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True Music USA Spotlight: Jubilee

True Music USA Spotlight: Jubilee
By Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
jubilee performing for beatport ballantines

Don’t call it a comeback:
Jubilee on Magic City roots and Miami’s rave revolution

Florida’s largest city has never been camera shy. Kodak-worthy white sands, high production festivals like Ultra, Winter Music Conference pool parties, and stylised TV cop shows all spring to mind when you think of the coastal metropolis. A pop culture icon, in comparison the local underground has historically been far less celebrated.

It’s a situation Miami native Jubilee, real name Jess Gentile, is quick to point out when we catch up with her on video call. Speaking from Los Angeles where she’s launching a new Twitch channel, while she moved to live in New York some time ago her craft and sound were honed growing up in Fort Lauderdale, which she tells us is “40-minutes from the Magic City”. So we start by asking exactly where that is.

“Magic City is used in so many different ways, including an iconic strip club, but it is a nickname for Miami overall,” Jubilee replies, before reeling off more namesakes.“And it’s the name of Trick Daddy’s book, there are giant murals in Miami that say ‘Magic City’. There’s also a casino, Magic City, where a lot of the freestyle and older R&B acts perform.”

You can add Jubilee’s imprint to that list, too, and the club nights it spawned. Launched as a string of compilations, it graduated to ‘proper label’ status with her June EP, ‘Are We There Yet’, which she says is made up of “tape deck tracks”. Something we learn she has plenty of experience in thanks to her formative years spent searching for ways to stay up all night, which years ago led to a second alias.

“My other nickname is 4am Jess. I used to call people at 4am and be like ‘what’s going on’?” says Jubilee. “My drive was always like 45 minutes to an hour and I was going to raves or weeklies almost every night, maybe four nights a week… So a lot of my music, if you go through my catalogue, is named after Florida highways. I have a song called ‘I-95’, I have a song called ‘Sawgrass Expressway’. I have a song called ‘Pull Over’. The reason I have those songs is because I had to drive so far and I was just listening to rave tapes in the car. That was my inspiration when I was young.”

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With this in mind, Jubilee’s most recent album title is no surprise. ‘Call For Location’ landed in 2019, and represents the results of that education. Spanning twisted, heads down scuzzy breaks, arpeggiated rave techno, and collaborations with ‘Prince of UK Dancehall’ IQ and London hop hop icon P Money, it makes no secret of her appreciation for British dance culture, with further evidence in compilation contributions from producers Addison Groove, Untold, Nightwave and Singlewhitefemale with Cooly G.

“UK music was in my life early on, because I was a raver. And I just wished the radio was like London. You know? The BBC is like the biggest radio station in the world and they get Fabio and Grooverider. Like that’s crazy. We would never have that. I mean we did have DJ Laz, who was playing all this amazing rave-y stuff. But Laz was also playing, you know, more mainstream music and whatever.”

Florida radio’s party-friendly attitude to play listing can still be heard in Jubilee’s sets and releases today, and represent both her roots and route into DJ and dance music culture. “I feel like I grew up listening to all the stuff on the local radio and like a very specific sound. Even if you listen to 2Live Crew, they have all these rave-y songs. If you go deep I think some of the tracks are even called ‘Rave Mix’ whatever. And the whole Miami bass was very rave-y. Tracks like DJ Laz ‘Red Alert’, I played it up in Miami this year, it was insane!

“That was a normal radio song that when I play now it’s peak time at a club and it goes off… When I moved to New York, I couldn’t believe nobody knew any of these songs,” she continues, explaining this ignited a keen interest in regional dance music from the East Coast, such as the Baltimore Club scene. “I realised there was a corner for all this stuff.”

While this explains the variety in terms of her productions and DJ sets of high quality, high energy, seamlessly blended and meticulously chosen floor fillers, this approach and attitude can really be traced much further back. As she proudly explains, an early break came when she landed a role at a local radio station known for its DJ mix-focused programming.

“I went to school in Orlando, so interned at 95.3 Party for DJ Magic Mike, who is the biggest legend. Well, honestly, he was on the station but I didn’t directly intern for him. Anyway, the reason I interned for that station was because he was there and I was like; ‘Oh my god, I’ll do whatever for free’. He was on on the radio when I was young, so it was super sick.”

This melting pot of sounds was still relatively niche when Jubilee was living in Miami. But successive visits in the past few years have convinced her all that was bubbling in the background has now boiled over amid something of a mini-cultural revolution. In Jubilee’s eyes, Florida’s pop capital is now one for the growing list of US electronic music hubs with a forward thinking attitude towards inclusivity and music policy.

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“When I was living there, it was like one dubstep party that was the alt kind of music. And yeah, I’m sure there were underground things going on that I didn’t know about. I’m not gonna say I knew everything because I didn’t. But now it’s accessible and easy to find diversity. And the people working there are also diverse, like club hospitality isn’t some dude, the sound person isn’t some asshole.”

“I am so happy for Miami right now, because I tried to move back in 2011 and do some things and, you know, everybody loved Ultra, but the city didn’t have quite the underground that New York had or wherever,” Jubilee recounts, before nodding to early signs back then that a big change was underway in terms of the city’s subcultures. “There was Bardo, and Gramps had just opened right before I moved, they were doing some cool stuff.”

As our conversation comes to a close she namechecks a number of Magic City artists to watch, many of who recently joined her at Beatport x Ballantine’s True Music in Miami. “Going down there for that weekend, I was playing with Ashley Venom and Gami [Mani]. And all the kids doing stuff is so important. They still know all the Miami bass. I played this crypto conference thing and they knew all the classics. But like they’re really doing their own thing, too.”

“There’s this artist, Sel.6, who is just making the coolest music. And Nick León, Danny Daze, like all of these people have been there for a while, doing their thing. And it feels there’s room for all of it now when there was only a few things before. It’s just so exciting to me, because I’ve always wanted Miami to be like this,” she tells us, before offering her take on what has changed about the city. “Young queer kids just kind of took over, which is what changes the world. And it’s so inspiring right now seeing all these young people playing full on rave music, and wanting the club to be crowded.”

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