It’s bold and brash, but it still feels like a natural extension of the now-global footwork scene.
Sold Out, DJ Paypal’s newest joint, is most compelling because of its cheeky flip of footwork’s ethos. Paypal’s Teklife compatriots make a living pushing out footwork and juke with a stony expression -- to them (and to many others), the style isn’t fun and games. It reflects life’s sobriety, whether in the form of DJ Spinn’s spartan, mechanical breakbeats or the late DJ Rashad’s smoother soul-influenced oeuvre. Classically, footwork has taken itself very seriously, something befitting its origins in Chicago dance battles -- music, as dance, as a way of life.
DJ Paypal, on the other hand, professes no such pretensions. The notoriously camera-shy producer -- he generally performs with a T-shirt over his head, and has given very few publicly-available interviews -- nevertheless reframes footwork as a more joyful, less sober experience. There’s a certain brand of liveliness and merriment on Sold Out which flies in the face of conventional juke and yet it still feels faithful to the style, kind of like a parallel to Todd Terje’s disco or Jamie xx’s jungle. It’s bold and brash, but it still feels like a natural extension of the now-global footwork scene.
Probably the defining moment of Sold Out comes at the end of “Awakening", when a reversed bassline slides past kooky organ chords and smooth horns. It comes as a total switch from the frenetic, nagging saxophone riff that drives the insistent beat of the main song. It’s an odd way to end and the flip from a song that’s alternately bangin’ footwork and carefully swung jazz reworkings to something so clearly tongue-in-cheek is disorienting. And yet, like almost every other moment like this on the album -- the almost-irritating blather behind the samba-like beats of “Slim Trak,” the nasally-as-hell synth lead of the un-Googleable “With Uuuuuuu” -- it hits perfectly.
Not everything strikes quite on the mark. As intriguing as “Slim Trak” is, it’s not something with a lot of longevity as it’s just a little too bare-bones, bouncing awkwardly off the more full-bodied arrangements of Sold Out’s other offerings. However, the less attractive moments are nevertheless in line with the general spirit of the album, as evidenced by its cohesive flow from the dizzying “Sold Out” to the quasi-Rustie bass blasts of “Say Goodbye". It’s a solid album, albeit one without many ultra-impressive peaks. But, arguably more importantly, it’s a reimagining of footwork’s impressive potential. After all, the genre still has a lot of exploration it can do and, if Sold Out is any indication, it’s still alive and well.