Producer Green Velvet Highlights How Commercial Dance Music Ignores Genre’s Origin In Black And Queer Spaces

Published on January 13, 2020

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has seen a prolific rise in popularity in the last couple of decades. The genre, which wrongfully encompasses anything from house and techno to hardcore and dubstep sub-genres, is at the heart of the festival culture that millennial and generation z consumers love so much.

Dance music makes the music industry a whole lot of money ($7.1 billion to be exact). But while heavy hitters like Diplo, Zedd, and Tiesto have played major roles in boosting the genre’s popularity as a radio-friendly, stadium-concert style, its largely undefined canonization has left room for debate on what, exactly, constitutes the genre’s history.

House & Techno producer Green Velvet took to Twitter recently to express disdain toward the grouping of the genre with EDM. The artist suggested that the resurgence of house and techno during EDM’s era of commercialization erases its past as two separate prolific genres in the ’70s, ’80’s, and ’90s within black and queer spaces.

Green Velvet calls for music fans to stop labeling house and techno as EDM.

“Was EDM formed by people who didn’t want to acknowledge the originators of House/Techno…just like what happened to Rock & Roll? Inquiring minds want to know. Don’t say House & Techno are EDM… they were before EDM. Do ur research & discover the first time the term EDM was used,” said the producer on Twitter, calling for tastemakers, bloggers, and fans to stop associating house and techno as a sub-genre of EDM as if it came about in recent years.

No..u chilren need to understand it’s a problem that you don’t know Jesse Saunders, Kevin Saunderson, Lil Louis, Jeff Mills, Marshall Jefferson, Steve Silk Hurley, Farley JackMasterFunk, Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, DJ Pierrie, Derrick May Larry Heard etc— Green Velvet (@GreenVelvet_) December 30, 2019

@GreenVelvet_ on Twitter

Big room house or electro house—which is what many within the dance music industry consider to be the quintessential style of EDM as a genre—is characterized by its upbeat, synth-pop style and a heavy use of kick drums and simple melodies. The genre’s past heils from western-Europe, where artists like Hardwell, Tiesto, Zedd, and Avicii represent the major and recent tastemakers that have brought the genre into commercial music spaces.

EDM’s history in Europe is not to be confused with the house, techno, and disco that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s.

Electro house, however, has little similarities to house and techno with each genre’s use of deep basslines and funk element. Each genre—both house and techno—have a separate and rich history within underground music spaces that attracted traditionally marginalized groups in places like Detroit and Chicago.

To group the two genres together with EDM—alluding that house and techno’s resurgence in the late 2010’s is due to its popularity among white audiences—is a form of whitewashing. The same phenomenon that also saw the erasure of the black bodies that invented rock ‘n roll back before white bodies like Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones became the faces of the genre, despite the fact that Jimi Hendrix is arguably one of the best rock ‘n roll and blues figures in history.

Even Elvis, who has long been hailed as the “king” of rock ‘n roll, has a controversial history of criticism over appropriating musical contributions created by black artists and attributing them as his own. Today, the same things are happening with the white bodies occupying the mainstream representation of house and techno in electronic dance music.

When you call house & techno EDM, it contributes to their whitening & erasure of its roots in working class Detroit & Chicago by DJs of color.— Danny Santana-Hernández (@Danny_SantanaH) December 31, 2019

@Danny_SantanaH on Twitter

The commercialization of raves and music festivals brought with it a new look at old genres.

While dance music has seen a significant rise in popularity over the last couple of years, its rich history as a music genre predates the rave scenes of the early 2000’s that brought EDM into fruition in the way we know it today.

In fact, EDM’s canonization as an all-encompassing term for music made electronically contributes to the erasure of the black and queer bodies that created it in the first place—beyond the house and techno that Green Velvet alludes to on social media.

Even the modern rave scene—which has been heavily commercialized and brought into the mainstream by festivals like Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, and Coachella—has a rich, meaningful history as a safe space for queer bodies during the ’80s and ’90s. Its original rise during that time—a time when figures like Warhol were associated with more than just wall space at the MoMa—represented an escape during an era wherein the AIDS epidemic marginalized LGBTQIA+ bodies from mainstream spaces.

In rave culture, many of the fashions and styles being commercialized today got their start in the underground, queer cultures around New York in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

So while mainstream “EDM” has worked to bring dance music into the money-making zeitgeist, Green Velvet points out that tastemakers and fans must work to honor the bodies that created the genres in the first place to avoid furthering the erasure that is already happening.

We have reached out to Green Velvet for a comment and are awaiting a response.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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