Published Nov 09, 2016Chicago footwork is to house music what bebop was to jazz, an unapologetically intricate, complex, and aggressive evolution that detractors sometimes denigrate as annoying or unlistenable. However, the complex polyrhythms that can arise from programmed, layered drums and looped micro-samples can make for exciting and powerful music.
Footwork's roots in dance battle culture are also paramount. Heavily dance-oriented styles can sometimes provide lacklustre listening experiences in a bedroom/headphone context (consider EDM vs. IDM), but in the hands of a visionary can be expanded and explored with arresting artistry.
DJ Taye's latest EP, for electronic tastemakers Hyperdub, both earns the comparison to bebop artistry and maintains a strong hold on the dense rhythms that battle dancers will love. The playful panning back and forth at times indicates close consideration for how this would function in headphones, and the jazzy samples on "Burnin' Ya Boa" or the pleading house vocal on "I Need I Want" balance the physicality with emotion.
Some footwork DJs, like the late DJ Rashad, have been praised for breaking out from the aggressive, rhythm-heavy form, and for exploring melody and atmosphere. He contrasts with someone like RP Boo, who is venerated as a stylistic grandfather (rightly so) and is fiercely loyal to the dance battle form. DJ Taye seems to incorporate the best of both, pursuing melody but not compromising his rhythmic technicality. On Move Out, he balances a soulful moodiness with the precise rhythmic intricacy the genre is known for. (Hyperdub)