While I’m normally thirteen steps ahead of everyone, on occasion I’m late to the game. Some examples include: Outkast (who I got into in college), Notorious B.I.G. (who I got into after college), and Carly Rae Jepson (who I got into months after “Call Me Maybe.”) Recently at work I put on a friend’s Footwork playlist and my mind was blown – by a genre that’s been around since the 1980s.
Before falling in love with this playlist, I was only vaguely familiar with the Chicago-born genre. Chicago mash-up artist Chazzzy mentioned it when I interviewed him back in July (he referenced that it’s taken off in Japan), and of course I knew DJ Rashad’s (RIP) 2013 masterpiece Double Cup, although I’m not sure I knew it was Footwork. Anyway, the playlist opened my eyes to a sound and world of music I’d never before explored, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world.
The sound, which originated from Juke in 1980s Chicago, is characterized by “hyper-speed dancing and frenetic beats.” This past January, my favorite music writer, muse, and Chicago-native Meaghan Garvey wrote:
Footwork lives in Chicago, even when it doesn’t. The movement—bleeding-edge club tunes fragmented from house, high-speed dance battles, and most crucially, the community of people who make it and party to it—can’t be divorced from its hometown, even as its global reach extends far beyond its creators’ expectations.
Despite the fact that the genre has been around forever – to the point that it’s being re-appropriated across the Pacific – this year has seen a few major footwork releases, including DJ Paypal’s Sold Out, DJ Roc’s Practice What You Preach, and DJ Rashad’s posthumous 6613 EP. Last week, my bff Ms. Garvey interviewed the elusive DJ Paypal. Despite Footwork’s Chicago roots, Mr. Paypal was born in North Carolina and now resides in Berlin. He never shows his face or reveals his real name “due to a combination of guardedness, fame-apathy, and strategy for finessing potential visa issues.” He and Meaghan talked about the fact that Footwork is actually now more popular outside of its native Chicago, which has moved on to drill and rap. Mr. Paypal also explained the “right way” to participate in “[footwork] culture”:
To make it, you first need to know thousands and thousands of tracks. You need to have a database. A lot of kids hear like five tracks and start making footwork, and that’s not respectful. And as a listener, I would suggest not approaching it as “electronic music.” I’ve heard people say, “Well, this is just shitty electronic music, it sounds like FruityLoops.” They don’t focus on the actual rhythms and how complicated it is. And you gotta have a sub.
Enjoy this playlist of my favorite Footwork tracks, including appearance by key players DJ Manny, Traxman, DJ Spinn, DJ Nate, and of course Mr. Rashad. For those of you like me who are stuck at a computer for the majority of your waking hours, the hybrid of rap and house, with its “fine balance between streamlined minimalism and organized chaos,” is great for typing the day away.
Listen here: Footworkin’ on Air
1. “Drank, Kush, Barz (feat. Spinn)” – DJ Rashad
2. “Back Up Kid” – DJ Nate
3. “Lil Mama Badd As Hell” – DJ Nate
4. “She A Go (feat. Spinn & Taso) – DJ Rashad
5. “Uh” – DJ Diamond
6. “Whea Yo Ghost At, Whea Yo Dead At” – DJ Elmoe
7. “Nutville” – DJ Manny
8. “Hit Da Bootz” – DJ Earl
9. “Get Buck Juice” – DJ Roc
10. “Bada” – DJ Earl, DJ Manny
11. “Let it Go” – DJ Rashad
12. “Only One (feat. Spinn & Taso)” – DJ Rashad
13. “Can’t Foot Work” – DJ Rashad, DJ Chi Boogie
14. “Bounce N Break Yo Back” – DJ Spinn
15. “Duffle Bag Juke” – DJ Rashad, DJ Chi Boogie
16. “She Turnt Up” – DJ Spinn & DJ Rashad
17. “Non Fiction” – Jody Breeze
18. “U Should No” – DJ Paypal x Feloneezy
19. “Below Zero” – DJ Nate
20. “Hard 2 Be” – Machinedrum
21. “Over” – DJ Paypal
22. “Lowend Unity” – DJ Roc
23. “Footworkin On Air” – Traxman
24. “Can’t Wait To” – Lunice
25. “Girl Like Me” – Slava
26. “Broken Hearted” – DJ Rashad
27. “1luv” – DJ Chap
28. “Extacee” – Traxman
29. “Itz Crack” – Traxman
30. “Everybody (feat. Freshmoon)” – DJ Rashad
By Anna Dorn
Photograph courtesy of Pitchfork.com