On the opening track of Heartbeats, Cherise Gary snarls, “I just want to fuck.” It’s exactly the sort of direct statement you’d expect from Jersey club, the “X-rated” dance music that Gary, aka UNIIQU3, first heard as a teenager in Newark, the city that birthed the genre. More than a decade later, she’s now the Jersey Club Queen, a title befitting an artist whose studio releases, DJ mixes, and live shows have cemented her as its most electrifying practitioner today.
While data suggest that women make up the majority of Jersey club’s audience, those behind the boards and mics have historically been male. Artists like UNIIQU3 and Cookie Kawaii are changing that. Case in point: That “I just want to fuck” line doesn’t solely exhibit the insatiably horny mentality—exhilarating as it is—that defines much of Jersey club, a genre whose recognizable kick pattern originates from a Baltimore club track called “Dikkontrol” and belongs to a lineage of other libidinal, male-dominated club music like ghetto house and ghettotech. Instead, it’s just a single element in “Shame on Me”’s overarching story, one involving the disappointment UNIIQU3 feels after a guy tries to “run games” on her. Read a different way, “I just want to fuck” could be sung from the perspective of the same man: cold, shameless, unfeeling.
UNIIQU3 has a penchant for maintaining the immediacy and exhilaration of top-shelf Jersey club while weaving in clear micro-narratives. On the melancholy “Unavailable,” squelching synths and vocal samples overlap with talk of an unrequited love, and the propulsive beat feels both lovelorn and determined to push through the heartbreak. She utilizes the dial tone and disconnected-phone message as witty and affecting elaborations on her mood, but she doesn’t rely on them—more evidence of her refusal to leave songs one-dimensional. Rather, disorientation is primarily felt in a textured swirl of varied sounds: pulsating synths, the classic Jersey club beat, her own exasperated vocals.
Despite the sorrow that defines a couple of Heartbeats’ tracks, UNIIQU3 still leaves room for the unbridled pursuit of pleasure. These songs are the EP’s most fun and funny, with “Drown” employing a regal horn overture to announce a “pussy so wet you’ll drown in it.” There’s confidence exuded in the trap beat, and an expansive atmosphere that amusingly embodies the lyrics. When a familiar sample of Trillville’s “Some Cut” is heard—originally a rocking chair, but understood by everyone to be a bed spring—its sudden rapid-speed edit channels a cartoonish, eyes-popping-out-of-sockets, “hummina hummina awooga!!!” silliness. More deliciously outrageous is “Touch,” whose flirty lyrics about waists and thighs are accompanied by such deep bass rumbles that the song feels like a literal assquake.
Heartbeats is UNIIQU3’s Double Cup moment: a release that pushes its respective genre forward and could only come from an artist who’s peerless in their field. Where her BITCHES IS OUTSIDE VOL 1 EP, from earlier this year, was Jersey club distilled to its purest elements and energies, Heartbeats is a gripping evolution where every second is perfectly manicured. It’s less raw in presentation, but don’t mistake it as selling out; this sanding down of edges is both refined and full-body invigorating. Sometimes this progress comes from looking to the past, as with the runway-ready hip-house scorcher “Microdosing.” Sometimes it arrives as a marriage of different ideas, with “What Chu Waiting For?” exemplifying this neatly. It’s an R&B song with Future-like coos, its growling low end matched by cocksure vocals. The pounding beat, the bed squeak, the kinetic drive—as with the rest of Heartbeats, it’s undeniably Jersey club, but something else altogether.
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