“Down, down down, d-down … D-d-down, do-do-do-down… Down, down, down, down.” You’ve heard, and very likely mumbled along to those lyrics before. For a while Paul Johnson’s “Get Get Down” was a House anthem and for a generation dreaming of Ibiza through the portal of MTV it became synonymous with their informative experiences with House music and the4r dance floor. You couldn’t escape the infectious funky bassline and the incessant (bordering on exasperating) vocal that became the unavoidable earworm imbedded in the conscious of everybody that’s been on a dance floor in the last twenty years.
Although “Get Get Down” had established and enshrined the legacy of Paul Johnson for a whole generation of House aficionados, that song is the mere tip of an iceberg that extends deep into the roots of House music in Chicago where he remains a steadfast presence anchored to the underground ideologies that first established the genre in the late nineteen eighties.
Around the start of House music, Paul Johnson would arrive on the scene as a breakdancer and later a DJ, mixing two turntables, cassettes and a four track player. “Paul was one of the first to sample R&B songs that were out there over his own beats,” Gant Garrard (aka Gantman) told Chicago’s 5 Mag in an interview from 2006. That’s how Paul invented what would become Ghetto House, a sound that would evolve into Ghetto Tech and eventually even Footwork, disseminating Paul’s modest influence all over House music in the USA for at least two generations.
Over the course of hundreds of records, most of which he’d forgotten about over the years, Paul Johnson has made an impact and established a legacy that lives way beyond the stuttering lyricism of his biggest track “Get get down,” without taking away anything from the might of that track. It might have been the track that was responsible for sending Paul Johonson’s career on a very different trajectory towards a more mainstream audience, but it’s the records he’s released before and after that have installed him in the House music lexicon as one of the genre’s more unique entities.
Paul Johnson has made many contributions in Daniel Gude’s extensive record collection. As a producer and DJ Paul Johnson’s humble legacy and significant contributions to House music is exactly the kind of spirit that Daniel Gude wants to perpetuate through his Retro concept. With the Chicago legend’s imminent arrival we asked Daniel Gude to pick a few Paul Johnson favourites out of the extensive wall of records that line his impressive record collection.
Paul Johnson – Feel My M.F. Bass
Dance Mania, 1994
Daniel Gude: “C’mon now! Ghetto Tech at it’s best IMO”
Paul Johnson’s 1994 sub quencher still stands as a unique testament to the House genre. The bold ghetto lyricism and thunderous kick leave no room for negotiation as it forces you into the middle of the floor in that indeterminable sweet spot, where the low frequencies physical effect as its strongest. This is body music at its best and the first record on Dance Mania that established a relationship between the artist and the label that still lasts today.
Paul Johnson – So Much
Dust Traxx – 1998
Daniel Gude: “I think this is a favourite of mine because it’s a cool picture disc 12” that I’ve had in my bag for 20 years now. Both the song and the record is sexy”
This record is a seductress. It tosses between the funky grooves, the charming chirping keys and the sultry vocals luring the listener between the sheets. There’s an infectious groove to this track focussing on that live bass line bouncing between the beats and the keys, adding to the sensual air Mr. Johnson perpetuates on the track.
Paul Johnson – Play with My Bassline
Dopewax – 2017
Daniel Gude: “I like Paul’s diversity and longevity. This cool acid track from 2017 is a great example of that”
Paul Johnson has never taken so much as a break from making and releasing music all these years. He seems as prolific today as he was in the beginning, and has retained a unique quality to his music. Bringing a more than insinuating vocal into the mix, Johnson often juxtaposes the serious production of his music with a playful hook, making for a more approachable House track each time. He’s very rarely pandered to trends or styles and thus a track like this from two years ago sits effortlessly alongside his earliest records giving his whole discography a timeless quality.
Paul Johnson – After Dark
ACV – 1996
Daniel Gude: “Just drums. But raw and funky just the way Paul does it”
Taken from Paul’s pragmatically titled sophomore LP, “After Dark” is a DJ tool at its best. It really shows the versatility of the artist who is able to coax all of this from nothing more than a drum machine. The polyrhythmic display is a testament to the legacy of House music with its roots firmly planted in the rich musical styles that came before it like Funk and Soul. Paul Johnson adds a human flair to this machine music, as if Gregory C. Coleman is sitting at the kit. Even though it’s most likely sequenced through a machine, there’s very little that’s mechanical about this. It’s an incredibly organic and very beguiling track.
Paul Johnson – Get Get Down
Moody Recordings – 1999
Daniel Gude: “It’s a favourite because it ALWAYS gets the club go crazy. Any club, any crowd. And I don’t find it cheesy although it appeals to everyone”
Everything comes back to “Get Get Down.” It’s popular for a reason and even at the height of its popularity people couldn’t get enough of it. More than that, it’s an archetypal Paul Johnson track. No other producer sounds like Paul Johnson; those funky basslines, the energetic percussion and the existential vocal snippets, all add a distinctive flair that might have been co-opted by genres as far afield as footwork, but retains a unique quality that can only be a Paul Johnson track.