Dynamic Duo RaeCola Reflect on Their Roots, Future of Ghetto Tech House

Electrifying the city of Chicago in the mid-1980s, the electronic genre “ghetto house” stylized an underground culture of club music that combined disco, synth music, 70s soul, and funk. The genre evolved to combine an impressive array of influences, eventually mixing techno and juke beats with heavy bass drops and the classic upbeat rhythms of house music. Chicago’s era of ghetto house introduced a wave of new-age music that continues to revolutionize electronic production today.

Born and raised in Chicago, Rae and Nicole Henderson experienced the impact of ghetto house firsthand and closely engaged with the genre’s transformation. Putting together their skills and vision, they combined their names to form RaeCola.

RaeCola photographed in light pink outfits in front of pink flowers
Photo Credit: Nichole Washington

RaeCola is an exciting addition to the electronic community, encompassing the infectious and creative culture of ghetto house music. Their first, and recently released EP, Bezerk, pays homage to Chicago’s groovy brand of tech and ghetto house — celebrating their new-age spin on dance music.

The twin sisters were music enthusiasts from an early age, citing artists such as DJ Rashad, DJ Slugo and other Midwest and Chicago acts as early influences in dance, before later getting introduced to hip hop. Their journey as up-and-coming electronic producers combines their colorful musical and cultural influences, fusing both sound and fashion design via all elements of their artistic performance. 

“We feel like as people we all have had such a journey through what music influences us during different times,” Rae said to MP3 MAG. “I think about our childhood and the music that our parents listened to that still has an influence in terms of what makes us move. We grew up on a lot of funk … when we were a little bit older we heard ghetto house for the first time.”

Nicole, who also reflected on their mother’s love for Prince and fashion as an influence, added to her inspirations.

“When it comes to persona and performance, I like Teyana Taylor a lot. I love her fashion, we’re both really into fashion. And, Green Velvet, his transformation throughout his career has kind of stuck with us. His energy is so contagious where you can’t help but enjoy yourself because you know how much he is himself.”

Inspired by their dual vision, RaeCola turned their dreams into a decisive reality. Collectively, the sisters quit their jobs and began their transition into full-time DJing by enrolling at the Icon Collective Music School of Los Angeles. Motivated and determined, this decision was a passionate step forward for the young producers and became a turning point in the early stages of their careers.

“When we quit our jobs to DJ full time, it was definitely impulsive,” Rae said.“You can only do so much with your time, and it’s hard to put time towards something that wasn’t my full attention. I was like, ‘alright, I’m going to put myself out there and give all my time to what I’m doing. Because this has to work.’” 

RaeCola photographed in green and yellow tops and accessories laying on a black sheet with records surrounding them
Photo Credit: Peter Nylund

“I think about the times that I was working full-time and DJing,” Nicole continued. “I was at work constantly thinking about music. So, once it came time to quit, it just kind of felt like this is what I’m going to do. I didn’t feel like there was a plan B. So, not having something that we plan to fall back on almost pushed us more because we’re like, we are going to make this work.” 

Taking courses online, Rae and Nicole went through an in-depth and personalized introduction to the different stages of music development. From beginning as self-taught producers, they could now use a more hands-on approach and learn from knowledgeable mentors in the music industry. The program introduced them to new influences and spurred them to think about music in a new way.

“I think one of my favorite things about [Icon] was that each quarter we got a different mentor,” Nicole said. “It was so cool connecting with artists with such a range of experience in such a range of genres from synth-pop to bass. Everyone has a certain take on things and their own processes. It was awesome to learn from people who are working in the industry and see exactly how they’re doing things.” 

Starting from self-teaching outlets like YouTube, the duo experienced a dramatic learning curve through the school’s creative, yet structured program. Reflecting on their experience at Icon Collective, RaeCola received useful instruction and learned through a careful balance of technical training and personalized experiences. The program designed a useful guide for the up-and-coming duo to better understand their direction and overall artistic brand. 

RaeCola photographed in black and white and holding their hands up to the camera
Photo Credit: Adam Simms a.k.a. Simms City

The sister duo has since made massive steps in their journey to define their own sound and stylize a new brand of expression. The eclectic pair seeks to create their own lane within the electronic genre and continue to promote their freedom of expression. Their originality extends across all creative outlets by combining a similarly vibrant spirit within their sound and fashion choices.  

“We’re both really into fashion,” said Rae. “I think that fashion, for me, culturally goes hand in hand with music. We both went to school originally for fashion. It has determined our personal expression a lot. Whatever outlet it may be, whether it’s our hair, our clothes, makeup, [or the] visual aspects, it also goes hand in hand with allowing us to be open-minded in terms of music.”

RaeCola’s EP, Bezerk pays homage to Chicago’s groovy brand of tech and ghetto house, coining their own new-age spin, dubbed ghetto tech house. Their two-track EP is just the beginning as RaeCola eagerly anticipates their emerging next chapter of production with exciting new releases.

“I’m excited to have more releases,” said Rae. “We’re working to incorporate our vocals more into our tracks and branch out from what we’ve already done through the groovy tech house and ghetto house.”

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