The birth of Footwork has become increasingly well documented in recent years. Along with the likes of the late DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, DJ Clent and Traxman, one name has continuously been cited as its founding father. Kavain Space aka RP Boo (or Arpebu) has been tirelessly devoted to this frenetic offshoot of Ghetto House and Juke since his days with fabled Chicago dance ensemble, House-O-Matics. Even though he’s widely recognised as creating the first Footwork track in 1997 – ‘Baby Come On’ – none of his productions were officially released until he featured on Planet Mu’s ‘Bangs & Works Vol. 1’ compilation in 2010.
Having just unleashed his second full-length on Planet Mu – ‘Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints’ – RP no longer treats music as a hobby, taking it on full time: ‘It’s actually the life of RP Boo now’ he tells us over Skype from his home on Chicago’s South Side, ‘I’m still getting adjusted to this part of my life… it happened on its own time, not my time.’ Years of persistence and sticking to what he loves have allowed him to take full control of his artistic vision. Even though it’s been a long time coming, he feels everything has converged at the right moment: ‘With life and how things go – the streets, the drugs, the mayhem – people go their different ways…but I never gave up. I loved music so much that I had to keep going. I’m now able to express who I really am. To take all the environments and soak them into my body and give it back out through the sounds.’
As with his debut LP, 2013’s ‘Legacy’, his latest venture includes tracks from his early days and newer pieces from the past few years. Whether or not his next project will contain entirely new music, RP insists ‘it’s all about the label – the approach Planet Mu want to take’. It should be noted how long it took for some of his music to be properly unearthed and categorised – ‘Even if I did have an entirely new project, I’d have to convince people it was actually new! ‘Cos the old stuff is still considered new to them.’
Whilst the raw vitality of his earliest work still remains on new album cuts like the boisterous ‘Finish Line D’jayz’, his technical approach has evolved. Still using his beloved Roland R70 drum machine, he’s upgraded his Akai S01 sampler for the MPC Studio and has found it invigorating – ‘I’m having a ball with it! I can tell my story in a different manner’. He describes a lot of his old tracks as unfinished sketches that were released as soon as they were needed, but he can now ‘go back into tracks and finish them if they’ve been sitting for a while. With the R70 and S01 it was much harder! I can get more out of a sample now too.’
The compelling use of samples to tell stories is still one of his most enticing qualities. Whether it’s his own crude but infectious vocal cut-ups or samples from tracks he grew up listening to, snippets of popular culture and music permeate ‘Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints’. One of the most personal tracks for RP is motivational album closer ‘B’Ware’ – ‘I listen to it now and what I was doing was speaking this future. I wanna see people progress – I was speaking of a legacy even though I didn’t understand that at the time’. It features a captivating rework of Loggins and Messina’s ‘Pathway To Glory’, a popular number in Chicago’s roller skating scene, one that RP says bears many similarities to Footwork: ‘When I first moved to the South Side I started going to the Rink Fitness Factory with a dance crew called Mega Move… the emergence of Footwork and roller skating were held in the same spot… there was a connection being built between the two’. Even though he’s a seasoned Footwork dancer, RP regards the technicality and competitiveness of roller skating as being in a ‘whole different league.’
It’s this ultra competitiveness that has defined Footwork from its inception. Dance competitions at venues such as the renowned Battlegroundz have always carried a healthy air of rivalry. But constant jockeying for position by DJs and promoters in the Chicago scene has at times squandered relationships. This hasn’t phased RP one bit as he stresses, ‘the competitiveness of Footwork can only kill itself here, it cannot kill itself going forward. I’m not going to sit back and worry about what Chicago has to say ‘cos there’s too many people outside of Chicago saying, “Hey, we are here and we understand what it is”.’
Though it has garnered a wealth of attention from the global underground in recent years, the Footwork community is still reeling from last year’s tragic loss of one of its prime innovators – DJ Rashad. RP is keen to continue his legacy – ‘Wherever I go, it’s gonna go with me. Rashad is not here anymore – but he did what he had to do, he put in so much work and dedication. The part I don’t like, but that’s life, is that he’s not here to see this and he deserves to be here. That was his sacrifice.’ This idea of legacy, of music outliving you, is intrinsic to RP’s outlook on his work and life in general. As we finish up our chat, he leaves us with something to think about: ‘I want you and everyone else to understand something – let’s grow old together. When I stop, if I’m not here to tell my story, I know who will be able to hear it and say “Hey, that was RP Boo and these were the people that helped him along his journey”.’
With such an extensive archive of tracks from the past three decades, we thought it would only be right for the man himself to deliver us an exclusive production mix. It includes tracks on the ‘Classics Vol 1’ EP from earlier this year, some from the new album and a few hidden gems from his personal catalogue. Press play and read on for in depth commentary from the godfather of Footwork on our seven favourite tracks from this special mix…
I was in the car with a friend of mine on the North Side of Chicago, the radio station B96 was spinning the remix of Mariah Carey’s ‘Fantasy’. Ol’ Dirty Bastard comes in with ‘baby baby come on’ – I was like ‘man that’s nice!’ but I wasn’t making tracks at the time. So when I got my equipment and ended up getting the record in a record pool, I saw if I could do something with it. It was a track that hadn’t been finished so I wanted to try some vocals with a young lady but she was like ‘nahhh I don’t wanna do it!’ So I just played in the vocal chop with my fingers ‘cos I didn’t know how to sequence it then, I just had it on loop. But when I played it everybody loved it so I left it as is.
