25 April 2012
Footwork, proper noun, aka [Chicago] Juke (see also [Detroit] Jit, Shangaan electro)
So-called because of the associated dance crazes – essentially a contemporary form of break dance; wildly uptempo (140 – 170 BPM), characterised by syncopated beats laced with manically looped, pitched up (or down) vocal samples, usually from soul/reggae/hip hop records, or film dialogue. Generally more artistic than its Baltimore counterpart but often still emphasising crass or novelty elements.
Origins: Long-hailed for being the crucibles of house music and techno in the Eighties, America’s Windy and Motor Cities have also laid claim to their own, respective ghetto/booty house and ghetto tech / booty bass variants since the early Nineties, with characters such as Chicago’s DJ Funk (and the Dance Mania label) and Detroit’s DJ Assault (and his Assault Rifle, Electrofunk and Jefferson Avenue labels) at the vanguard. In the last decade, the pitched-up Juke and accompanying Jit strains have emerged to take frenzied precedence, where Juke focuses almost entirely on the feet, hence ‘footwork’, and Jit encourages the dancer to move his/her arms as well. Hip hop is also integral, with the vocal hook from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Baby C’Mon being sampled for RP Boo’s pioneering 1997 hit, Baby Come On.
Juke is also a US slang term for a good party and, in the context of Juke Joints, has been a term used among African Americans for places of music/dancing/gambling/drinking since the late Nineteenth century.
Key figures: Among the old school are Chicago DJs Funk (pictured above, performing at Glasgow’s Sub Club, no less) and Deeon, and Detroit DJs Assault and DJ Godfather, plus Ann Arbor’s Disco D (RIP), who also co-founded world- famous label Ghostly International. DJ RP Boo first raised the Juke bar and Traxman, PJ, Clent, Spinn, Rashad, Roc and Nate have followed suit via experimental tracks since the late Nineties. Dude ‘N’ Nem’s Watch My Feet got brief MTV airplay, in 2007; Ghettophiles released Overkill, a Footwork compilation, in 2010; while British electronic experimentalist and niche club music guru Mike Paranidas, aka µ-Ziq, put out Bangs & Works Volume 1 on his Planet Mu label last year. Bristol’s Addison Groove and London’s Girl Unit have consequently been incorporating elements into their productions.
An edited version of this feature was originally published in August 2011 by The List magazine. It has been reproduced with their permission.