The history of Chicago’s 3 Degrees Global collective, representing a missing link in Chicago house music history as told by its members: Jeremiah Seraphine, Forever Monna, Julius The Mad Thinker, Dj-FLX, Priti Gandhi, BIGSEXY and Czboogie…
The story of 3° is a story that is best told by its members. There were at one point thousands, and there probably still are thousands of people who feel like they are part of the 3° experiment.
It began however with just six — three DJs and three promoters who shared a love for house music and joined together with the intention of uniting Chicago’s underground house music scene. They laid the groundwork for something that became stronger than a DJ collective, stronger than a residency or a tour. It was sometimes all of those things. But 3º Global is important because it was — from day one — so much more.
3° was officially founded in 1999, holding their first event at a place on Chicago’s Orleans Street called the Side Car Cafe. 3° then was made up of longtime members Jeremiah Seraphine, Monna and Julius The Mad Thinker, plus Julian Clark and Dell Dyson (both of whom have since passed away) and Bobby Kasami. Priti Gandhi, BIGSEXY and Dj-FLX later joined, with the most recent addition of Czboogie (who is the editor of 5 Mag, natch).
‘We were 3° in mind, body and soul before we even came up with the name.’
The foundation beneath the name and the philosophy of 3° was the concept of interrelated relationships and a membership system built by friends, and then the friends of friends who became friends. Each of the founding members invited twenty or so of their closest friends to the show. These became the first wave of members for 3°’s members only events. Friends were then able to invite and vouch for their own friends to become members too. To quote from one of 3° early documents:
“We believe that like minded individuals are separated by at most, 3 degrees of separation rather than six, hence the name of our family, our company, and our movement. We understand that people, who share our ideals, by nature, are more closely related to us than others. In order to keep this understanding among all of our members, the 3° membership grows only through the voucher of a common friend. If you share our vision, it is inevitable that you will, at some point, be introduced to our family.
“The result of keeping with the ideal of 3 degrees of separation is the formation of a cohesive group of people who are bound by friendship. We have been implementing this concept for over two years and we have grown from a group of five friends to a family of over 3,000 spread around the world. The unbelievable fact is that we haven’t lost an ounce of intimacy. All 3,000+ members are still connected through, at most, three relationships.”
Out of the intimacy of these events came the “seven principles of 3°,” described in the same document as “commonalities we have observed in our members. These are the ideas that define us as a group.” They were:
5. Open Mindedness
From Side Car Cafe, 3° would hold down events at Fuse and then Zentra. They created the concept of “The Ultra Lounge” and events were held in cities all over the country, from San Francisco to New York and of course at WMC. Soon 3° was on an endless tour, under the rubric “Some Call It House, We Call It Home.”
There was no exclusivity in the DJ booth. Aside from a sterling list of global figures, you’d have a hard time thinking of very many Chicago house DJs of the era that were not guests at 3° party. You can look through some of the photos here (provided by Jeremiah Seraphine) and see for yourself — figures like Frankie Knuckles, Derrick Carter, Mark Grant, Ron Trent, Glenn Underground, Frique, Lady D, Légo, Craig Loftis, Hakim Murphy, Lil John, DJ Jes, Andre Harris, Andre Hatchett and more — where “and more” really does mean “a lot more.”
‘Nothing mattered on the dance floor except who you truly were and how the music made you feel.’
But at the heart of 3° — and perhaps this could be of interest to promoters today, frustrated by events and crowds that feel ephemeral and distracted — was a membership concept that actually worked. 3° members were both audience and participant; a unique part of a crowd and an indispensable part of a movement. To be a 3° member meant something important to you; the true measure of 3° is that it still means something important to the members who speak about it today.
“The very first 3° party was a Wednesday night in November 1999 at Side Car Cafe (801 N Orleans). The owners, Nick Giordano and Vince Elipito, were guys Julian Clark and I grew up with in Oak Park.
“3° never would have happened without Julian pulling us all together. We were all doing our own things at the time, but we knew each other and played at each others’ events. Julius and Dell had Lamp Squad, Monna was playing out at various spots, and Julian, Priti and I had a crew called Deep Funkshunz. Julian suggested we all collaborate.
