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DJ Taye didn’t always dream of being a musician. “I used to want to be an astronaut,” he explains, “until my auntie told me I couldn’t do that. Like on some ‘if you go, you won’t ever make it back’ type of shit.” He laughs at the memory now, and he has no regrets about the vocation that never was. “I can just be in space in my music.”

The 23-year-old Chicago-born, LA-based artist certainly drifts towards new territories on Still Trippin’, his debut LP for Hyperdub. The record throws up plenty of nods to Taye’s interstellar aspirations: the launch sequence of arpeggios on single Trippin’; the neon synthwork of Same Sound; titles that evoke both the near future (the chilled, funky opener 2094) and the far future (the minimal interlude 9090).

Still Trippin’ also emphasises the versatility of his chosen genre. DJ Taye has been positioned as one of footwork’s bright young things since the beginning of the decade and the album sees him swiftly fluctuate between different vibes. With THC-influenced psychedelic textures, densely-programmed percolators and meditations that embrace white space; clipped dance floor instructions in the ghetto house tradition and AutoTune-warped rap vocals, Taye envisions everyone from his pre-teen cousins to footwork veterans finding something to love here.

In many ways, Still Trippin’ is the decades-long culmination of the complex footwork genre, which emerged to soundtrack Chicago dance crews in the wake of ghetto house and juke music at the turn of the millennium, before reaching wider acclaim and global audiences in the early 2010s. Still, footwork, with its intense drum patterns designed to challenge dancers, remains divisive. “Certain people get it, certain people don’t get it,” Taye says. “It resonates so hard with me… there’s still no other vibe like it.”

“Certain people don't get footwork. But it resonates so hard with me. There's still no other vibe like it”

DJ Taye became enchanted by footwork when he first heard it as a kid on a mixtape he’d found with friend and collaborator Desmond Penn. “We made a goofy dance to it [but] didn’t know what the fuck we were doing,” he remembers. After downloading Fruity Loops, Taye started out crafting hip-hop beats and uploading them to SoundCloud predecessor Soundclick. Soon, his friends started footworking, and he learned about local elders DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn and the Ghettotekz crew–which would become Teklife. “This is some crazy-ass music,” he remembers thinking. “My beats were already weird and spacey, so I was fucking with the vibe of it.”

Having joined Teklife in 2010, DJ Taye turned out a handful of self-released EPs and albums that established him as one of the anchors of the crew’s second generation alongside fellow Chicagoans DJ Earl and DJ Manny. On his 2015 Hyperdub debut, the Break It Down EP, Taye connected with out-of-town newcomers DJ Paypal and Tripletrain on ragged battle tracks and soul-sampling mind-expanders. 2016’s moody Move Out EP showed off Taye’s gifts for woozy synth melodies (on the title track) and featured the poignant-sounding masterpiece Burnin’ Ya Boa.

No stranger to collaborations, Still Trippin’ sees Taye looking outside the box for talents that help him explore new corners of footwork. Cool Kids rapper Chuck Inglish is a natural fit on Get It Jukin, Jersey club star Uniiqu3 brings her infectious energy to Gimme Some Mo, and Odile Myrtil (a Montreal vocalist who also appeared on Rizzla’s Iron Cages) adds a delicate counterpoint on Same Sound. Perhaps the most unexpected guest is Fabi Reyna, the editor-in-chief of women’s guitar magazine She Shreds, who met Taye at a Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp residency. On I Don’t Know, Reyna contributes bass guitar and some reverb-heavy riffage.

With its experimental, collaborative spirit, Still Trippin’ proudly continues the legacy created by footwork’s elder statesmen. And as with everything Teklife, DJ Rashad’s influence and presence looms large, four years after his untimely passing. “You can feel how we miss him, you can feel his energy through the album,” Taye says, a somber tone in his voice. “I’m just pushing as hard as I can for him, his son, his legacy. That’s the best I can do for my friend.”

Photography: Thomas Chatt
Styling: Mhya Mclean

Still Trippin’ is out now via Hyperdub