A DJ's Journey through the Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of House Music in New York City

The Beat, the Scene, the Sound follows DJ Disciple and his behind-the-scenes account of how DJs, promoters, fans, and others transformed house music from a DIY project into an international sensation—dive into the glitzy clubs, underground parties, and the diverse communities who made up the scene amidst the tumult of 1980s/90s-era NYC—between the fall of disco and the rise of EDM.

The book unearths many untold stories of the era. When house first rose to prominence in the 1980s, it brought people together—Palladium, Paradise Garage, Tunnel, Zanzibar, Studio 54, and other clubs were going strong. But as DJ Disciple established himself in the scene, he witnessed it shatter. During the crack-cocaine epidemic, he literally dodged bullets bringing his records to and from clubs at night. HIV/AIDS and homophobia threw up fear-based partitions. Then, mayors worked to close the clubs. House music was pushed underground and then abroad to the UK and Europe. Disciple and many other DJs sought to regain a footing in the United States, but that only became possible with the rise of commercialized EDM.

With dozens of interviews and historic photographs, The Beat, the Scene, the Sound shows what is possible when you bring people together and what can unravel when you split them apart.

Amazon Rowman & Littlefield

Excerpt from The Beat, the Scene, the Sound © Copyright 2023 DJ Disciple and Rowman & Littlefield Publishers


It was ten miles from The Empire in Middlesbrough to the warehouse outside of town. But DJ Disciple had just a few minutes before his set.

The roads were deserted. It was 11:00 PM on December 31, 1999. Most of the North Yorkshire locals were in one of two places: at home, wondering if the world’s computer systems and societies were about to self-destruct, or partying in one of the hundreds of theaters, community halls, industrial spaces, and pubs that transformed into dance clubs across northern England.

A light snow started to fall. Disciple had played The Empire with his fellow DJ and radio co-host Tony Walker earlier in the evening. They had formed the same bill the year before at the converted Victorian theater for a live set that aired on MTV. For that night in 1998, they had packed the three-level venue, so the promoters had it easy this time around. When word got out that Walker and Disciple would be headlining for Y2K, advance tickets sold out faster than they could be printed, and hopeful house heads gathered outside of the venue hours before the doors opened.

Disciple arrived at the gig with two aces up his sleeve: acetate copies of “You Don’t Know Me” by the up-and-coming Armand Van Helden and Frankie Knuckles’ remix of Allison Limerick’s “Where the Love Lives.” Both had driven The Empire crowd wild.

Now, Disciple had left Walker at the theater to head to an unknown location event. Word had circulated in the local house community. To get there, you had to show up to one spot where the promoters would shuttle partiers to the warehouse in question. The local fire marshal did not get the invite.

Disciple was riding on the kind of energy that only comes when you get paid overtime to do the thing you love. New Year’s Eve meant double bubble— otherwise known as double pay—and Y2K pushed those DJ fees even higher. Disciple could use the extra funds to compose new beats, cut new tracks in the studio, and eat three meals a day in the process for months to come.

Middlesbrough became a glow on the horizon. The snow was coming down harder. They passed a club-goer decked out in full party attire with his thumb out. There was no time to stop. They were driving too fast, and besides, there was no room in the car to spare with the other passengers and Disciple’s crates of records.

Less than a mile down the road, the driver failed to make a hard left. The car shot off the curb, rolled over and over down the embankment, and settled upside down in the ditch. Somehow, everyone was fine. Disciple jumped out of the car, gathered his records, and headed up to the road.

When the next car came along, Disciple didn’t stick out his thumb. He waved like he was escaping a hostage situation. The car screeched to a halt. It was full of more clubbers who, after seeing the crashed car and understanding who they were dealing with, immediately jumped out and helped Disciple pack his records in the trunk. Everyone squeezed in, and he promised them that everyone would get in free if they got to the gig in time.

The warehouse was just three minutes down the road. They pulled up to the side loading dock and ran through to where the sound system was set up. The crowd at capacity was making the %oor bounce. At the turntables, the resident DJ looked around, wondering if he needed to extend his two-hour set. When he saw Disciple, he nodded and got on the mic.

“Ladies and gentlemen, DJ Disciple is in the house.”

Disciple prepared his records and got ready to make the hand-off. With the resident’s last track spinning, Disciple carefully placed his wax on the vacant plate. He brought the levels up, and the crowd heard the words of Simion, the villain from Dexter’s Laboratory: “What is my problem with man you ask? No, I ask you what was man’s problem with me?”

The beat, sampled from Jaydee’s “Plastic Dreams,” dropped. Synths crept in. Duane Harden sang, “You don’t even know me.” The clock ticked down. A new millennium began.

Featured on Joelbooks