Data/Booty: Packin’ Nobrow Full of Ass

Type the phrase “booty shaking” into Youtube and within seconds, you’ll have approximately 14,100 results. There are black girls shaking some booty, white girls, big booty girls, Italian booty shaking, booty in tight jeans, booty in thongs and booty wrapped in gold lamé hot shorts. This homemade webcam footage starts to resemble music videos that might have been made by female ass-worshipping artists like
2 Live Crew and Sir Mix-a-lot. 

Data/Booty, a new visual arts and audio project masterminded by Salt Lake City producers Andrew Glassett (Nolens Volens) and Jonathan Higley (//) of MSSV Music, was inspired by Youtube videos like these. “I noticed a number of women who were digitally recording themselves bouncing their asses to hip hop music,” Glassett says. “It brought a lot of questions to my mind about why they would record themselves in this way.” Was this exploitation? Was it a form of female empowerment? Or as Glassett so aptly put, “Are they simply waving their ass in the air to attract a potential mate?”

Data/Booty is partially the result of trying to answer these questions. It’s also spawned from questions related to sexual identity, power, control and the objectification of women.  It’s one part visual art show and one part music project. “It started out as a fun and irreverent project and has become an experiment with how far irreverence and vulgarity can be pushed, while still keeping it in the context of art,” say Glassett and Higley in an e-mail interview. 

Data/Booty started nearly a year ago with Glassett’s discovery of a regional musical phenomenon known as booty house, which sprouted from the slums of Chicago in the early 90s. “Booty house has a very clear thesis: Shake your ass and have a good time,” Glassett and Higley say.
The craft of booty house matched the means of the producers. Minimal access to equipment led to minimal music. The tracks were short, fast and simple. Booty house was driven by 808 and 909 drum machines—the same machines used to build techno beats today. Producers like DJ Funk layered the thumping beats with profane lyrics such as “Shake that Ass,” “Don’t You Want a Pussy Ride” and “Hit It From the Back,” which were repeated throughout the entire song. Many songs utilized call-and-response methods as well. In DJ Funk’s “Have’n Sex??? Hell Yea!!!” a male voice repeats the question “Do you Believe in Have’n Sex?” which is followed by crowd vocals that scream, “Hell Yea!!!” Although booty house started as club music, it wasn’t long until it found a home for itself in Chicago strip clubs. Higley describes many of the early booty house tracks as sounding like direct orders telling strippers what to do.  Eventually the genre spread from the Midwest to the East Coast, spiraling downward into Miami. In the past few years, booty house producers have been “rediscovered” and sampled by DJs like Girl Talk and Steve Aoki. In 2006, DJ Funk even toured with electronic juggernauts Justice. As far as Higley and Glassett are aware, they are the first producers to experiment with the genre in Salt Lake City.

Higley and Glassett describe their project as being a throwback to booty house with a twist.  They see the project serving homage to their roots on a variety of levels.  For Higley, who grew up in Chicago and Miami, the connection is more regional. As electronic musicians, they see booty house as a way to experiment with the archetypes of musical production that they’ve created for themselves. “Modern electronic music becomes increasingly complex because of technological advances.  Booty house sidesteps these advances and it holds to a very basic formula,” Glassett and Higley say. Essentially, they take the tools that they already have and apply them in a totally different way. “We’re so involved with the elements that make a song flowery or intricate. [Booty house] is just bare bones groove,” Glassett says, regarding the appeal of booty house’s simplicity.

As much as the project pays homage, it’s also about venturing outside of comfort zones and into foreign territory. Glassett, who grew up in Jerome, Idaho, a small town with a population under 8,000 people, realizes the obvious disconnect between his upbringing and the culture of booty house music.  “I grew up picking potatoes out of fields; I literally did that,” Glassett says. “There still isn’t anything urban about Idaho. I respect urban culture and obviously love booty house and for me, this is a way to explore this side.” To ease the exploration process, Glassett and Higley have adopted personas that they literally dress up as when they prepare to produce. Their personas also help them break away from the indie culture that they come from.  For a time, they ditch their slightly wrinkled, muted button-up shirts and well-fitted pants for bright white hoodies, dark baggy denim, clever printed tees with phrases like ‘Drop Beats Not Bombs’ and flat-brim hats. “It’s about getting yourself into the mode,” Higley says.

Data/Booty is also an exploration of the type of culture created by genres like booty house. “Booty house [became a genre] with a clearly defined objective: to make strippers move on their poles, and to get men to give them money. It is a very supportive and collaborative culture,” Higley and Glassett say. “This is a modern interpretation of that situation.” The modern “situation” that they speak of is less related to strippers in clubs and more closely related to the plethora of women who have plastered their ass-shaking abilities across the Internet using sites like Youtube. Behavior that was once classified as something strippers did in clubs has crossed into the mainstream, becoming more accessible and free.  This phenomenon is something that Glassett found as confusing as he found interesting. Thus, the Data/Booty project began.