I love this track! I’ll play this out every now and then, depending on how I feel at the time. I love Outkast (regarding the sample) – they deliver great music. I produced this as a more relaxed track, like a cool breeze. It’s mellow but it’s got a nice groove. A good song for the end of the night – that’s if I don’t get an encore! (laughs)
Heavy Heat #2
I love manipulating samples so people don’t know where they came from and this one is all Godzilla. Where I stay at right now on the South Side, there’s a park 5 minutes away…Rainbow Beach Park fieldhouse, where they used to do a lot of dance competitions. I played this track there and nobody paid attention but this one guy waited ‘til everybody leaves. He said ‘RP I don’t know what that was but that track is dangerous!’ – so there’s always somebody listening! This track uses another trademark of mine, a sound on the R70 called ‘USER’. I first heard it on a DJ Clent track when he had DJ Greedy’s R70. I looked at his R70, marked the numbers down and took the same sound and manipulated it, making it my own. Now everybody’s using it.
This is the first track I made that I considered complete from beginning to end. This was before Rashad passed, it was a dedication, a way of saying, ‘Hey Rashad, this is what I do. I know who you are, we get down together and this is the sound us guys do’. The instrumental sample – ‘Weekend’ by Class Action – I’ve been using it constantly. Even Rashad used it on ‘Well Well Well’. I was at Battlegroundz one night and I heard him playing it. I looked at him and said ‘He done greased me again!’ – Rashad did a good job with it! With this track I was mad ‘cos I thought it deserved to be on vinyl but my man at Duck N Cover did me a special plate so I can still play this hard! Hopefully it can make an appearance on an upcoming album.
This is part two of the actual track that made Footwork separate itself from the constant kicks to a more open space – ‘Plat’Solo’. It used the same sample but chopped differently. My good friend DJ Clent gave me some samples ‘cos he’d already done a track in dedication to me – that’s what I do for other people as well, to motivate them. With the ‘back it up back it up, get off my back’ vocal that’s off a track he did called ‘Back It Up A Lil’ Bit’. The ‘beat up my momma smack my sister’ sample is from the same female that did the ‘another RP track’ vocal on ‘Heavy Heat’. I thought – it’s time for something different. This guy gave me a CD and said ‘you ever listened to an opera song?’ I put ‘Carmen’ in and decided to sample it. I was at the Bud Billiken Parade, same place I would debut tracks like ‘Bang’n On King Dr’. People were like ‘we know you got something new RP! What is it!’ So I’m playing this track and hundreds of people are standing around watching this kid dance. When they heard the opera sample, the second time it comes in when the all the music separates, they were like ‘Hey! That’s Opera!’ I’m like yehhhh! Job is done!
Let’s Dance Again
This was done right after ‘Legacy’ – it’s one of the newest joints. I named it this because I missed seeing people dance. The person that really got into this was Kode9. I knew how I felt about it but when he was like ‘RP I’m loving this track’, that made me feel real good, as someone was listening to what I’m really doing. I cannot hide who I am and I feel this track helped me really open up. This is about having a good time – it’s not about footworking, it’s about fuckin’ dancing! When people dance it has nothing to do with a style, it’s to do with enjoyment. It’s got a positive ring about it – I love it. It’s an ode to the House music I grew up listening to and samples a Lil Louis joint – ‘How I Feel’.
I had to include this track. It took some time for people to catch on to but it was one of those tracks I had on repeat for like 48 hours when I first made it! It was one of those ‘it’s time to take it to another level’ tracks. It was saying: ‘You can dance to this tune but at this moment I’m telling you who RP Boo is. Don’t try to compete against me ‘cos I’m seeing too much competition’. At the time MySpace was just clicking on…this track changed the game for me. I didn’t have to use somebody else anymore, if nobody wanted to come and be a part of what I was doing. For me it was like: ‘Is it that I’m not asking right or somebody’s not listening? I can’t wait no more, I have to say this is who I am and whether you like it or not this is who I’m gonna be’.
‘Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints’ is out now on Planet Mu. Buy it here.
Words: Hugo Laing
Images: William Glasspiegel
- RP Boo – ‘Try To Break’ – Classics Vol 1(Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘Don’t Know How’
- RP Boo – ‘What Must I’
- RP Boo – ‘Baby Come On’ – Classics Vol 1 (Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘Party Motion’ – Classics Vol 1 (Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘Rock’n Da House’
- RP Boo – ‘Burn’
- RP Boo – ‘Proto Dance’
- RP Boo – ‘Synister Science’
- RP Boo – ‘Nia Tele’
- RP Boo – ‘Heavy Heat#2’
- RP Boo – ‘Jack Your Body’
- RP Boo – ‘Under D’Stat’ – Legacy [Japan Issue] (Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘Get Down and Burn’
- RP Boo – ‘Ghouls Looking 4 Soles’
- RP Boo – ‘Sleepy’ – Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints (Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘Kemosabe’ – Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints (Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘No Sunshine’
- RP Boo – ‘Let’s Dance Again’ – Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints (Planet Mu)
- RP Boo – ‘Hopes Up’
- RP Boo – ‘Flo-Control’