“The name and concept of 3°, a members only night where members could bring up to two guests, started with each of the founding members making our ~20 closest friends the first wave of members. The first night had such an amazing vibe because it was all of our closest friends meeting and getting down with each other. It was authentic and beautiful. We knew we were on to something. Each week the party and vibe grew, but just through our friends’ friends.
“Our membership concept wasn’t a gimmick. Everyone there was connected in a deeper way than at most other parties. We actively worked to only allow new people to join us if they were introduced by other members (aka friends). Of course we opened it up for our bigger parties on weekend nights, but that core membership was and is the difference. When you have intimacy like that if makes for better dance floors, deeper conversations, and longer lasting connections.
“Music-wise, our collective kept it house, but reflected the diversity of our membership.””
What are some of your favorite 3° shows?
Wednesday lock-ins at Fuse 1999 – early 2000. “After moving to Fuse our Wednesdays started to get really big. We fought really hard to do it our way and stick with the “members only” concept. We were able to do it and maintain an intimate family vibe. The members only thing enabled us to pull off antics like giving everyone at the end of the night a free drink or locking the doors and keeping the party going after hours into the morning. Those days were magical and I can say our dancefloor was one of the most vibrant dancefloors in the city at that time.”
The first 3 Degrees black Wednesday party with SuperJane, November 1999. “I distinctly remember Heather or Colette asking me “Where did all these people come from?” Back then our crowd was new to many of the guest DJs we brought in to spin. It was an amalgamation of our respective groups of friends coming together. Many weren’t fixtures in Chicago’s house scene yet. Julius and Dell had their Lamp Squad crew. Julian, Priti, and I had a following from our Deep Funkshunz underground parties and a weekly at Cafe Penelope near UIC. Monna was the most “plugged in” out of all of us and he introduced us to all of the old schoolers. So to DJs like SuperJane, our Wednesday night party was full of brand new people who loved to dance. For a DJ, there isn’t anything better than that.
Also that night, I pulled off a very long blend of DJ Spen’s “Craze at Midnight” with Layo and Bushwacka’s “Deep South” that got the crowd going and was one of those DJ moments that you remember more than 20 years later.”
WMC 3 Degrees Party on the terrace of our hotel at 2nd and Collins. “That year we shared a hotel with the Panhandle crew (Jonene, Tasho, Eliga), Roam Recordings (Chad Mitchell, JP Soul), the Swirl People, Aesoteric Records (Demarkus Lewis, et al), and others. We all became super tight that trip and they were all at the party along with a big Chicago contingent and a bunch of my Florida friends. I love spinning outside and nothing beats an outdoor WMC party.”
Some Call It House We Call It Home with Naked Music at Zentra – Aug 31, 2002. “It was an amazing night. I shared the decks upstairs at Zentra with Mauricio Aviles, Rasoul, and Alain “Corazon.” We packed Zentra, the vibe was thick in everyroom, and everyone was there.”
Some Call It House We Call It Home with Jask, Sean Ferguson, and Chang Nov 21, 2001 at Zentra. “During college, I used to go to a members only nightclub in Gainesville, Florida called Simon’s. It was one of the premier clubs in Florida and a favorite of artists like Danny Teneglia, Dubtribe, DeeLite and others. The 3° concept was heavily influenced by Simon’s. So this event was personally satisfying to bring three of the Simon’s mainstay DJs to 3° and perform with them. The party went off.”
1.— Kings of Tomorrow: Finally
2.— DJ Spen: Craze at Midnight
3.— Aquarian Dream: Love & Tears
4.— Kevin Yost: Dreams Of You
5.— Jonny Corporate: Sunday Shoutin’
“It is said that everyone on earth is separated by at most six degrees of separation. It is our belief that like-minded individuals are separated by only three.
“The natural formulation of “3º of separation” was something special. We all were adding to the music community in some way. But the essence of how we connected was amazing.
“I lived on North Avenue by Wells, “Second City.” One day coming out of my apartment, I noticed two cool guys across the street, Jeremiah Seraphine and Julian Clark. We gazed at each other smiling as if we met before but just couldn’t remember the names of one another. We talked and laughed while exchanging numbers to meet up and hang out.
“Julius and his cousin Dell were doing events in Elgin under “Lamp Squad.” I was spinning locally in the city at clubs. Then we magically met up through association and they asked me to spin at their event. We were linked from there on.
