Spinn and Rashad are the foremost characters behind the Chicago footwork explosion
Crack is on the roof of a hotel gazing over Barcelona’s slightly rugged skyline. It’s with this beautiful setting as a backdrop that we’re sipping on a cold mojito with two of the coolest personnel spinning at Sonar this weekend.
Rashad And Spinn are headlining Friday’s activities as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Presents Sonar By Day stage and it’s going off. Breakneck footwork is the order of the day and despite an incredibly knowledgeable crowd there is a good chance this could be the first hard exposure to the genre for a considerable percentage of people here today. With their dancer pushing his way through a punishing selection of body popping extremity, the other essential element of the footwork performance, he acts as a hype man to the hyperactive, stuttering speed-house beats that come through the speakers at a varied and quick-fire pace.
Spinn explains: “It all came from house, and in Chicago there’s a dance group scene. Loads of dance groups. That was the thing to get into as an alternative to playing sports. If you weren’t playing basketball you were dancing. The dance groups in Chicago were actually big things back in the day and it involved lots of shows and travelling. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? Dancing with girls an’ all that. From the dance groups, it branched off into just dancing to house and letting your foot work in a battle click.”
Drenched in house lineage, the manner of both Rashad and Spinn is every bit as cool as the Chicago electronic music tradition they are representing so well. Laid back, shades on brows, Rashad continues: “We grew up on house music and then there was ghetto house and that’s where we fit right in, in the ghetto house scene. Slowly but surely it progressed into what we’ve got now, and that’s juke and footwork.”
Speed up house rhythms with a repetitive vocal loop and an underlying sense of madness, par- allels can be drawn between the urban ghetto roots of jungle and drum and bass music in the UK and the footwork scene in Chicago. This is something of which Rashad is acutely aware. “Guys who were in the jungle scene were telling us there were loads of parallels, and we knew about jungle and drum and bass but we didn’t know where it came from. We thought it came from Seattle. Once we got to travel we saw it first hand. Now we know what’s up.”
The scene, which also features footwork contemporaries such as DJ Nate, DJ Earl, DJ Roc and Traxman as well as fresh blood such as Young Smoke, has begun to found legions of fans over here, in part thanks to the work of RBMA, but also one native Bristolian who has been heavily influenced by the Chicago footwork sound. “Addison Groove was one of the guys that got us in with Red Bull in the first place”, says Spinn. “They asked him where his sound came from and he was like “ask Spinn And Rashad” and then they flew us out the next week. Big shout to Tony Addison Groove.”
The footwork sound was brought brilliantly to a wider audience on the Planet Mu releases Bangs And Works Vol.1 and the subsequent Vol.2 with label owner Mike Paradinas taking it upon himself to present his Chicago findings to the world. Reviews were glowing as people keen to garner a piece of this new culture were forced to take a look. The jittering steps of a footwork dancer adorned the front cover. It was a perfect starter pack for all things footwork. When asked about Planet Mu, Rashad is overwhelmingly positive. “It’s one of those things we always hoped would happen. Spread the dancing and in the same way spread the music too.”
When asked the future for the genre Rashad said: “We’ve got loads of new people coming through, they all our little brothers. That’s how we started off, mentoring a couple of oth- ers like DJ Earl and introducing them to the footwork sound maybe three years ago. It just keeps going.”
With a swathe of UK producers seemingly very strongly influenced by the Chicago footwork sound such as Pearson Sound/Ramadanman, Girl Unit and Ikonika, there seems little let up in the underground quality using the footwork staple as a basis for their music. On a personal level, Rashad and Spinn’s solo records have just dropped, adding more to their status as the premier purveyors of the footwork sound on this side of the pond.
So finally what of the more comedic elements of their sound such as their remix of Holiday by Madonna? Spinn explains: “We just fucking around with a tune we used to listen to as kids. Some people need to throw some Madonna down to get down. We get flashbacks to songs we used to listen to. Always interesting to see if it’ll work.”
With footwork yet to become a commercial entity over here, Crack jumped at the chance to invite them to our monthly club nights at The Nest in Dalston where messieurs Rashad And Spinn will be showcasing on November 16th exactly whey they’ve become one of the most hyped propositions in electronic music. We can’t wait.
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Spinn and Rashad appear at The Nest for Crack Magazine on November 16th. For more information, head here.
Words: Thomas Frost