Nate’s footwork beats breathe exciting freshness into global bass culture.
Melissa Bradshaw 2010
Juke, with its dance-oriented subgenre footwork, is the latest ghetto bass culture to begin spreading the globe. A descendent of Chicago house, it’s fast becoming the latest sound to satisfy the UK bass underground’s constant hunger for new influences. UK labels Hum & Buzz, SWAMP‘81, and Night Slugs have both promoted and hybridised the sound and exciting things can be expected from them in the near future. While the output from their artists (like Addison Groove, Ikonika and Girl Unit) shows symptoms of footwork infection, Mike Paradinas’ seminal label Planet Mu has also signed a handful of Chicago born and bred Juke artists, and this is the first resulting LP.
Essentially, juke is sped-up ghetto house – the edgy evolution of Chicago house – and footwork is made to provoke dancers. The restless, utterly infectious pulse of ghetto house is driven to insane extremes and complicated by syncopation. Nate himself sounds like an autonomic reclamation of decades of urban soundtracking: there are obvious hip hop influences, and RnB and old soul vocal samples are spliced and distorted in intricately disjointed 16-bar variations and recapitulations. Where these are occasionally violent the sampling has a surreal effect, and tracks like Footwurk Homicide are obvious geared towards dance competitions. Nate’s strength is also his unique ability to manipulate emotions, like the effusive desire in Let Me Show U Girl, and the ache in My Heart. Closing track Poetry pitches up barely discernible cries of loneliness and yearning into dramatic, anthemic alienation.
As it the case with so many bass scenes, juke is riven by internal politics. Originators of the sound look down on Nate and his peers as sell-outs – Nate has recently been making hip hop, and so isn’t really a scene insider, plus the tracks on this LP are a couple of years old (it’s a compilation, an anthology-to-date, rather than an album ‘proper’). While such gripes are sort-of understandable, especially from an economic point of view, music like this is such a strange thrill to an outsider that it would be a shame if the rest of the juke and footwork scene didn’t embrace their newly extended audience. But whatever happens next is bound to be exciting.
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