“Jeremiah had a Thursday night where he invited Julius and myself to DJ. That became a discovery of how we truly loved the music we played, it was an amazing feeling amongst friends.
“We all got together one night and attended “Karma” on Grand Avenue where we met the lovely Priti Gandhi, who Jeremiah already knew. We all connected so strongly that, it was a “meant to be” scenario on the spot. Shortly we all realized that we would be friends for a long time!
“Felix and Alex were intrigued and brought in by Julius. Dell and Julian suggested we all come together and do an event since we were all hanging out and DJing every week. We then started meeting up to discuss how to shape our ideas into fruition. That will always be my favorite 3° gig because all that energy and essence was transferred over to the music and dance floor. We were 3° in mind, body and soul before we even came up with the name. It was a true and spiritual experience of connection that we all felt in our hearts.
“We started doing events at Side Car, which led to Fuse, then Zentra. The Ultra Lounge was formed and started up in multiple cities, such as San Francisco, New York, and Miami for the Winter Music Conference.
“Family, Diversity, Passion, Creativity, Humility, Responsibility and Open Mindedness. These seven principles are shared with 3° members worldwide and we feel that these principles best define ourselves and events and help us define whom we call friends. These elements and commonalities were felt at every 3° event in all cities with 3° members.”
1. — Erro: Change for me
2. — Kenny Bobien: Father
3. — Kenny Bobien: I Shall Not Be Moved
4. — Kenny Bobien: Brighter Days
5. — KOT: Fall For you (Sandy Rivera’s Classic Mix)
6. — Armand Van Helden Feat Roland Clark: Flowerz
7. — Eric Kupper: Havana
8. — Frankie Knuckles: Whistle Song
9. — Star Suite: Mondo Grosso
10. — Pepe Bradock: Deep Burnt
11. — Koloke: West Afrikan Guitar Groove
12. — Leela: My Joy
13. — Osunlade: Bodydrum
14. — Osunlade: Mirror Dance
15. — Antonio Ocasio: Mocha Latina
16. — Blaze: How Deep Is Your Love
17. — Quentin Harris Ft. Cordell McClary: Travelling
18. — Eric Kupper: Learn To Give
Julius The Mad Thinker
What makes a 3° show unique?
“The concept, where there is a great possibility that all like-minded individuals are only separated by 3 people across the world. The 3° family discovering positive commonalities and mutual connections produced unimaginable moments and life long bonds.”
What were your most memorable 3º gigs?
2000. “NYE when we closed the club doors and went til 7am in the morning (lol)”
2001. “Large Party & 3° at WMC Miami, the gig that gave 3° its international appeal.”
2001. “July 3 Some Call It House We Call It Home event in Chicago featuring Naked Music Party w/ Miguel Miigs, Lisa Shaw, RAWSOUL, Mauricio Aviles.”
2001-2007. “The 3° SF Foundation parties at Liquid and then Pink.”
2001. “3° Ultra Lounge Chicago when Priti arranged Frankie Knuckles to play a surprise DJ set for my birthday. I’ll never forget walking up to get in and the crew was like hold on! I look behind me and there was Frankie Knuckles. I was like Holy Sh*t! He gave me a big hug.”
1. — United Future Organization: Flying saucer (Kings Of Tomorrow Remix)
2. — Julie McKnight & KOT: Finally
3. — Donna Allen: He is the Joy
4. — DJ Spen: Craze at Midnight
5. — Jamiroquai: Dance (MAW mix)
6. — JtMT & Emmaculate: Words of 3Degrees
“Fresh off the plane from Hawaii in the late nineties I went to my first official 3° event at Fuse on Clark. It was members only at the time and my friend FLIP Michael Davis vouched for me to get in.
“The vibe was deep Chicago heads — I saw cats like Mark Grant, Andre Harris, and many other DJ/producer types in the room. I knew I was in that space… but what really did it for me was the people.
“That was one of many 3° memorable moments… [Also] King Street Sounds, traxsource.com & 3° at YUCA Miami ’08 with Frankie Knuckles, Studio Apartment, Barbara Tucker, Quentin Harris, Ed DunnEASY, Alex BIGSEXY Gray and the crew from Chicago, DC, NYC, errbody!
“We all worked the door and always greeted the good people. And to this date we run into people from Chicago or other countries that we met at a 3° event.
“The music at the time when you walked in the “Ultra Lounge” Wednesday night for 3° ran the spectrum of house, featuring the most important local and global talent.
