Jubilee, aka Jessica Gentile, is the reigning queen of the Brooklyn bass scene. The Miami native’s spicy medley of tropical beats, dancehall rhythms, and sassy rap anthems have been known to scald club dancefloors, and her playful personality on Radio Lily and Brooklyn Radio has earned her respect as a bass music tastemaker. Her latest EP, Pull Ova, is released today on Mixpak Records, and DJs are already dropping the grimey Miami bass track “I-95″. This Thursday Jubilee stops by our hood at Middlesex Lounge to celebrate her EP release and thaw our winter-weary bones.
I chatted with Jubilee a couple of days after she opened and closed for Disclosure at Output in Brooklyn on the 18th. She was still in recovery mode but pulled through to share some insights on her diverse musical background, the Brooklyn scene, and her DJSOTW featured mix.
You just played at Output with Samo Sound Boy and Disclosure. How was that?
Yeah, I played on Saturday night and it was a totally long night because I opened and closed so I played like 10-1 and 4:30-6:30. Yesterday I was like bed ridden, only just from being so tired, not even from partying, because I couldn’t really party, you know?
I saw a picture you posted on instagram that looked like you were a little worse for wear…
[laughs] Yeah! I was like dying.
You grew up in Florida, right? How do you think that influenced you musically?
I listened to the radio a lot growing up and it played a lot of local music so it actually influenced me a lot. I think that all the noises I use – even if I try to venture away from it – I wind up with a very Miami sound, only because it’s my favorite music ever and something I grew up with. It’s not a secret that I make Miami bass sounding music. I like a lot of Latin sounding stuff, I like a lot of dancehall; all of those things definitely have to do with where I grew up. [In New York] I live in a really Dominican neighborhood, and New York also shares a few of the sounds from [Miami] because there’s a really big Latin population, and New York is really into freestyle music and stuff like that. So I feel like I’m like a hybrid of both.
What would you say is unique about the Brooklyn music scene as compared to other cities?
There’s so much going on. There’s like literally ten things sometimes on the weekends and it’s so big. There’s so many different kinds of parties and there’s so many artists living there. The whole scene is kind of great because there’s a really great techno scene, there’s a really great rap scene, there’s the smaller stuff, and the up and coming scenes that eventually blend into bigger scenes. There’s really something for everybody there and they mix and match a lot.
Everybody’s mourning the closing of 285 Kent, but some of the stories from that venue are really funny, like Grimes & ASAP Rocky coming up on stage with Pictureplane. I remember after that happened I had just DJ’d in another country and the person that picked me up was like, “Whoa, did you hear ASAP Rocky came out with Grimes?” And I was like, “Yeah, that happens in New York all the time.” It’s funny how we just kind of go “Oh, this rapper’s here” and don’t even think about how cool it is.
There’s been quite a of talk about the gentrification of New York, including David Byrne’s Guardian op-ed last fall, where he argues that the atmosphere no longer breeds creativity because it’s so expensive to live there. What’s your take on that?
I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost ten years now and yes, it’s completely gentrified. You’ll even see it at some of these venues opening up – you’re like, “Why are these bros here? Don’t they know this is a techno party?” But someone told them it was cool. So I feel like yes and no. It hasn’t really affected the music scene, and people in New York love to complain about New York, like it’s a thing. All these cool clubs are opening because of it that are booking really good acts. It is hard to live here and it’s getting more and more expensive, but you figure it out. I’ve lived here for ten years and everyone complaining about it doesn’t know what they’re talking about. You just deal with it and it’s gonna happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.
It’s weird, you go to these parties and it’s like 50/50: 50% of the people know why they’re there and the other 50% of the people just went to go to whatever and they don’t get it but, whatever, they’re going and it’s cool. When I opened for Zomby and DJ Assault at Output I was upstairs after DJing and these girls came up to me and they were like, “Are you Zomby?” I was like, “No!” And they were like, “Well, we really liked you and we were across the street at Brooklyn Bowl and we thought it was really lame so we came over here and we thought you were really good and we just wanted you to know. What’s your name?” And in my head I was like, “Whoa, you paid $30 to get into this club that you didn’t know what was going on in?” It’s cool that they asked, it’s cool that they liked the music, so it could be a good thing.
How did you get into DJing in the first place?
I grew up in Miami so I was just a raver, buying records and just being really nerdy. I moved to New York right after I got done with school and I didn’t know anybody, and this was before you had Facebook so I just had to meet people through music and message boards. I remember going out to all these raves and drum & bass parties by myself when I moved here. But it was something that I really wanted to do, so eventually I wanted to play my own stuff.
