Last month we compiled a list of ten of our favourite Aphex Twin tracks, as chosen by the good folks (and AFX fanatics) around the Point Blank offices. This was in celebration of the announcement of the new Aphex Twin EP, Collapse. ‘T69 Collapse’ was the teaser and last week the full EP was released – the most talked about EP for some time and certainly of the year.
As it turns out ‘T69 Collapse’ was only a partial indicator of the direction the EP would take. The warmth and catatonic left-turns of that first track are certainly hallmarks of the release, but the influence of Chicago footwork is as prevalent as anything in the tracks’ makeup, particularly ‘abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909]’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘1st 44’. The former’s distinct Richard D. James spin on the genre has it join the pantheon of great footwork tracks in our eyes, which got us thinking about what a list of our favourites might look like.
Footwork (or Chicago Footwork) is a style of music that emerged from the Ghetto House and Juke scenes in the late 90s, so named for the kind of dancing that characterises the parties where it is traditionally played. Frenetic, fast, and usually characterised by a sample-heavy approach with chopped hip-hop vocals (though the likes of Jlin have shown these narrow parameters are not essential), Footwork is one of the most singular and exciting kinds of dance music to have emerged in the last three decades. After much deliberation, here are some of our favourites from RP Boo to Jlin and beyond…
RP Boo – ’11 – 47 – 99′
RP Boo is widely considered to be the godfather of footwork and, though the likes of Gant-Man and DJ Deeon laid the foundations with their blends of ghetto house, hip-house and juke, it was with RP Boo that footwork music as it is known today was born. There are countless RP classics but this track from 1999, also known as ‘Heavy Heat’ or ‘Another RP Track’ is simply massive. The sample of Pharoh Monch’s ‘Simon Says’ too is irresistible.
Spinn – ‘Lol’
DJ Spinn is another huge pillar of the footwork scene and, along with the late DJ Rashad, did more than anyone to bring the music to worldwide recognition. Apparently known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz and ability to turn this love into dancefloor weapons, this track finds him in a relatively pensive mood. It’s one of the more beautiful footwork tracks out there and somehow oozes a quiet restraint.
DJ Rashad – ‘Itz Not Rite’
A classic example of the clash between mechanical throb and mournful soul that DJ Rashad was so good at. At the time of his death in 2014 he was the scene’s poster boy having released his debut album Double Cup on Kode9’s Hyperdub and seen his Teklife label become one of the most influential in the scene. RIP.
Rashad & Spinn – ‘Dubby’ ft. Danny Brown
With a slick jazz sample lulling you into a false sense of security, a ripped-up jungle track and Danny Brown providing a ready-made vocal hook, this is as close to a ready-made crossover hit that Footwork has produced. It’s almost definitely too weird to have been one, but it does show off three true visionaries working together to create something masterful.
Jlin – ‘Nyakinyua Rise’
Jlin was a relative newcomer when her track ‘Erotic Discourse’ appeared on Planet Mu’s Bangs and Works Vol.2 compilation near the start of the decade. Though that song demonstrated her ability and skill with the classic chopped sampling style of footwork, it is her later work that does away with these conventions that set her apart somewhat, preferring instead to use more live instrumentation and synthesis. Many consider her to be the harbinger of the sound’s evolution and, in her work with interpretive dancer Avril Stormy Unger, she back this up with her methods. This track was the early single from her latest album and is the perfect example of her wide-ranging reference points and knack for intricate percussion.
Kode9 – ‘Vacuum Packed’
Kode9 has long been enamoured with footwork, and huge releases by the likes of Spinn, Taye and Tre have cemented Hyperdub’s position as one of footwork’s key homes. His latest LP Nothing is a quintessentially ambitious and conceptual work and this track is a fine example of the Chicago-born sound filtered through Steve Goodman’s unique lens.
Traxman – ‘Buddha Muzik’
Another pillar of the scene, here demonstrating a penchant for eastern melodies and yet more potential for melodic variation in footwork. This track falls on the softer, easier side of the footwork out there, yet still moves with an insatiable, propulsive drive.
DJ Earl – ‘Yapps on Deck’
DJ Earl is the arguable star of the ‘next generation’ of footwork producers and one of the biggest artists on DJ Rashad’s Teklife label. He and his peers are of the first generation of producers who grew up listening to Footwork as kids, so its only natural they are pushing it into new places. Earl’s productions are often hallmarked by adventurous synth sounds as heard here. Equally capable of destroying the dancefloor as making cerebral tracks for the home, Earl is one of the brightest stars in the footwork universe.
DJ Taye – ‘Burnin Ya Boa’ ft. DJ Manny
Teklife’s youngest member DJ Taye is another representative of the way footwork is opening out to new possibilities, often rapping over his own productions. This video stays true to the footworker roots with a slickness that cements its place in the current day.
Aphex Twin – ‘abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909]’
Aphex Twin has been vocal in his admiration of footwork and Jlin in particular. Rumours of him working with her have been circling for a while and we would love to hear the result of that collaboration. In the meantime, here’s the closest thing we have to an Aphex Twin footwork track.
If you’re anything like us, listening to these tracks will have you feeling pretty inspired to make some music. If so, we can help you – whatever level you are at. From short courses like our Intro to Music Production (available in LA and Online as well) to our flagship BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering (quality-assured by Middlesex University) we’ve got you covered. To find what suits you, check out our full list of production courses in London. If you have any questions or would just like to get in touch, find out how here.
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** Editors note: Things have moved on significantly since this article was published 🙂 Please head to our blog homepage for the very latest updates from Point Blank.