Footwork has unquestionably found its footing worldwide. As the innovation of the genre’s producers has spread, this jewel of Chicago’s urban underground music culture has gained international influence, spouting sub-scenes that are flourishing.
Its presence in New York is undoubtedly strong. Teklife shirts and raised “L’s” abounded at Boiler Room’s recent session with DJ Spinn, Traxman, Mic Terror of Treated Crew, Tripletrain, and The Era dancers. Teklife‘s affiliation with Treated, a hip-hop collective, showcases footwork’s ability to blend with other genres and create a sound that even ghetto house progenitors and purists can hop on.
In my photoessay, shot behind the scenes across the day of the broadcast, the artists and dancers repping Teklife, Treated and The Era share their views on footwork’s success, its presence in New York, and the lasting impact the late DJ Rashad has on their music a year after his passing.
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“I’m glad when any one of us from Chicago – whether it’s me, Spinn, Manny, DJ Glenn, Deeon; if it was Rashad; any of these guys from back home – that’s playing footwork, juke, and ghetto house come to New York and have not just a crowd, but that diehard crowd that’s gonna always come out and support,” said Traxman. “It’s the people, it’s the crowd that keep us going.”
“It’s so great to see all the people opening up to footwork music in New York now,” said Eddie Sergi, one half of Tripletrain. “It’s important to get people excited about having fun. We now have to put our own parties on hold now when we get booked around the city, which is a great feeling; like we’re succeeding in getting other people interested about something we love.”
Drew of Tripletrain in the Friends and Lovers courtyard.
“I want people not from Chicago to know that we’re all real people; we all go through struggles and trials and tribulations,” said DJ Spinn. “I just want people to see our success as a tool to encompass for themselves and know that they can do it they self as long as they stay consistent and work hard and believe in they self.
‘Cause I came from nothing and man, the whole team all out here doing what we gotta do. We got Taye, he overseas right now; we got Earl, he’s somewhere; Boo ‘bout to be over here; man, Traxman right over here right now! Like, we everywhere, all at one time.”
When asked what he wants people to take away from his performances, Traxman was in no two minds. “Give them something to talk about. Like, ‘damn, did you hear Traxman? You see what he did? Did you listen to what he played? Man, that’s like my favorite DJ.’ So that’s what I want to give people; something to go back home with and wake up feeling, too: ‘Traxman! He’s the greatest!’”
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Chief Manny [left] and LiteBulb, cheer on Ste-Lo [center]; a common practice during solo footwork performances.
“I wanna raise the vibration of everybody that I come across,” said Mic Terror. “I want them to hear something they never heard before in a way that they never heard it before.”
The Era Footwork Crew show off their names.
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“It’s pretty hard to work without Rashad but I know that’s what he want us to do,” said DJ Spinn. “He want us to work. He want us to get our voices heard and spread the music that we love. That was his end goal. Like if we don’t do it, I know he up there saying, ‘Fuck us.’ We’re continuing his legacy right now. And man, like, it’s hard. You know ‘cause, I got to make an album better than Double Cup and I don’t wanna make an album better than Double Cup. I want to make an album as it’s relevant to what we do. You know, no comparison.”
“It’s not a day that doesn’t go past [that] I don’t think about Rashad,” said Traxman. “But musically, it made me; it made me go harder. It’s making me go even harder than I ever have because he was a guy I always came to when I talked about my music, and he would do the same thing – and I don’t have anybody to go to so it’s like I feel his spirit is in me, and I’m getting it out through the music that I do. It’s what he would want me to do and how he would like it.”
Mic Terror ruminates on what makes Chicago’s music scene so great: “It’s in the middle of the country. It’s the best of everything; a jumble pot of everything. You get something from the East Coast, something from down South, something from the West Coast – everybody meets at the center. That’s Chicago. That’s how it sounds.”
Chief Manny [right] shows off a popular footwork move.
Litebulb [right] was recently rewarded a grant by Chicago Dancemakers Forum to continue his work with The Era spreading footwork to the masses both locally and globally. “It’s not for me,” he said about the grant. “It’s for Chicago. I did it for Chicago.”
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“Treated Crew is the art version of The Teamsters,” says Mic Terror. “We just want the best artists making the best stuff and we want our respect when we make it.”
“The relationship between hip-hop and footwork is hand and hand,” said DJ Spinn.
I mean just any genre of music I wanna say, it all goes with footwork because we incorporate every genre into one style.”
Mic Terror expands upon the point: “Hip-hop goes a lot of different places and when it goes to those different places, it turns into something else. It turns into what they grew up off of [over there]. It’s just an amalgam of all the different areas that it travels through. Footwork is hip hop and vice versa, you know.”
Traxman is in clear agreement about the crossover between the sounds and scenes: “Music is colors. Like painting a picture.”
At the close of a long day’s work, DJ Spinn kicks back & shows us his son. “He just gets bigger. He’ll be one July 14th. It’s beautiful. I’m just so ecstatically happy.”
Spinn’s son is named Rashad.
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Head HERE to peep the videos from our Teklife & Treated Crew Present: Mic Terror’s “Live From Your Mama’s House” broadcast.
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