The godfather of Juke comes through on his debut album.
Between the recent influx of PC artists reaching the furthest levels of pretention or genius (depending on your view) and synapse melting beatmakers like Eprom, it feels like electronic music is more conceptual than ever. Perhaps we’ve forgotten the genesis of it all, these beats were meant to make us dance. Well, RP Boo is here to remind you. He’s culled a sleek collection of stark, danceable and occasionally menacing tracks on Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints.
RP Boo has often been heralded as one of the best producers no one’s ever heard. According to dance-historians and the man himself, he invented the Chicago subwoofer abusing genre of juke and its sibling style footwork. These frenetic modes were where RP Boo crafted dancehall worthy tracks that were propelled by handclaps, jarring percussion and stuttering vocal samples. Still, even with a huge back catalogue of singles, it wasn’t until recently that RP Boo quit his job at Lowe's and focused on the music full time. Legacy, the first proper compilation of his songs came out in 2013, about 16 years after he released his first single, “Baby Come On”.
What’s been clear, for his entire career, is that RP Boo is a master of layering. These songs can appear deceptively simple, but hide sudden curveballs and odd mutations of samples. “Bangin’ on King Drive” is the best example and, by that note, the best song on the album. The twitching percussion that opens is confounding by itself, but it’s accented by two different voices slipping over each other before RP Boo properly starts his slow burn. The title is intoned over a precise kick pattern, then RP Boo turns the phrase “bangin’ on King drive” into its own rhythmic instrument, just as powerful as the high-hats and snare attacks. Things get even weirder elsewhere. The seasick rhythm of “Your Choice” has the most confounding Michael McDonald sample ever used, with his pop-ready voice flowing over manic snare stutters and an ominous synth tick.
Of course, the point of Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints is less about any deep contemplations about capitalism and more about moving your body, and in that category the album (mostly) excels. There’s just something mesmerizing about how the beats clatter over each other. Even the creepy childlike vocals of “Heat From Us” can be effectively ignored thanks to the undulating rhythm.
Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints can get predictable at times, RP Boo’s comfort zone of vocal sample, rattling percussion and synth interludes becomes obvious by about four tracks in. More importantly, there are only a few moments when RP Boo goes completely off the tracks, mapping out his own path into madness. There’s nothing like Legacy’s highlight, the manic, hallucinogenic “There U’Go Boi” or anything like the head-stomping , Godzilla sampling “02-52-03”. Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints comes alive on sheer technical excellence (“Bangin’ on King Drive”) or when RP Boo mutates his natural sound. The near pop-single “Let’s Dance Again” has a smooth vocal sample placed over a thrilling high-hat pattern, romantic as it is frenetic. The obvious highlight, in terms of complete, mindbending weirdness, is late album cut “Suicide”. After a voice threatens unseen forces with “you niggas can’t fuck with me” a shuttering video-game like synth cuts through the sound, jittering and flopping on top of the clean hits of the percussion. It’s got some of “There U’Go Boi”’s DNA in it, but thanks to the degraded quality of the sample and the title, it becomes a horrific sort of tune. Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints is an occasional grab bag, but it, along with Legacy point at something rare: a veteran just coming into his own.