At Soldier Field on a misty Saturday night, with nearly 50,000 fans filling the arena, Beyoncé and her dancers walk off the stage for what seems to be an intermission as the screen goes black. 

“In the beginning, there was Jack, and Jack had a groove,” Chicago house pioneer Chuck Robert’s voice omnisciently proclaims while the lyrics lit up the stage.

The crowd roars, because this is Chicago, the mecca of house music. In the show, Roberts’s voice booms with the gravity of God in the Old Testament, embodying the blurred line between the Black church and house music.

“And from this groove came the groove of all grooves. And while one day, viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldly declared, “Let there be house!” And house music was born. I am the creator, and this is my house!” Roberts voice trails off into the Motherboard, a segment which takes audiences on an otherworldly ride from womb to birth.

After witnessing the Renaissance World Tour in Chicago this past weekend, one thing is undeniably true: Beyoncé has forever inscribed Chicago’s rightful place in global music history as the foundation of house music. The global superstar flawlessly melded Afrofuturism and Black ballroom with iconic house tracks that not only pay homage to the vanguards of each, but exalts their influence on the very fabric of her Grammy Award-winning album, Renaissance.

One of those commanding voices is Chuck Roberts, nicknamed “the voice of house music.” His electrifying sermon from the 1987 Rhythm Controll track, “My House,” serves as a visual interlude in the show.

“I’m in awe of the situation. I’m humbled by it,” Roberts said. “Just like with that speech, nobody had any idea that it would take on legs and walk through the places that it’s gone. Same thing with this situation with Beyoncé. Nobody saw this coming, but it’s a blessing. And I think it’s a big win for the house community.”

Jack, or jackin’, is an endearing house term to describe the style of dancing associated with house music in the 1980s. The dance is a bend of the knee and thrusting motion that moves up into the torso with free-flowing arm movements.

“You want to know who is Jack, and what is it that Jack does?” Roberts tells The TRiiBE. “Jack is the one that gives you the power to do the snake. Jack is the one who gives you the key to the wiggly worm. Jack is the one that can bring nations and nations and nations of all Jackers together under one house. That’s who Jack is, and that’s what Jack does.”

Back in the spring, Beyoncé’s team reached out to Roberts’s music publisher and asked how they’d feel about her using “My House” in the show. He was shocked, but not surprised, that she reached out to use the track.

“Beyoncé has given us a platform that we wouldn’t have had without her or somebody like her. I’ll reiterate, we are eternally grateful to her because she’s given us that exposure to15-year-olds who don’t really know anything about house music, [don’t] understand the origins or really what house music is,” Roberts said. “It’s a blessing. People who wouldn’t normally even think about dabbling in house music are like, ‘wow. We heard that at the concert. Let me see what this thing is.’ They see Jack up on the screen and [they’re] going home to Google ‘Jack.’”

Roberts grew up in Holy City, off 16th Street, on Chicago’s West Side. He reminisced about the 1980s and a club called The Factory, on Madison Street in West Garfield Park. There was a studio inside the building, where he produced music. 

“I’m from the church,” Roberts said. “The lyrics from the song came from what I saw the effect that [house music] had on people. It brought people together who normally wouldn’t have any kind of affiliation at all. Different people from different walks of life.”

At the time, Roberts recalled, teens and young adults from all over Chicago and its surrounding suburbs were coming to The Factory for its house parties. Regardless of race or socio-economic status, house music created a welcoming space for everyone, and The Factory was representative of that. 

“House music lets you be you,” Roberts said. “People who didn’t have anything in common ended up being friends and meeting at this place. The house music was that infectious.”

He even recalled seeing rival gang members put their issues aside to party together at The Factory.

“The same guys who were gang rivals [and] couldn’t be in the club at the same time, when the house music hit, these same guys [are] on the floor jacking. I’m talking about gang leaders, the drug pushers, the regular school kids, the Catholic school kids, everybody,” Roberts said. “On the West Side, people normally say well, you can’t come over here on Saturday night. It wasn’t none of that. People look forward to getting together to get into that music and get into that Jack. That Jack is something else, baby.”

Over time, Roberts’s “My House” sermon started to reach the masses. DJs across the country were playing it. In 1988, foundational house producer Larry Heard — a.k.a. Mr. Fingers — sampled the speech on his remix, “Can You Feel It.” The latter track has been featured on Rolling Stone’s “200 Greatest Dance Songs of All Time,” and  Pitchfork’s “200 Best Songs of the 1980s.”

He later signed a deal with ZYX Records in Germany, and placed his sermon on the 1990 Ecstasy track, “This Is My House.”

“The record went double platinum. A lot of people don’t know that,” Roberts said. “That’s when we kind of figured out there’s something going on with this thing.”

Today, his “My House” speech is one of the most sampled in house music history. Real househeads already know the global impact of house music, which makes Beyoncé’s acknowledgement even more sweet.

“Hopefully more people will see the value in this and we’ll be able to bring other genres and people into this as well,” Roberts said about “My House” being included in the Renaissance World Tour. “Because house music, it’s a feeling. It’s not just a genre of music. It’s a way of being. It’s a way of life. House music is completely different from any other music.”

is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.