Sticking with this month's theme of local scenes, I've chosen to highlight a rapidly growing underground scene that is very local to us in Chicago, yet the mainstream and even most of the US are unaware of its presence. More so, with the music's popularity percolating under the mainstream radar and with recent interest from UK label staple Planet Mu, who released the 2010 compilation Bang's & Works Vol. 1 followed up shortly thereafter in 2011 with Bang's & Works Vol. 2 , there's no doubt that this is the most progressive music scene to emerge from Chicago since the birth of house music.
Footwork is as much a genre of music as it is a style of dance. In recent years the style has spread outside of the Midwest thanks to Chicago's Dude N Nem's 2007 video for "Watch My Feet" which showcased footwork dancers. Footworks pedigree dates back to the early days of Chicago house music, but holds more direct ancestry with ghetto house, booty bass, booty house, and juke music -- all off shoots of house music. Yet, recently there has been much attention payed to the burgeoning scene by UK tastemakers concerned with bass music. Sure enough there are many parallels between UK bass music and Chicago footwork without there even meaning to be. In fact, over the past 5 years the two styles have developed completely independently of one another, until recently with UK producers taking notice to this new form of dance music with the attraction most likely being the mind numbing amounts of sub bass that both genres are characteristic too.
Addison Groove's track "Footcrab" is noted as being the main crossover tune that linked the UK bass scene with the Chicago footwork scene in 2011. This new style of dance music is taking Europe by storm and is even reaching to parts of Europe such as Paris and Germany. This truly speaks to the wonder of the internet age and what it means for two scenes on opposite sides of the world to be able to influence and collaborate with one another.
However, there is a greater theme to footwork music than sub bass and that is the theme of community. You will not hear footwork music at clubs or bars, but rather inside school gymnasiums and empty room's in public buildings on Chicago's south and west sides. In these building you will find a crowd of teenagers crowded around one dancer dancing so fast that it seems almost alien and inhuman. This is your typical battle night that is hosted by local DJ's such as DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn -- both key innovators in the Chicago footwork scene. Many in these neighborhoods look at footwork as more than a movement in music in dance, but as a means for kids to constructively use their time and stay off the streets. It is one of the many cultural aspects that bonds these communities together making the music all the more unique.
Below are a few tracks that contain footwork style beats from Chicago artists (minus the Addison Groove track). Most notable being Gant-Man, a Chicago legend in juke and footwork.
If you're interested in finding more out about the styles evolution there is a very interesting documentary called From Jack to Juke: 25 Years of Ghetto House that highlights the evolution of house music to the current day trends of footwork.