At the end of the ’80s, a chemical engineering student named Curtis A. Jones dropped out of his Masters course at UC-Berkeley and returned to his home of Chicago. Turning your back on a career in engineering isn’t normally a recipe for a story of success, but Jones had a few ideas brewing in his mind. He had grown up with video games and the radio on in his household, and he soon set about recording some music of his own. “When I was a kid I use to listen to all the funk, soul, jazz and blues records my father had around the house,” Jones recalls. “He was a Chicago area mobile DJ and I first heard house music on the radio listening to the mix shows on WBMX and WGCI in Chicago. I fell in love with the music the first time I heard it.”
With an array of cheap, cobbled-together electronic components, Jones recorded his first songs and pressed them himself, using his initials and to make both an iconic name in the U.S. dance music world and a legendary Chicago house music label. Some 20 years on, Strut presents Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records, a heady compilation of some of Cajmere’s most vibrant and sensuous dance tracks.
“When I first heard my music in the clubs I was amazed by the positive reaction it received,” he says of how his music translated from his bedroom to Chicago’s legendary club scene. While rendered on a primitive set-up (“The advantage of initially have a small set-up was that I learned my equipment inside and out,” he says), Cajmere’s tracks transcended their simple roots, establishing him as a crucial new voice in Chicago house music.
The collection opens with his breakout single “Percolator,” a stark yet giddy track that stimulates better than a double espresso and soon ventures into classic territory, such as on the glorious piano house of “Brighter Days (Louie’s Masters at Work Mix)” and the more acidic “Feelin’ Kinda High.” Jones enjoyed journeying back through the past while putting the collection together: “It was great doing the compilation and digging through my old DATs. The best part of the process was reaching out to a lot of my old artist friends. I really appreciate what the music did in the ’90s and how it’s still enjoyed by a new generation of house lovers.”
Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records is out October 30 on Strut. Stream it below: