Late footwork pioneer DJ Rashad left behind him an indisputable legacy, it’s difficult to see him as anything but a transcendent Dilla-like architect of purified electronic sound palettes. His widely acclaimed ‘Double Cup’ album paved the way for the Chicago-borne genre’s crossover appeal.
DJ Taye was 16 at the time he joined the Teklife crew—Chicago’s leading footwork ensemble, founded by Rashad—and fast began earning a burly reputation for his talents.
Although footwork gained momentum alongside the rise of Drill music and Chicago rap earlier in the decade, it remained largely on the fringes of electronic music hives. ‘Still Trippin’’—Taye’s debut album on Hyperdub—might be the 2018 awakening it deserves.
A descendant of Chicago’s famed lineage of house, and in turn ghetto-house and juke, modern footwork is as gutsy as it is technical. Organically speaking, footwork is less a story about sound, but about dance.
Teklife’s goldenboy Taye—still only 23-years-old—understands that the nucleus of a pervasive footwork track must elicit something inherently tangible that crews can 2-step, 5-step, crossover or valdez to. It’s bona fide freedom of movement and expression.
Rather than pander to the mutated, often times jarring features of footwork’s multi-layered breakbeat foundations, Taye infuses his compositions with rap verses and house-keys with the kind of serene chord-changes you might hope for from a seasoned jazz-pianist.
Polymath Taye kicks nonchalant yet accomplished bars on psych-tronic lead-single Trippin’. Swirling 8-bit effects tweak-out as drums clap from across the deformed bassline’s horizon. Get It Jukin is even more hip-hop inclined and features a typically groovy verse from The Cool Kids’ Chuck Inglish.
The traditional song structures are there on the rap-imbued tracks—verse, bridge, chorus, repeat—yet the hypertechnical drums still strive to say the most.
Footwork projects are often much like expansive, heavy-duty techno—hyperspeed drum assaults, incessantly warped vocal-samples, with little room to breathe—so listening in spurts is well-advised. The sounds must be neurotic to accommodate its signature 160BPM, they wouldn’t exactly slot into a ‘Two Hours of Chill, Relaxing music’ Youtube mix.
Until track eight—Bonfire—the record’s architecture feels stitched across the Chicago sky. 2094 has gently undulating keys and an awesome arpeggiated lead-synth—a warm, sensual opening cut. He reels back the intensity of the triplet-kicks you expect, yet, you can still hear them crunch and clatter. It’s the soundtrack to sunrise in the outerreaches of the Windy City.
Smokeout is a soporific cloud of weed-haze. A beguiling and pointedly gripping mix of cloud-rap atmospherics and Three 6 Mafia inspired rhymes. Riveting crackles of snares and claps simmer beneath and act as the ever-industrious seamstress.
Gimme Some Mo is another example of Taye’s stranglehold on melody in chaos, it uses the looped vocals of UNIIQUE3 to evoke a smokey R&B atmosphere.
In paying homage to soul-music with Closer, and jazz on album-closer I Don’t Know, Taye further pushes the boundaries of what footwork ought to be. Equal importance is placed on lush melodic arrangements as rhythmic texture.
DJ Paypal is Teklife’s mad scientist whose head-spinning, drum-finessing concoctions pivot Taye towards footwork’s dungeons for their fascinatingly outré collaborations; Bonfire, Pop Drop and Truu.
Wild, syncopated drums and relentlessly chopped-up vocals are the common denominator here. Pop Drop, with its silvery acid bassline, gives the effect of a serotonin-flushing high. Meanwhile, Bonfire is less visceral, yet Taye employs a blistering, wailing horn and melts it around a step-stuttering breakbeat.
Taye rips the stitches from the sky and ensues all matter of meteorological upheaval.
Without buckling to merely imitating Rashad’s established template for melodic footwork, or without deviating too far away from what made Rashad so special, DJ Taye has shattered precepts. All the while, respecting the foundation which his idol and apprentice laid down all those years ago.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an electronic album this year that is, at once, so weightless and dizzying. The time is ripe for a footwork takeover.