For most South Floridians, the worst thing about living here is the traffic. In our heavily suburbanized landscape, getting anywhere means crawling into a car and suffering through the frustration and tedium of a long — and often dangerous — drive. But for Fort Lauderdale native Jess Gentile, better known to dance music fans as Jubilee, the nightly treks to Miami clubs meant something else: an opportunity to indulge in her favorite tunes.
"I was such a raver that I was literally in Miami every night," she recalls. "There weren't a lot of people doing what I was doing or liking what I was liking, so I had many drives alone to Miami where I would listen to a lot of mixtapes of local DJs and just kind of zone out."
Memories of those trips form the concept of Jubilee's debut album, After Hours, which landed on Friday on Mixpak. Miami sounds appear on the record as if heard through a car window — seagulls and rolling waves duet with police scanner chatter on "Spring Break," and track names include "Opa-locka" and "Sawgrass Expressway."
But the producer, now based in New York, also offers a clever mixture of styles, from trap, techno, and dancehall to classic Miami bass.
"I loved 2 Live Crew and Uncle Al and all that stuff, DJ Laz and all the early stuff that he made. Like, mostly stuff that would be on the radio really, really late at night. I used to sleep with the radio on so I would wake up to all these weird dance songs."
Gentile sees her album's genre-hopping sensibility as a product of her influences, especially those caught on the way to clubs.
"Going to those parties and listening to that stuff over and over and over again, especially in the car when I had zero distractions, really had more of an impact than any music I listened to," she says. "Miami is a very global place, and so is New York, so those two places shaped the whole album."
This global mentality makes her an essential part of Mixpak, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Jamaica label that represents artists such as Dre Skull and Popcaan. This year, the entire crew shipped out to London to represent dancehall at Red Bull Culture Clash, a wild annual megaparty where four DJ crews compete for supremacy. Winner takes all with the best guest appearances, the best insults thrown at the other teams, and the best dubplates — custom versions of hit songs recorded just for the event.
Up against the likes of Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang and grime superstar Wiley's Eskimo Dance group, Mixpak eventually demolished the competition via a dub of Drake's "One Dance" that broke the applause-o-meter. But "One Dance" simply marked the end of a hard-fought four rounds for which the collective prepared heavily.
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"It was a month straight of phone-ringing, emails, texting, WhatsApp, whatever of what dubplates we could get. I'm pretty sure we played 100 percent dubplates, which nobody else did," she says. "We were collecting dubplates, planning guests, just constant contact of, 'Who do you think we should bring out for this?'?"
Behind the decks for the event, Jubilee displayed the craft she'd honed after years in the New York club scene. When she DJs, she jumps between tempos and genres with as much ease as she does on After Hours.
"I try to make it work," she says. "Sometimes there are certain songs that I want to play so bad that I have to figure out how to get there. But, no, I don't find it difficult. People like a curve ball when they're out and dancing."
On record and onstage, however, one priority remains clear: "I'm from Miami. I want people to dance."