“I want to show love and give thanks to all the producers, DJs, singers and performers that would come in the party with fresh new heat to test their new pressings or CDs — cats like Glenn Underground, Jeff Craven, Andy Compton, Anthony Nicholson, MR A.L.I, Kenny Carvajal, John Pierce, DJ Jes, Stacy Kidd, Andrew Emil, Paul Johnson, Ron Trent, Louie Vega, David Morales, Frankie Feliciano, Joe Claussell, Marques Wyatt, Jojo Flores, Malik Alston, Bryan Gerrard, David Drone, Monte Hilleman, Peven Everett, Antonio Ocasio, Kenny Bobien, Monique Bingham, Lisa Shaw, Franky Boissy, Kai Alcé, Roy Davis, Jr., Eric Welton, Chosen Few DJs, Ronda Flowers, Reggie from The Way We Were, Eric Williams, Robert Williams, Frankie Knuckles, Josh Milan, Kevin Hedge, E-Man, Diviniti, DJ Aladdin, Tortured Soul, etc…”
What are some of your 3° Global essential tracks?
“I don’t do favorites or feel we have a quintessential song for 3°, that’s just pretentious. [But] I love moments. I remember Julius TMT would drop ‘Love & Tears’ by Aquarian Dreams for the 101st time (that cut hit every time). Or Monna would catch me off guard and slam a Detroit banger like Model 500 ‘No UFO’s.’ Or that one time Jeremiah mixed in a stoopid version of Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking on Thin Ice,’ I think by Louie Vega. All I know is nothing beats that moment… ‘Where were you?’ ‘At a 3° party.'”
What was your favorite or most memorable 3° show?
“The 3° members, the vibe, hosting and programming of music made 3° events different. Nothing mattered on the dance floor except who you truly were and how the music made you feel.
“There are so many favorites it’s hard to name just one. However one that really stands out in my mind is when Frankie Knuckles was a surprise guest at 3° Ultra Lounge. Ultra Lounge was every Wednesday at Zentra where we had different guest DJs each week. There was a big banner across the front of the DJ booth that said ‘Who Will Be Next?’
“Sometimes the guests were announced ahead of time and other times it was a surprise so you just had to be there to know who played that night. Talk about FOMO if you found out the next day that Frankie Knuckles played and you weren’t there that night!”
What are some of your 3° Global essential tracks?
There were quintessential 3° moments when everyone on the dance floor would go wild, such as DJ-FLX playing ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ by Blaze, Monna dropping ‘Forever Monna’ by Chez Damier & Stacey Pullen, Jeremiah playing ‘Closer than Close’ by Rosie Gaines or Julius playing Afro Celt Sound System’s ‘Release
All of these tracks and so many more take me back to a perfect 3° moment in time!
“3° is everything and nothing. Literally!
“At first glance, it’s just another party in a building in Chicago that has a sound system, a dance floor, a DJ, dancers, a bar, some liquor, bartenders and drinkers.
“But it wasn’t about what or the who… it was about the why.
“Everyone was there because they were all VIPs. The only way that you could become a member was if someone vouched for you. The card would allow the member to bring two friends. The member would introduce them to us and then we would tell them what 3° was all about. They would get a card sometimes, sometimes we asked them to come back next time. We’d hand them a business card in case they came back without the member that originally brought them. They would get a card then.
“You couldn’t just walk up, not knowing someone, and expect to get in. Before I moved to DC and eventually became a DJ I would work the door with Julius ‘Tupac’ and always turned folks away. But before they left I explained 3° and gave them my card. I would tell them to check out the website and hit me up if they wanted to come back the following week. That’s how it grew organically.
“Another focus was introducing members to other members so eventually everyone knew everyone else. It became a family, it became everyone’s home.
“When we moved to Fuse on Clark Street and Chicago Avenue, we were averaging roughly 20 to 30 people and ironically the party was still dope. We had a deal for a percentage of the bar, since we did not charge cover. As we grew our ring grew, we always got paid but we were clueless. When we were packing out Fuse, the dance floor was actually bowing in from everybody dancing and the turntables on rubber bands were shaking uncontrollably.
