In September of last year, Sheldon Pearce, writing a cultural comment article for The New Yorker entitled The Whitewashing of Black Music on TikTok’, noted that, ‘If you download the video-sharing app TikTok right now and scroll the “For You” page, it likely won’t be long before you stumble upon teen-agers hip-thrusting and chest-popping to the sounds of Jersey club.’
Despite the fact that Jersey has had a presence on TikTok since at least 2019, and that the appropriation of black and minority culture has always been a problem in Western and global society in general, it is almost startling that a genre such as Jersey Club that has remained predominantly in the underground for almost 20 years (the origins of Jersey date back the late 90s and early 2000s when DJ Tameil started mixing Baltimore Club records at parties and clubs in Newark) has exploded onto TikTok in such a short amount of time.
The Social Media Effect:
Of course, artists using social media to popularise their own music in the 2020s is in no way a groundbreaking concept and has been done successfully since 2006 when the Arctic Monkeys used YouTube in order to promote the release of their first album. However the rapid appropriation of underground, regional music and culture onto a social media app appears to be a more recent phenomenon and a sad indication of the appropriation issues so evident in our society taking shape in a world that appears to be governed increasingly by social media.
Pearce notes that Jersey Club ‘dance challanges’ have been ‘taken up by mostly white’ influencers, for example ‘Addison Rae and Noah Beck’ to be seen by their audiences of ‘fifty seven’ and ‘twelve million followers’ who are then often are unaware of the origins of the music. This problem is then amplified by the fact that the TikTok algorithm then rewards the ‘early white adopters’ of this music as opposed to the ‘original black creators’.
Interestingly Jersey, while remaining an underground genre, has had a global presence in the electronic music scene sine the 2010s and much of this has come, as Josh Molskness wrote for DJMAG in an article entitled The Rise of Jersey Club all the way back in 2014, from ‘producers who are not from Jersey’ itself, which then comes with the problematic ‘existence of masked producers’ such as Trippy Turtle, one of the ‘most widely known’ Jersey producers.. This has of course not always been well received by original artists behind the sound, such as Dirty South Joe who, voicing his opinion on the matter, said that ‘anonymously producing, promoting and profiting off of a sound that is so strongly connected to a culture without making your identity known is wack’.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due:
Of course, to give all the credit of Jersey Club’s popularity to international producers and TikTok stars would be hugely disrespectful to the genre and quite frankly untrue. Artists such as Uniiqu3 , one of the scenes first and only female producers, and the previously mentioned DJ Tameil must be respected for the groundbreaking and pioneering work they have done for the genre, the dance scene in Jersey and the international attention that it has now received. However the appropriation of Jersey Club music on TikTok sadly seems to be just another chapter of the ongoing appropriation of Jersey Club music and African American in general taking shape in the age of social media. While the rising popularity of Jersey Club is positive, much of the way that it appears to be happening is twisted and gives no credit to pioneers of the genre, or the culture that it represents.
As Cookie Kawaii tweeted ‘Jersey songs go viral on TikTok all the time … they’re not tik tok songs’. . Perhaps a lesson to be learnt from this is that in the social media dominated age we now live in, where context at some points seems no longer relevant to what we consume , it is incredibly important for one as an audience member to consciously research and appreciate the culture behind the music we listen to so that we can make sure the artists behind it at least get the credit that they deserve.