When did you start producing?
[In 2008] I started a label called Nightshifters that isn’t around anymore. I started producing around then because I was partnered up with a guy from Berlin named Jason Forrest [aka DJ Donna Summer] who was part of the label as well. So, probably about like 2 years before then I was playing around, then in 2009 I co-produced PayPur with Udachi. I came out with my first solo release two years ago.
I do a lot of things, I’m not like a super producer, I’m not constantly in the studio, but when I get certain ideas I get them out. My first EP by myself, Pop It!, was all based on a lot of driving that I was doing in Miami. The Keys Wallet Phone release from Trouble & Bass by me and Burt Fox, we grew up together in Miami and we got the idea for that song because we heard a song on a mixtape from the ‘90s and we knew we would never be able to figure out what the song was, so we were like well, let’s just remake a song with the same sounds so we can play it when we DJ.
Tell me about your latest EP, the release of which you’ll be celebrating Thursday at Middlesex.
I’m releasing an EP on January 28th, which is two days before that party. It’s called Pull Ova. It’s on Mixpak Records, which is the label that I’m affiliated with now. It’s two sides and there’s a remix from Salva, and Salva’s one of my favorite producers so I’m super excited about it.
What can we expect from that record?
It’s basically everything I like and what I sound like. If you know me really well and you hear that record, you’re like, “Okay, this is totally Jess’s record.” It has some of a Miami sound; it’s influenced by most of the stuff I play when I DJ.
For those who haven’t heard you play before, what can we expect from your DJ set at Make It New?
It depends on the night and what I’m feeling. I always have a really great time DJing in Boston so it’ll probably be an anything goes vibe with me for this. I played at Middlesex Lounge for Heartthrob years ago. It’s always fun. You should just expect a lot of dance music, a lot of 808s, a lot of bass, a lot of partying, a lot of girl vocals, some Trina – basically everything that I like.
That sounds a lot like your recent Dummy Mix, which I’ve chosen as this week’s DJ Set of the Week (technically not a DJ set, I guess, but I’m letting that slide because it’s just too good to pass up)…
Yeah, the Dummy Mix is definitely where I’m at right now for sure. A little bit of old Baltimore stuff, some Miami stuff, some new stuff, some bootleg stuff… I go all over the place. My main thing is I like to play music for girls. I must have girls on my dance floor. When there’s girls on the dancefloor then there’s guys on the dancefloor. I like it to be a party – I want to see people dancing to my songs.
Do you have any personal experiences where you’ve found it more difficult being a female DJ?
Yes, of course. I’m not gonna freak out about it, I’m just going to do a good job and make good music and make good mixes and do what I do and it works out. This is just life, it’s the way it is. I’ve had plenty of sound guys tell me how to use a mixer. I’ve had actual other DJs adjust my records while I was playing before, which was insane when that happened to me. I’m just used to it by now, and it’s been like that in every job that I’ve had. You just need to do a good job. You just need to do your best in everything so you can have the backup to be like, “Fuck you, I did this and you didn’t.”
Your younger sister Lindsey Gentile is an actress and a comedian. Did you guys come from a creative family?
We came from a very busy and creative family, which is part of the reason I am the way I am right now. I do label stuff, I do radio shows — I can’t do one thing at a time. We definitely get it from our mom. We were lucky enough to have parents that made us do a lot of extracurricular activities after school; we did art class, we did voice lessons, we went to castings, we played sports, so we definitely came from a really active background for sure and I guess we get it from our parents.
When we were little we were both singers and actors and we both wanted to be on Broadway. We were in community theater stuff and we were in a lot of Latin commercials because we grew up near Miami. I started going to raves and fucking up and being like a crazy person, getting into electronic music and stuff and kind of steered away from it a little bit. When I entered university after high school I originally entered for theater and then I just said, “Fuck this, this is stupid, these people suck.” I was like an alien, like I wasn’t singing at parties all the time… I just couldn’t deal with it. I left theater and started doing radio stuff – I interned at a bunch of different radio stations in Orlando, and that’s when I got into dance music and DJing.
Any final thoughts?
Come to Middlesex Lounge Thursday and party with me!
MAKE IT NEW WITH JUBILEE
W/ RESIDENTS BALTIMORODER AND JOHN BARERA
315 MASS. AVE.