7 things you need to know about Jubilee
© David Cabrera / Red Bull Content Pool
The Miami-born producer is a global beats hunter and first lady of New York’s Mixpak label. Here's what you need to know about Red Bull Music Odyssey’s Wine Up Boat captain.
On 30 June, Jess Gentile – known to the music world as Jubilee – will be leaving solid ground to captain one of the six boats drifting down the River Thames as part of Red Bull Music Odyssey. Listen out for the boat with all the airhorns, as she careers down the Thames with her cherry-picked crew of dancehall artists - Kranium, Equiknoxx, Lisa Mercedez, Swing Ting and Lil C.
We spoke to Jubilee ahead of the 50-artist extravaganza to find out about her raver past, her futurist influences and why the hell a Miami girl would need green tights.
1. Theatre was Jubilee’s original rave
“I have a musical background,” she explains. “I was in theatre and took piano lessons for the first 15 years of my life. My biggest role was Peter Pan when I was like 12. I cut my hair for the part and everything! Finding green tights in Miami was impossible.” But it wasn’t long before she discovered the “music, the people and the big pants” of Florida’s underground rave scene and switched up the razzle dazzle for trance breaks and the perpetual search for the jungle room.
But she’ll always have a special place in her heart for a little bit of jazz hands. “I just saw the Gloria Estefan musical, which was ideal because Gloria Estefan is my idol and I love musicals!”
2. She’s named after an X-Men character
Jess first became Jubilee in a pre-Soundcloud age where the search for new music and outlier genres happened via messageboards. “Jubilee was my messageboard name,” she explains. “It’s from an X-Men character – the young one that was always at the mall and liked to go out and party. I was pretty into comics.”
So when she relocated to New York with her crew and was persuaded by promoter DJ Seoul to take over the basement space at his massive drum 'n' bass parties for her first foray into DJing, the name made sense – “I always say that nobody should make up their own DJ name but I guess I kind of did!”
I was full Miami – I had a huge soundsystem in my car
3. Jubilee is a byword for New York party royalty
In the late '00s Jubilee was part of a scene that was shaping the playful bassy sounds coming out of the city and the parties that were happening within it. She ran digital label Nightshifters with DJ Donna Summer, threw parties with Fool’s Gold’s Nick Catchdubs and shared an apartment with Trouble & Bass’s Star Eyes and Mixpak boss, Dre Skull. By 2012 Dre had lured her to the genre-hopping, Caribbean-tinged world of his label, where she started making her own tunes in earnest.
4. She's a boy racer without a car
In 2016 Jubilee dropped her debut album, After Hours. It’s a heady mix of old-school salsa, soca, dancehall, rap, Miami bass and freestyle and features the massive Wine Up with Hoodcelebrityy. “I had to drive so far to go to these parties across Florida,” she explains. “That drive was a part of the experience. I was full Miami – I had a huge soundsystem in my car. And listening to mixtapes was my pre-game. That was my inspiration for the album.”
“I don’t really drive now because I live in New York. But whenever I finish music I always have to give it the car test. I will rent a car if I have to and just drive it around.”
5. Jubilee is the ultimate Anglophile
This year she was granted a much-coveted slot on Radio One’s Residency. And she could not be more at home. "When I was young I really loved jungle and the MCs and the culture of it,” she explains. “The first time I came to the UK I was about 17 and I was with my parents – I made them go to a rave!”
Her sets are invariably chock-full of UK-centric sounds, from grime to dubstep, two-step to funky (“I was clearing dancefloors with grime in New York a really long time ago!”). She plays London parties regularly and describes Notting Hill Carnival as “the best weekend of the year”.
Plus, she’ll always have Dizzee Rascal. “The year that I moved to New York was really shortly after Boy In Da Corner came out. I remember listening to Dizzee on repeat, walking around lost in New York. It’s super nostalgic to me. This was before Google Maps so I listened to a lot of Dizzee!
6. She slayed Red Bull Culture Clash 2016
Mixpak came into the Culture Clash as 2016’s underdogs - “Everyone was like, “who are they!?”. But with an immaculately collated and curated team including Big Narstie, J-Hus and Sneakbo and that dub of Drake's One Dance (“We got that in the car on the way there”), they took home the trophy. “The whole night was such a blur – I was so nervous,” Jubilee recalls. "I was like, 'How did this girl from Florida get to the O2 with all of these artists that I love?!'”
But she’ll always remember it as one of the best nights of her life. “I think the moment that really railed it in was Spice. When she dropped into the split and told Wiz Khalifa 'Eat Mi Pum Pum'. I was just like ‘I can’t!’”
7. And she plans on slaying some more as captain of the Wine Up
“I’ll be preparing in my own way to do the best, most spirited set that I could possibly do in my life,” she beams. “I really love everybody on the line up. The good thing is that nobody’s getting missed because you have to be on the boat the whole time. I’m really excited for people to not come for one specific act, but to experience it all. Everybody brings something different to the table. Everyone’s gonna wanna be on our boat!”