Glassett and Higley, who are also roommates, both agree that this is a project that would have never gained momentum if they hadn’t moved in together last June. Their studios sit approximately 30 feet from one another and the two were able to create a shared library pushing 1000 samples.  Their proximity to one another allowed them to bounce ideas off each other. It also led to an element of competition. “Imagine how inspiring it is for a producer, listening to another producer in the adjacent room, getting their drink on, getting rowdy on some vocals and dropping a crazy bouncing bass in the studio,” they both say. “You’re going to get your ass back behind the console and start cranking out your own.”

Although the ideas started with Glassett and Higley, other local producers Dave Madden (nonnon) and Nick Foster (NJ Foster) have also been involved with production. The call for emcees to contribute was left incredibly open-ended. Emcees were encouraged to visit the Data/Booty website, download the tracks and upload acapella versions of their vocals. At the time of publication, over 20 emcees from places like Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Salt Lake and even places as far away as Japan and Spain had submitted contributions. Submissions for the project will be accepted until April 15. “I believe that this is the future of music composition. After years of producing music in my home studio, I found myself becoming more and more isolated from the music community. The Internet is advanced enough to integrate a full-scale music project in full resolution,” Glassett says of the innovative way that vocal tracks were collected for Data/Booty.

Although the medium is very simplistic, and at times formulaic, all of the producers have found a way to work within its boundaries. “The hardest part about creating this music is to continually strip things back to reveal a very basic groove set behind a series of infectious vocal hooks,” Glassett says. Despite the minimalistic skeleton of booty house, the four producers working on the project haven’t felt like it has stifled their creativity. “Whenever you’re working within a formula, and you still want to call yourself an artist, you have to work your ass off to make it your own. Great artists redefine the formulas dependent on their personal experiences,” Higley and Glassett say. 

The Data/Booty album will be released as a cassette tape on May 1 at the Urban Lounge. According to Higley, the decision to release Data/Booty as a cassette relates to the heritage of the genre. Data/Booty will also be released as a digital download on Sept. 8 marks Data/Booty’s release in Japan and Europe, which coincidse with the start of a European tour.

Data/Booty also features a visual art component, which according to Glassett and Higley, was a natural extension of the project. “When I’m doing music of any kind, I always think of the visuals first; for me, it transports me to that place,” Glassett says. The Data/Booty art show will be held in Nobrow Coffee and Tea’s back art studio on Friday, April 16. “The basis of this project is about ‘data’ and how personal information is promulgated across the Internet. We chose  ‘booty’ because it is a perfect example of how people (mainly women) have used the Internet to display intimate information on a large scale.” Glassett and Higley say.

Higley and Glassett see technology as being the keystone of their project for a number of reasons. They say it’s responsible for our culture’s changing sexual attitudes, the source of entitlement and what is breeding a culture of immediate gratification. Ultimately, they believe that technology is responsible for “losing the thrill of the hunt” in relationships. 

The Data/Booty art exhibit will literally be “packed full of ass,” Higley says. The show will include a Myspace-style self-portrait Polaroid wall, compiled video projections featuring ass-shaking from Youtube clips, geometric interpretations of a booty, sculpture and a series of “high art” photographs featuring shots of women framed from the waist down in the stereotypical settings where society claims females belong. Thumping booty house music will serve as the soundtrack to the show. “It’s definitely not one of those dainty, minimal art shows. It’s going to be jam-packed,” Glassett says.

“We’re really trying to set the stage for this weird environment, and hopefully by putting as much stuff as possible into a room, and making it compressed, we’re going to invoke a really disgusting sense,” Higley says.

Even the presentation of the show relates back to technology and data. “Packing that room full will be symbolic of the glut of information on the web,” Glassett says.

Although Data/Booty features no nudity, they do realize that their work could be seen as something that is reinforcing existing stereotypes about women. The project deals with sexual issues, but it isn’t sexual. Ultimately, Glassett and Higley are far more concerned that someone would get off on Data/Booty than they are about offending someone.  “We are using attention-grabbing techniques in the hope that it dips below the tip of the iceberg,” they say.

This is an exploration into the ideas that lurk in our subconscious, but about which many of us are too ashamed to openly speak. “It is obvious by the glut of pornography that men are obsessed with the female form and women are obsessed with attention from men or from the power that they gain from baring it all,” Higley and Glassett say. Ultimately, Data/Booty begs the question––is this female exploitation or female empowerment?

Take a photo of this QR Code with your iPhone, Google, or other smart phone, scan it, and get exclusive content about the Data/Booty visual exhibit. Apps for reading QR Barcodes iPhone - 2DCodeMe: Google - GoogleGoggles: All Others: Take a photo of this QR Code with your iPhone, Google, or other smart phone, scan it, and get exclusive content about the Data/Booty visual exhibit. Apps for reading QR Barcodes iPhone - 2DCodeMe: Google - GoogleGoggles: All Others: