Soundclouds of the Underground: The Footwork Edition

Published August 22, 2013

ABOVE: DEEJAY EARL

These days, music truly lives online, with an infinite number of websites dedicated to hosting tunes for the laptop-wielding masses. However, the web’s bottomless pit of blogs isn’t the only place to troll for mp3 treasures—some of the newest and most exciting (Internet-friendly) artists can be sought out via Soundcloud, the online stage that allows musicians to promote and distribute their music to fans and friends across the globe. In this weekly column, our expert Internet sleuths go into the depths of the music-sharing site, in hopes of shedding light on emerging acts, as well as sharing some digital diamonds in the rough.

Footwork is the Chicago-born dance and genre of music that plows into eardrums at 160 beats per minute. For comparison: a normal, adult human heart beats 60-100 times per minute, hip-hop songs average 90-100 BPM, and even the fastest techno hit levels off at around 140 BPM. Footworkers dance moving only their legs, which fly manically beneath them, each toe just barely tapping the ground before zipping back out in another direction. The best dancers look like the Road Runner sprinting away with legs that transform into a blur, and it’s mesmerizing. Here’s a quick introduction to The Ghetto Teknitions, also known as Tek Life-Chicago’s preeminent footwork collective.

DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn: “Double Cup”

Who: DJs Rashad and Spinn are the unnamed leaders of Tek Life and frequent collaborators. The duo honed their turn-tabling skills playing Chicago’s after school battles and now Rashad has his own label, Lit City Trax. This year he’s been releasing music on UK label Hyperdub, playing his part in bringing footwork across the ocean.

The Song: “Double Cup” is not for the weary. From the moment it starts the beat pulses at that classic footwork rate and only gets more frenetic as the song goes on, building with snares and drums until they drop off and we’re directed to “Break it down, roll it up and pass that shit.” This is likely a snippet from Rashad’s upcoming full-length album Double Cup.

Current Project: Rashad’s most recent EP I Don’t Give a Fuck is now available on iTunes and his highly collaborative full-length drops on October 22. Rashad starts his North American tour with Kode9, founder of Hyperdub, in September. Keep up-to-date on all Rashad happenings via Facebook.

Deejay Earl : “SomeBodyySayYeahhh”

Who: Earl entered the musical world in 2005 by means of a dance battle and met Spinn and Rashad in 2008. Now, the 22-year-old footwork phenom represents the next generation of Tek Life. With impeccable turntable skills, he’s mesmerizing to watch on the decks—and weighing in at around 300 pounds, even more impressive as a dancer.

The Song: It seems hard to make songs so fast and frenzied seem dreamy, but that’s Earl’s specialty. He slips an 8-bit melody into the hodgepodge of hi hats and snares, making those 160 BPM strike as eerie.

Current Project: Earl’s April release, L.I.F.E is available on Bandcamp. Follow him on Facebook and Soundcloud for all other updates.

Sirr Tmo: “Suddenly There”

Who: Sirr Tmo (pronounced: tee-mo) is the young gunner trying to change things around. He calls his sound progressive and experimental footwork, and it often sounds very different from Rashad and Earl’s potentially seizure-inducing music. He’s relatively unknown at the moment, but according to his Soundcloud page he “favors telling stories and building worlds through sound, currently in the works of innovating a new sound in music entirely.” Listen closely before he changes music and leaves you behind.

The Song: If “SomeBodyySayYeahhh” is eerie: the xylophone-esque sounds lead listeners into the darkness until the scratches and snares jump out from the sides to build an alley cacophony. Even the album artwork is a disturbing doll (or Liz Taylor?). This one’s for the kids who sit alone in their room at night watching scary movies just to creep themselves out. Let’s call Tmo the M. Night Shyamalan of footwork.  

Current Project: Tmo is mostly releasing music through Soundcloud but you can catch him midnight every Tuesday night on Chicago’s WNUR for the Tek Life Takeover, along with most of these other cats.

Soundclouds of the Underground runs every Thursday. For more, click here.