Class of ’99, Vol. 9

There are some places, like southern California, where you can comfortably wear indoor clothes—T-shirt, jeans and sneakers—all year round. Spend a year in Chicago, and you might have a couple weeks—cumulatively—when this is the case. Chicago is either arctic or tropical, with very little in-between.

I had never experienced humidity until I came to Chicagoland. It was 1995, and I was 15, when I stepped out of my mother’s Oldsmobile and staggered across a sweltering parking lot to our motel. For the uninitiated, the experience is something like altitude sickness, but more immediate and distressing, as your body tries to cool itself with perspiration that won’t evaporate.

Back then, Chicago was absolutely filthy, and the black soot from the city bus would mix with windswept dirt and stick to wet skin. The humidity somehow locks the heat into the atmosphere, so that it’s stiflingly hot even at 2 in the morning. The streetlights’ sodium filaments emitted a harsh, orange glare that desaturated every other color, so all you saw was orange and black. It was like wandering around in a giant smelting plant.

That first summer, as I tried to acclimate myself to this new reality, I heard persistent buzzing over my head. I assumed that the humidity somehow caused the transformers on the power poles to buzz in this way, but only later did I learn that it was actually the sound of swarming cicadas, these insects the size of your thumb, plus wings, that look like they belong at the equator. Trees of heaven turned the concrete into a jungle, especially in deserted areas where raves were most prevalent. Nicknamed the “ghetto palm”, these noxious weeds thrive in blighted areas with lots of cracked asphalt and little competing flora, and will take over an empty lot in a single summer.

Between the oppressive heat, the ghetto palms and the giant bugs, summer in Chicago often felt like I imagined San Juan or São Paulo to be (though I later visited San Juan, and found it much more pleasant). In addition to these natural features, the party spots often ended up in neighborhoods with cultural roots down in Puerto Rico and Mexico—Like Humbolt Park, where DJ Subzero had a whole, 3-story brownstone that he used as an after-hours spot. For short while, promoters were even throwing all-night raves in the gym at Roberto Clemente High School, which I still don’t understand. Why would CPS even allow that? It’s a mystery to me.

Then there was Little Village / La Villita, which had a number of rave venues including The Black Hole, a videogame arcade with blacked-out windows. Chicago was (and is) a slice of Latin America in the upper Midwest, and this month’s mix explores the Latin impact on Chicago house—from its disco beginnings, to its Italian emulators overseas.

Class of ’99, Volume 09: Una Más
Download the mix (MP3, 43 minutes, 99 MB)

About the cover

This month’s cover comes from the flyer for a 1998 Vibe Alive party called Soul Revival 3.

Track List

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