These tracks can be marvelled at as you might mobiles in a gallery.
David Stubbs 2010
Arising from mutant, Chicago-based house scenes from the mid-90s known variously as ghetto house and juke, the current footwork scene is a new, competitive strain of dance set around the 160bpm mark and involving some staggeringly fleet dance moves, shown off in gyms, abandoned warehouses and so forth. Bangs & Works Vol. 1 is a compilation of cuts by the DJs who provide the soundtrack for these moves, including DJ Nate and DJ Roc.
Typically, footwork is a collage of irregular and halting drum patterns, snaking sub-bass, film samples and vocal phrases cut-up, looped or subject to vari-speed. From an editing viewpoint, it's not sophisticated, but the overall effect is startling and mesmeric in its deceptive simplicity. To those used to house settling into an easy, predictable 4/4 groove, it might be difficult to grasp how anyone could possibly dance to this sort of music at all. However, for those who don't fancy pitting themselves against the local kids you'll see battling it out at frenetic pace on YouTube if you key the words "Chicago Footwork" into the search engine, these tracks can be marvelled at as you might mobiles in a gallery.
Titles like F*** Dat (DJ Roc), Yo S*** F***ed Up (DJ Trouble) and Ready Mother F**** (DJ Diamond) might suggest a strong, thuggish element to this music, but fortunately that aggression is sublimated into the artfulness of the genre. Among the best examples are DJ Elmoe's Whea Yo Ghost At, Whea Yo Dead Man, whose tweaked female harmonies hang pendulously in the mix, just off-kilter with the clipped rap and sporadic beat. It works, strangely. Tha Pope's All the Things features a backbeat that falls somewhere between Shangaan electro and the patter of gunfire exchange. DJ Nate's Ima Dog and He Ain't About It feature almost gothically haunting backdrops of decelerated vocals, film samples against brutal rap repetition and beats raining at you from all sides.
In its relatively primitive use of technology coupled with its fresh innovations, the footwork scene feels like a throwback to the days of early, pre-gangsta hip hop – the days of reclaiming the streets, refreshing old beats and proving your worth through skills, not futile acts of machismo or violence.