It’s been barely a decade since footwork emerged out of fast, rampant, often lewd, and ghetto-house and dance-battle-rooted juke. With one of its key innovators DJ Rashad gone and no new significant artists appearing, already it felt the scene had stagnated and the youth coming up in its hometown Chicago and worldwide were getting involved in other styles of music. But Still Trippin’, DJ Taye's latest LP, shows that footwork is still alive and exciting.
A Chi-town native, Taye is a generation younger than the Teklife Crew founders DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn. He was originally a rapper and beatmaker, before diving into footwork production, dancing, and DJing. Since the start of the decade, he’s put out dozens of intricate and melodic tracks, digitally and on wax, and has collaborated with many of the scene’s relevant producers. But this latest album symbolises both his artistic development and the cultural growth of footwork by intersecting other forms with its own traditions.
From the opening track "2094," you feel like you're in the hands of a musician who’s in no rush to prove himself. It’s an instrumental piece. And though the traditional 160bpm tempo and drumming bassline are there, the half-step percussion makes a hip-hop atmosphere.
One of the standout tracks is "Smokeout," produced with Teklife crew member DJ Lucky. It’s a style of footwork found in tunes like DJ Rashad’s "She A Go," which has a contemporary hip-hop aesthetic with an MC and looped lyric bars, but with traditional footwork foundations. What "Smokeout" does is lose the loops and has Taye and Lucky rapping actual verses. The beatless intro, the half-stepping percussion, the stoned synth lines, and the cadence of the vocal delivery all reference the popular trap aesthetics of current hip-hop; and this bridge between footwork and trap is one of Taye’s important achievements.
Another hit tune is "Same Sound," which features the young Montreal singer Odile Myrtil. Odile’s soulful voice dances lightly along with a dreamy synth as her partner, but this lover's mood is counterbalanced for today’s ears and hips with raw and melodic drumming bass. For a typically sample-heavy genre, it’s great to hear live singers on the tracks.
Two more significant collaborations are on "I Don’t Know" and "Gimme Some Mo," the first with Fabi Reyna, the editor of the celebrated women’s guitar magazine She Shreds, and the second with Jersey club queen Uniiqu3. These women between them add guitar, singing, production, and rapping to the album. They add more diversity to footwork by involving disparate styles and by including more women in a scene dominated by men (though ladies do often appear in dance battles).
There are more traditional tunes too. With their sampling and percussion arrangements, "Closer," "Another4" with DJ Manny, and "Get it Jukin’" with Chuck Inglish, exemplify footwork’s simple but magic effect of shifting coherently from a frantic to a laid-back mood every few bars. They’re polished and versatile, for DJ, dancer, and listener alike.
With Still Trippin’, DJ Taye said he took the chance to not have boundaries with the genre and to reach a broader audience beyond the underground. He showcases the breadth of footwork and pushes the sound forward by building links with trap, R&B, and Jersey. In doing so, he reinvigorates footwork and brings it up to date with 2018 dance culture. May the album’s reception encourage DJ Taye, Hyperdub, and others to continue working in the spirit of growth and hybridity.
03. Need It feat. DJ Manny
04. Smokeout feat. DJ Lucky
05. Same Sound feat. Odile Myrtil
07. Another4 feat. DJ Manny
08. Bonfire feat. DJ Paypal
09. The Matrix feat. DJ Manny
10. Get It Jukin feat. Chuck Inglish
11. Pop Drop feat. DJ Paypal
12. Gimme Some Mo feat. UNiiQU3
13. Truu feat. DJ Paypal
15. I'm Trippin
16. I Dont Know feat. Fabi Reyna
Still Trippin' will land on March 2.