Exclusive Track: Boylan – “Run The Streets“
WHILE FOOTWORK CONTINUES to find its place within the electronic music consciousness, many listeners and critics are still unclear on how to accurately absorb it for interpretation and translate it to discussion. One of the most common mistakes, and one jazner has been guilty of on occasion, is using the terms ‘footwork’ and ‘juke’ interchangeably, as if the two were inseparable as a kick and a snare.
Here to set the record straight is Chicago’s very own Nate Boylan, a high school science teacher by day, footwork producer by night, and Ghettoteknitian for life. You may remember Boylan from his contribution to Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works Vol. 2, the impeccable, sped up Sade sampled “Bullet Proof Soul” sticking out as one of the comps many highlights, a track that was also used in an Addison Groove mix earlier this year
Boylan was kind enough to break down the basic elements of footwork, how it differs from juke, and what the ghettotekz life is all about, clearing the air for all of us outside of Chicago.
Take your seats, students, Footwork 101 is about to begin.
jazner: What are the differences between juke and footwork?
Boylan: Both ‘types’ of music can be considered ‘tracks’. That’s what we call them.
Juke really isn’t a type of music, but a style of dancing to ghetto house. Juke is commonly used as a verb, as in “that girl was jukin me on the floor” (basically like having sex with clothes on) or “damn that party was jukin.” Juke tracks bear a much closer (to the ear of most people outside of the south and west sides) resemblance to ghetto house (DJ Deeon, DJ Milton, DJ PJ, DJ Funk, etc).
Footwork is another form of tracks (the general word that means house music) specifically used in footwork battles by various dance crews around the city (Wolf Pack, T.S., LOTNS, Taliban, etc). Many footwork tracks are specifically made for different crews (TS Hoe by DJ Rashad). Footwork is much less commercial than most juke tracks and really is best understood in the context of events such as Battlegrounds (on 87th and stony island), T.U.F.F. (on 87th and hermitage), war zone (Wala’s event), the Bud Billiken parade and after-parties. In Chicago currently tracks mainly come in the footwork flavor, also known as juketronik, gutta etc.
j: Break it down in the following contexts: Musically (beats, rhythms, pulse, samples, techniques, technology, etc)
B: There is a distinct four pattern embedded in tracks, which seems to be mostly not understood by producers outside of Chicago. It sounds random, but the drums match the sample/synth. Theres almost always a clap or snare holding down the four count. In my production crew (Ghetto teknitianz aka ghettotekz) we mostly produce using MPC’s of some variety (2000 XLs, 2500s, 1000s) and emu, Roland and Akai synths. Some people use software to produce, but the real juice seems to flow best from the MPC.
DJ Rashad and Spinn and RP boo basically took it to the footwork level in the late late ninties and have been making hot tracks for over 12 years. Interesting side note: I teach high school science at the same school that Rashad and Spinn met at in homeroom as students. Its part of the Southside/South Central suburbs/Westside tradition that we hold down the footwork at Thornwood. Many many many Thornwood students are also dancers and/or producers.
j: Culturally (gatherings, battles, crews, swagger, etc)
B: Footwork battles: the real shit. Kids get together and battle, winner by audience reaction. Sometimes there’s money involved. In many ways the battles provide a constructive method of helping teenage kids stay out of trouble, because in Chicago there’s plenty of trouble that kids can get into.
As far as who runs it, I’d have to say that the Tekz run the South. If you go to any battles you are almost 100% sure to hear at least one track by one of the guys.
We also do Northside events like JukeFest every summer where we get to bring tracks to groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t come down to the Southside/Westside events.
j: Can you describe what a juke / footwork battle is like for people that have never been to one? What are the vibes, the energy, the sounds, smells and feelings overall?
B: It starts out quiet and sparse and as people fill in the warm-ups begin. Often a side room will have mirrors for practicing. By 10, the dj will start dropping tracks that are ice cold and usually will drop a few new tracks that he produced maybe specifically for the event in progress. The vibe is usually competitive but positive. The feelings depend on your mood, lol that’s an interesting question. The vibes are bass out of subs and hot new tracks.
j: Where does jit fit in this conversation?
B: Jit is a Detroit based style of dancing and tracks that are even faster than our tracks. I’m not even sure if jit still is a thing nowadays. But if it is, it really doesn’t relate on more than a superficial level to footwork. Footwork = the grandbaby of house music. Jit = weird ghettotech (Detroit tracks DJ Godfather, DJ Nasty, DJ Assault) = techno.
j: What is the Teklife mantra, what narrative or story is being told?
B: Haha. Teklife is how we do shit. It has to be experienced, so it’s really hard to define in words. Drop down to the Southside and see what’s up. You’ll be on teklife for a minute.
j: Who is part of Teklife, and how did it start?
B: Teklife is also people associated around the world with the tekz. You could be teklife but not a ghetto tek. Puttin in work and grinding are the way that I got the invitation to become a tek a couple years ago. I’ve been knowing Rashad since 2005 and the crew about as long. Ghetto teknitianz live that TEKLIFE, so that’s where that comes from. The ghettoteknitianz crew consists of Rashad, Spinn, Traxman, Gantman, Clent, Tre, me, Manny, Phil, Earl, Jana, Frost, Roland, Curtis, TMO, Donja, Lucky, AG, Taye, RP Boo, Pilsbury, Remi, Louie Cue and I know I’m forgetting someone…
j: Where is juke / footwork going? What are its goals? Is it meant as a strictly Chicago sound or does it want to explode into the general electronic discourse?
B: Hey, to quote “My House” by Chuck Roberts
“In the beginning there was Jack … and Jack had a groove
And from this groove came the grooves of all grooves.
And while one day viciously throwing down on his box,
Jack boldly declared ‘Let There Be House’ and House music was born.
“I am you see, I am the creator and this is my house
And in my house there is only House Music.
But I am not so selfish because once you enter my house
it then becomes our house and our House Music.
And, you see, no one man owns house”
So where is it going? We can’t tell, but the world has begun to appreciate, modify and appropriate (so far in a fairly positive way) tracks. My only complaint is that Youtube has misinformed many people/bloggers/internet guys/record label bosses about who’s the true talent and who made and defines tracks.
j: Has juke / footwork’s growing exposure (internationally, through magazines and blogs) changed the central elements of the styles’ sounds and its culture? Has it enhanced them or hurt them?
B: No. We do what we want for the most part, how ever good DJs and producers play to their crowds, so if Rashad/Spinn are in Europe, they change up the tracks to make the crowds go wild. If you were able to change the Southside, you could change our culture. But that’s not happening so we will keep doing what we’re doing.
My only complaint is that Youtube has misinformed many people/bloggers/internet guys/record label bosses about who’s the true talent and who made and defines tracks. The thing about it is that footwork is really hard to interpret outside of its context. I suggest that anyone who has not had first hand experience with the music in its element not consider themselves well versed in tracks.
I was djing at a party in San Fransisco over winter break and a guy at the party came up to me and started suggesting that if I loved spinning ‘juke’ that I should check out this person or that one (not a one from Chicago). On the inside I was cracking up because I am good friends with and produce tracks with the inventors of this type of house music and probably don’t need a ‘juke primer’.