“Nicole, our bartender, told us the owners were cheating us. She would tell us what the actual ring was every night, and it was far more than what they were telling us. I was living in DC at the time but I hopped the next plane to Chicago and we had one of our famous 3° eight hour long arguing meetings on Sunday.
“Around that time, Seth who was the GM at Zentra, was approaching us about doing a party there. That Sunday we called him up and asked, ‘Do you want us to move our party to Wednesdays at Zentra?’ He said yes. We wrote a letter, told all of our members what was going on, and asked them to meet us at Zentra this Wednesday, and not go to Fuse.
“That Wednesday rolled around, we had about 200 to 300 people that night and reports from Fuse was that one single person showed up. I’ve never seen that happen anywhere else or even heard of that happening anywhere else. That’s why 3º was ‘everything.’
“So why was it ‘nothing?’ So one night after Zentra, the partners, as we usually did, went to Hollywood Grill for our late night breakfast. Hollywood Grill was packed with everybody that had gone to Zentra. I believe it was DJ Frique that was looking around and said that it was “3° Hollywood Grill night” or something to that effect, because everyone there all knew each other. We’re all talking, laughing and having fun and eating.
“That’s what we would all would have done if we weren’t members or partners or friends: my little crew over here, another crew over there, a little crew over there, a little crew over there. Like any normal weekend night, the place would be packed and crews would be talking to each other, but not other groups. That was the “nothing” that made 3° different. It was just like anything else, but we just found those underlying connections that we all share but often don’t take the time to nurture.
“But I also can’t forget to say the music is always off the charts, that 3° music…”
1. — KB2: Love to the World
2. — Donna Allen: He is the Joy (U. B. P Classic Mix)
3. — DJ Spen: Craze at Midnight
4. — Kenny Bobien: I Shall Not Be Moved
5. — Tortured Soul: Might Do Something Wrong
6. — Kerri Chandler: Digital Love Affair
7. — Dennis Ferrer: Colors
8. — Bucketheadz: Went
9. — ATFC: Bad Habit (ATFC Club Mix)
10. — Big Moses ft. Kenny Bobien: Brighter Days
11. — Moodymann: I Can’t Kick this feeling when it hits
12. — Moodymann: Shades of Jae
13. — Julian Jabre: Voodance
“Around 2014 I was doing a benefit for a massive typhoon that had hit the Philippines (where I’m from.) Dj-FLX was one of the DJs and he suggested we do a second one at Primary Nightclub where 3º was holding a residency at the time. That night after my set Jeremiah and I were talking and he alluded to me about joining 3º, but I wasn’t quite sure whether it was an actual offer. At some point I started doing parties with them both at their Primary residency and eventually when it moved to Betty’s Blue Star with Monna & Big Sexy. People would often ask me “So are you part of 3º now?” and I would answer “I’m not sure!”
“I had been going to 3º parties when they were doing them at Zentra on Wednesdays in the early 2000s. Around that time I was doing my own night at Trace till 2am so afterwards me and my dancers would head out to finish the night off at Zentra. I have a vivid memory of walking up to the front of the club and Priti working the door. She explained to me and two other guys the principles of 3º and asked us to introduce ourselves, then signed us up for membership cards. I was a member!
“3º was always a group that I looked up to. They had the coolest parties, a very beautiful and mixed crowd, and of course I loved their soulful music. I have a distinct memory of going to their parties in Miami during WMC and having a long conversation with Julius on our way to Nikki Beach. All of them were so friendly. To be a part of this collective which is not just limited to the seven of us but extends to a family of DJs around the world is a true honor.”
1.— Tortured Soul: I Might Do Something Wrong
2.— Incognito: Always There
3.— United Future Organization: Flying Saucer (Kings of Tomorrow ReMix)
4.— Diane King: You Give Good Love
5.— NuYorican Soul: The Nervous Track
+++ Anything by Blaze, MAW, Joey Negro aka Dave Lee, Kerri Chandler
photo: Louis Fitch
5 Mag Issue 208
Out July 2023
WE STILL CALL IT HOUSE: This was originally published in 5 Mag Issue #208 featuring the story of Chicago house music collective 3 Degrees Global, a tribute to DJ Deeon, a cover mix by and profile of Gratts, Detroit vocalist Diviniti, John Davis of the disco’s scariest orchestra, the great vanishing of pirate sites more. Help keep our vibe alive by becoming a member for $2/month and get every issue in your inbox right away!
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