The Chi-Town footwork originator turns in one of his best releases yet
Chicago’s footwork movement suffered a tragedy last year with the loss of the inimitable DJ Rashad, but the city’s network of dancers and producers continues to carry the torch in his honour. Among the best of these artists is RP Boo, aka Kavain Space, who is not simply another footwork legend, he damn near invented the whole thing. His 1997 hit ‘Baby Come On’ (re-released earlier this year on his ‘Classics Volume 1’ EP) is often cited as the moment of transition from ghetto house to footwork.
Despite a career dating back to his days as a dancer in the early 1990s, RP Boo only let loose his debut album in 2013. ‘Legacy’ was more of a greatest hits package, but while new record ‘Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints’ also contains some older material, most of it has been culled from the last two years, making it a more contemporary statement. It’s intense and uncompromising, positioning Boo at the vanguard of footwork rather than at its origins.
Dance culture is integral to footwork, its jerky movements fuelling the sound and vice versa. Just look at the cover art here: hundreds of disembodied pairs of legs, sneaker stripes in triplets like snare patterns. The drum programming on ‘Fingers…’ can get quite complex – opener ‘1-2D-20’2’ seems particularly designed to throw off newcomers, with Boo tweaking the elements anytime it seems to be coalescing into something more straightforward.
Boo’s deployment and manipulation of vocal samples is seriously impressive. For one thing, he understands the virtue of repetition – ‘Finish Line D’jayz’ never deviates from its central two-second snippet, and its final incantation feels like a distance runner breaking the tape. In ‘Bang’n on King Dr.’ (a real highlight) the title phrase begins as a straightforward hook before Boo goes to town with his scalpel, slicing it up into more of a percussive element.
Footwork is often pretty stripped down, hurtling along on bass and drums alone. Because of this, the tracks can succeed on a single moment of inspiration, such as the beautiful female voice that emerges from its cocoon halfway through ‘Freezaburn’. ‘Heat From Us’ finds space for the same Luther Vandross sample that Kanye West (another Chi-Town legend) used so memorably in ‘Slow Jamz’, while ‘Sleepy’ has this incredible operatic cut – so good that the music drops out for a little bit to let us hear it on its own.
Whether you’re new to footwork or already a full convert, this album comes highly recommended. It’s one of the strongest full-length solo works to emerge from the genre, a perfect showcase for RP Boo’s versatility while also providing plenty of hard battle noise for seasoned dancers.