Dance Mania has wielded its influence heavily across dance music since its first breakthrough club smash in ’86, Duane & Co’s ‘J.B. Traxx’, offering a raw, DJ-led alternative to the Chicago powerhouses of Trax and DJ International.
Founder Ray Barney astutely released classic after classic during the early years – ’7 Ways’ by Hercules (Marshall Jefferson), ‘House Nation’ by Housemaster Boyz (Farley Jackmaster Funk) and Li’l Louis’ debut recordings all helping to cement Dance Mania’s credentials.
Throughout its long history, the label never pandered to commercial pressures and the lure of the “hit”, focusing purely on the dance floor and the DJ. As styles changed and Chicago clubs like The Factory held sway during the ’90s, Dance Mania became a key player, unleashing uncompromising anthems like Robert Armani’s ‘Ambulance’ and ushering in ghetto house with Traxmen and Eric Martin’s ‘Hit It From The Back,’ as BPMs became faster and lyrics became ever more X-rated. A new wave of producers including DJ Deeon, DJ Funk, Slugo and Paul Johnson all appeared on Dance Mania, recording prolifically and honing the new ghetto style, stripped back and raw.
The label’s influence continues today. Daft Punk famously name-check a series of Dance Mania producers on their ‘Teachers’ track, featured on the album Homework and you can hear the label’s DNA through contemporary sounds as varied as Diplo, L.I.E.S., Brazil’s baile funk movement and Chicago’s modern day footwork producers like Nate and Rashad.