A few months ago, the artist Dylan Brady, whose best works had been melancholic trap ballads like “Little Bando”, quietly released the ambient piece
“ily all the time”. It was more Sigur Rós than Soundcloud, open space and a lack of audial intrusion its governing code, and a new dimension to a sound we thought we had pretty much figured out. This song, in particular, I thought of following the opening song on DJ Taye’s debut album Still Trippin’, an album – built from the wonderfully chaotic footwork genre – that celebrates the interstitial moments even in its most conventional tracks.
That opener, “2094”, is built around a synth line that hits no more than ten different notes in its stepping around the scale before breaking into more elongated, evaporating edits from the same synth. The footwork hallmarks – most importantly a frenetic hi-hat – are all there, but they cede the center to the just-left-of-center-for-elevator-music ambiance of the synth. It’s at once gorgeous and a feign for the rest of the album which, despite similar philosophical approaches to how the sounds should be spaced, is rap-heavy and works more with an ominous brightness.
New Start, Taso shared a track with Taye, “In the Green Room”, that was the EP’s highlight and one of the year’s more addictive songs. It was conventional to the genre in its splicing of raps and allowing them to sink into the bass, but it still serves as a landmark on Taye’s journey to the sound permeating Still Trippin’. The addition of lengthier rap verses and the voice of a footwork producer being literally represented by vocals as much as the subtle differences in samples or drum patterns is itself important in what Taye discussed in multiple interviews surrounding Still Trippin’‘s release: being a generation younger than Teklife’s founders, he is called upon both internally and externally to push footwork forward from something beautifully self-contained, but self-contained all the same.
His role as catalyst is, thankfully, not limited to himself on this album. After the Vinyl Factory
listed some of the twists Taye put by changing artists’ established roles, he told them, “I was just trying to do new stuff, period.” While shifting Chuck Inglish from the alternative minimalism of the early Cool Kids days to juke with its ideal of pure movement is a fascinating pairing, the crown jewel of this synthesizing mode comes two tracks later on “Gimme Some Mo”, his collaboration with the Jersey club artist UNIIQU3. The two genres mesh together beautifully, neither sacrificing their special percussive trademarks while the ambient synths from “2094” return to add weight to the space of the track.
The collaborations with fellow Teklife members round out the other half of the pairings on the album, most of these centering around the idea of conventional footwork’s comfort. The three DJ Manny collabs, for instance, still have little warpings of the formula all the same – AutoTune on “Anotha4”, non-starting hi-hats on “Need It”. DJ Paypal’s trio recall the buoyant energy they brought to a shared track on Paypal’s standout 2015 album
Sold Out and work just as well as pure instrumentals as they do when altered vocal samples are added to the mix.
In the ever-evolving sound that is footwork, each of the core players has trademarks that signify their unique take on its core. For DJ Taye, that is rooted in being a student of the genre and understanding where its limits need to be pushed.
Still Trippin’ is, in turn, a satisfying listen for classicists and interested experimenters alike. And the progress isn’t stopping with the album’s release – Taye spoke of wanting to do a whole footwork show with live instruments. It’s that mindset of always seeing where one can go next that makes footwork such a joy to listen to.