The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places and parties that made this whole operation possible. With that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we’re breaking out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
“Follow Me,” by New Jersey’s Aly-Us, has all the makings of a classic “not quite right” dance track: shrill synthesizer strings, a creeping bassline, marching hi-hat, unpolished male vocals preaching a utopian gospel, and a lo-fi, handhewn charm. The off-kilter quality is found in many endearing dance records that are celebrated more for their creators’ enthusiasm, and the euphoria their joyful noise conjures, than for displaying any major label or top-shelf finesse. When it dropped on New York’s venerated imprint Strictly Rhythm in 1992, the roughshod charm of “Follow Me” hit DJ culture like a force of nature, and it quickly joined the canon of indelible dance tracks and zeitgeist markers.
Reflecting on the enduring appeal of a song that came together in a basement using a 4-track, Eddie “Supa” Lewis (one third of Aly-Us) tells us, “That was blessed by God and three dudes,” referring to DJ Kyle “Small” Smith and William Brian Jennings, who comprise the trio with him.
The music video features the group performing at a makeshift club/house party crammed with people letting loose in early 1990s fashions. Hands are in the air, shirts are coming off, people of all shapes and shades are bumping, grinding and belting out the track’s lyrics (“I’m hoping to see the day/When my people can all relate”) and its earworm hook (“Why don’t you follow me/To a place/Where we can be free”). If you’re having a bad day, pull it up on YouTube and reminisce or imagine these are likely someone’s parents—maybe even yours? It’s better than Prozac.
However, as Black Madonna posted on Twitter recently, “The line between classic and absolutely ridiculous is so, so, so thin in dance music.” “Follow Me” was not without its detractors or dubious uses. Derrick Carter, for one, says, “I gave my promo of it away and never looked back.” Pressed for why, he cites all of the classic’s core elements—”all of it,” he re-emphasizes. The track’s association with pansexual liberation, normally a positive, was also flipped into shady commentary. In 2013, when Hot 97’s Mister Cee was busted for allegedly soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute, bits of the song were played as rebuttal in sync with with his on-air denials. More innocuous takes included the parody “Smoke Some Weed,” which briefly made the rounds underground in the late 1990s.
But 25 years on, “Follow Me” ultimately remains an unrelentingly uplifting call to action. In 2015, the track was played at a memorial party following the Baltimore Uprising, commemorating the death of Freddie Gray. Its inspirational lyrics—“We must stop fighting/To achieve the peace”—delivered catharsis to a community distraught by police brutality. This year, the track was included on NPR’s playlist commemorating the 2016 Pulse Nightclub terrorist attack in Florida, and Moby included the track on a double CD of his DJ staples that accompanies his recent memoir, Porcelain.
Aly-Us released “Time Passes On” to good reception in 1993 and continue to produce music today, but they never hit similar heights after 1992. Vinyl and CD copies of “Follow Me” remain steady sellers on sites like Discogs, where they can fetch about $30 as new generations discover it or nostalgia hits Gen X. That may not be as impressive as Prince’s $15,000 Black Album price tag, but Aly-Us have bigger, more spiritual concerns. As “Supa” reminds us, “I truly believe that the song was resonated from God with a lot of Truth that… will continue to illuminate generations to come!” Ask any knowing DJ who has dropped it in his set on contemporary party people, and they’ll confirm: Its ebullient effect resounds.
“Sing a simple song,” Sly Stone preached in 1968. More than 20 years later, Aly-Us did, and more than 25 years since, people are still reciting its unapologetically optimistic lyrics, hook, and outlook. It’s a particularly poignant reminder, given our tumultuous “post-truth” times.