Black Music Month: A Brief History of House

Every so often the desire for mainstream music taste shifts. In the 60s it was all about precision and soul, followed by the disco and heavy metal of the 70s and 80’s. 1990s saw the resurgence of boy bands the ushered in rap and hip hop of the 2000s. Now, the tables, literally are turning, and electronic music is again on the rise.

Steve Rachmad

Steve Rachmad

Electronic Music, better known as Dance music or more specifically Techno or House, has again hit mainstream. A style of disco music with a pulsating heavy bass beat, initially popularized in underground all-night parties; its largely associated with pill-popping teens or hypnotized adults who relate it to a religious experience.
The music genre is again coming from the underground roots and into the mainstream money-making consciencness. The emergence of Coachella and Detroit’s Electronic Music festival have become sell out staples that bring in hundreds of thousands of gyrating fans.

“I don’t believe my entire generation is listening to hip hop,” says Dantiez Saunderson, 20, DJ and son of Kevin Saunderson, credited as one of the creators of techno music in the 80’s. “I think people just sometimes want something new.”

Derrick May

Just as international recognition enriched the likes of The Supremes, Jay-Z, Prince, Tina Turner and DJ Clue, house DJ’s are on the road, garnering millions of fans both internationally and locally prompting Jet Magazine to release its first ever Electronic DJ Kings List.

Detroit born and bred, Derrick May tops the list with over 30 years in the music business and credited as inspiring the likes of DJ Minx and Steve Rachmad to take up the tables. Traveling more than 200 days a year to Berlin, Paris, the Netherlands, Ambersdam and Europe yet making his home across from the Eastern Market near downtown Detroit for more than 29 years, Derrick May is credited as one of three men, Yuan and Kevin Saunderson – who coined the words Techno Music.
“I never listen to my music in the house, only jazz or mediation,” says May. “It’s important for me that it stays fresh and in the moment with the crowd and the energy.”

It’s not just the top three DJ’s who just happen to be from Detroit that’s taking all the crowd, Netherlands bred yet Detroit influenced Steven Rachmad claims a spot with over three CD’s and endorsement deals in Amsterdam. DJ Minx, who played to over 20,000 people during the 3-day festival, says after seeing May as a teenager, she knew she wanted to DJ. It helped her to come out of her shyness.


DJ Minx

Other DJ’s on the EDJK list include the Godfather of Techno Kevin Saunderson and sons, Damon and Fred, as well as, Allan Ester and Bruce Bailey.

Though these Electronic DJ Kings have all taken different roads to their turntable dreams, they’ve got at least one thing in common; they all have been influenced by Detroit. Often praising the tough love tactics that pushed them to a career in music, unlike rap and pop artists who typically take all the credit.

Our estimates include earnings from live shows, recording music sales, endorsements and in the case of Saunderson and May, label ownership.

Photography by Dedan Photography @dedanphotography.