Adeva: This Is A Warning

New Jersey has become a hothouse of hot house music. Adeva takes you there.

WHEN SHE was a student at JFK High School in Patterson, New Jersey, Patricia Daniels was constantly teased by her gay male friends. “Oh, girlfriend,” the fingersnappin’ Miss Thangs would say when they heard her deep, gospel voice. “You a diva.” And so Adeva was born.

On the dance floor last year, the denatured disco of acid house carried the swing, and the disco diva was an endangered species. Female voices, if they appeared at all, were distorted and disembodied — an eerie remnant of humanity fast disappearing from a music increasingly dominated by vast, intimidating, mechanical soundscapes. But in 1989 big voices are back, especially in New Jersey, with releases like Charvoni’s ‘Always There’, Chanelle’s ‘One Man’, and — most preeminently — Adeva’s ‘Respect’.

“She always struck me as a modern-day Aretha Franklin,” says Adeva’s manager Debbie Parkin. “I had the idea she should cover ‘Respect’, but not in a reverential way. We actually ended up with two different songs. A lot of people hear Adeva’s version and don’t realize it has anything to do with the Aretha Franklin version.”

Neither a faithful R&B cover, nor sample-heavy deconstruction, Adeva’s ‘Respect’ aggressively declares that volatile vocals and a lyrical narrative are as much part of house music as rhythm and repetition. “House music lacks something when it’s just instrumental,” says Adeva. “A lot of DJs and producers don’t realize how important vocals are. People may get off on a bassline or a drum track, but they identify with a strong vocal sung from the heart.”

Inspired but not overwhelmed by the sound of the New York club underground that centered on the now-gone Paradise Garage, Adeva’s music was initially labeled “garage music.” But Adeva never actually went to the Garage; her Baptist parents forbade her, which is ironic given the Paradise Garage’s reputation as a spiritual place, more akin to a church than a nightclub. “Perhaps they should call it Zanzibar music, because Zanzibar has become the new Garage,” says Adeva, referring to the Newark club that’s the center of the New Jersey deep house scene. Zanzibar’s DJ, Tony Humphries, has been responsible for bringing the Jersey sound to a larger audience with his midnight mastermix shows on New York’s KISS-FM. In England, bootleg tapes of his weekend radio show are as precious as decent dentures and good drugs.

Another key factor in the rise of Adeva has been her innovative production team, Smack, led by Mike Cameron. “We’ve always been into a more R&B type of club music in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean that’s all we do,” says Cameron. His most recent projects include two reggae-inna-house-music-style singles: ‘Me Wan See Ya Dance’ by Jamaican-born Hendricks and Tony Dread’s ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’.

Already a pop success in the UK, Adeva’s largely unknown outside of the house scene in this country. “I’m as big as Al B. Sure! in England,” she says. “American music is all about politics and categories. Over in England it’s about listening to what’s good. You can count the number of Caucasian people at my appearances in this country. It’s not like that in the UK.”

Her latest single, ‘Warning’, is classic disco with a fierce volition and an even fiercer ‘I’m Every Woman’ ballbusting attitude. “This is a warning, red alert, emergency/This is a warning, keep your love away from me,” sings a brassy Adeva. It’s a song that directly recalls the fuller sound of such late ’70s/early ’80s New York indies as West End and Prelude. But Adeva says, “Those old disco records sound weak these days. They don’t have that heavy bass sound that people get off on. If I can quote Jazzie B. [of Soul II Soul], ‘A thumpin’ bass, for a lovin’ race’ is what the people want to hear.”

© Frank OwenSpin, October 1989

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