Music

RP Boo Remains a Footwork Purist with 'I'll Tell You What'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Footwork producer RP Boo's first album of new material expands his purist sound by looking inward rather than outward.

I'll Tell You What!
RP Boo

Planet Mu

6 July 2018

It's so satisfying when a purist statement comes along that still pushes the boundaries of its chosen medium. RP Boo's I'll Tell You What! is such an album. It's the first collection of new material from the producer born Kavain Space, who helped invent the regional Chicago house style known as footwork in the 1990s and released one of its best full-length statements, Legacy, in 2013. That was a compilation of older works, as was 2015's Bank Pads & Shoe Prints. I'll Tell You What! is his first album of all-new material, and it's the sound of a wily old vet expanding the genre's territory by pushing inward rather than outward.

At times, Space seems to be testing how few elements he needs to generate the gravity-defying momentum of footwork, which at its best can make the casual listener feel as if they're standing in the center of a maelstrom. Long stretches of the album are just drums—including the album's first 20 seconds, just before an acid bass-worm winds its way across the stereo field. "Earth's Battle Dance" lets the sample just ride for much of its midsection, like a dusty hip-hop beat. "U Belong 2 Me" coasts on the hairpin melisma of its vocal sample, and when all but voice cuts out, it's nearly as dramatic as John Bonham's drum solo on "Moby Dick".

There's no fat, no concessions to vaporwave or big-tent EDM. When Space raps on "Bounty" it's to remind us that hip-hop is an inexorable element of footwork's DNA, and when he invokes Blondie's "One Way Or Another" in his verse it's not a bold nod to rock, à la Traxman's ridiculous edit of AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock", but an indication that he probably remembers "Rapture" coming out. Only the closing "Deep Sole" seems like a compromise, its maudlin guitar loop serving as a reward for patient listeners who'd rather listen to something pleasant. The stark purity of this record is frightening. The snares are sharp as knives—which we remember are sharpened by whittling away bits of the blade, just as RP Boo's whittled away at his sound.

RP Boo's music has always bristled with fearsome intent, a sense of fuck-you-I'm-RP-Boo, from the knowing, feline glare on the cover of Legacy to the way he punctuates the most thrilling developments of his music with a sort of live commentary ("watch and witness," he intones on one track before bringing the drums in). I'll Tell You What! , in particular, feels like an apex predator staking claim to his hunting grounds. The title itself suggests he's laying down the law—to younger producers, perhaps, or simply to haters. When a sample screams "nobody's fucking with me in these streets" on "No Body", we believe it.

RP Boo's status in footwork is more or less unimpeachable. The only way he could really mess things up is to make a bad album of new material. Luckily, I'll Tell You What! is a fantastic record. It's also a deft transition to the album format, which wasn't really a concern in footwork until outside labels like Planet Mu started packaging the stuff and selling it to hip crowds worldwide. RP Boo's compilations of older work felt like just that, but I'll Tell You What is a linear and symmetrical album that swallows us and spits us back out.

I'll Tell You What is purist, but it's not a reaction against more open-ended trends in footwork. The genre started slipping out of Chicago around 2010 with Mu's Bangs & Works compilation, and though it's since crept onto hipster and raver playlists, it hasn't been totally decontextualized like house and techno. It's still associated with an inner circle of black Chicago producers, many of them associated with the late DJ Rashad's Teklife crew, and if RP Boo is less famous than a founding father of footwork should be, it's because of his conservative, challenging approach. He could've easily called up Chance the Rapper, whom he's remixed, for this album. But he hasn't, and even if this is an album made with listeners in mind, he's not going to let us off easy.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.