period in the ’90s have likely heard the folklore, and present-day artists such as Jackmaster and Nina Kraviz have spoken extensively about the label’s influence on their DJing.
Given the label’s rich history, it’s natural to wonder exactly how its essence can be properly captured in a compilation. The task becomes especially difficult when one recalls that Ghetto Madness is the second Dance Mania collection to arrive via Strut Records in less than a year, which means that many of the label’s most recognizable tracks have already been covered (e.g. “House Nation,” “7 Ways,” “Feel My M.F. Bass,” “Hit It from the Back,” and “Video Clash” all featured on last year’s Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1995.) That being said, Ghetto Madness ultimately proves that there was still plenty of ground left to cover.
In truth, this second installment delivers almost as strongly as the first, with the pitched vocal of DJ Milton’s “House-O-Matic” losing none of its hypnotic traits and the piercing claps of DJ Funk’s “Computer Sex” still ringing with the same effect as when it first dropped in 1994. Over the course of the compilation, label heavyweights like DJ Deeon, Parris Mitchell, Tyree, and Paul Johnson all make an appearance, but it might be Jammin’ Gerald who steals the show—anybody whose face doesn’t break out into a daft grin upon hearing either of his offerings here is a liar.
Still, the real charm of this compilation lies in the fact that it offers something for almost everyone. Newer fans will be exposed to lesser-known tracks, while seasoned listeners will have the chance to fill any Discogs-pricing-war-shaped gaps in their collection with something other than a YouTube playlist. Ghetto Madness is an expertly constructed effort showcasing one of the most energetic and recognizable outputs in dance music, and after hearing it, we wouldn’t be surprised—or disappointed—if a third Dance Mania compilation was already in the works.