Like many of his Detroit contemporaries -- Kenny "Moodymann" Dixon, Jr., Anthony "Shake" Shakir, and Mad Mike Banks, to name three -- Aaron-Carl Ragland had a chameleonic knack for switching effectively between lush house, brute-force techno, and bumping electro-funk. His versatile touch, combined with lyrics that could be sexually frank as well as heartrending, was nothing if not singular. From his 1996 debut through his final releases in 2010, he issued material on revered Detroit labels like Soul City, Metroplex, and the short-lived Moods & Grooves sublabel Afrosyntrix, but most of his work came out on his own Wallshaker imprint. He was also a valued DJ.
Aaron-Carl's rise through the Motor City underground was fairly rapid. A demo made with severely limited means led to a deal with Soul City, one of the labels operated by Underground Reistance head Banks. During 1996 and 1997, Aaron-Carl issued four 12" singles on the label and received good response. DJ Gary Chandler, known for his straightahead R&B and hip-hop flavor, played the cheeky "Wash It" -- a 1996 Ghetto Zone release -- on local radio and at personal parties. "Make Me Happy" and a remix project with Theresa Stringer, as well as the EP Midnite Jams, Vol. 1, followed. A breakthrough came when 1998's "My House," the third Wallshaker A-side, was licensed by Ovum, remixed several times, and reached number 36 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.
Uncloseted, Aaron-Carl's first full-length, came out in 2002 and brought all of the man's directions into full, fluid fruition. Pop, electro, R&B, techno, house, and funk all came out on the autobiographical disc, which demanded respect for homosexuals, grieved, and wanted a good party. It even ventured into full-on ballads, made all the more interesting with Aaron-Carl's tender falsetto. Amidst a steady supply of 12" singles and double packs, the producer put together two additional albums, Detrevolution (2005) and Bittersoulfulsweet: The Aaron-Carl Experience (2008). In addition to being remixed by the likes of GusGus, Underground Resistance, and Nick Holder, he remixed tracks by Aux 88, DJ Bone, and Captain Comatose. In September 2010, he was diagnosed with cancer and died only a few days later. Needless to say, he was active -- very active -- until his passing. ~ Tamara Harris & Andy Kellman