RP Boo
Photo: Homer Cunningham / Backspin Promotions

RP Boo’s ‘Legacy Volume 2’ Reminds of Chicago Footwork’s Radical Origins

Anyone coming to RP Boo or footwork in general via this release needs to be prepared to have their bones rearranged and their senses overloaded.

Legacy Volume 2
RP Boo
Planet Mu
12 May 2023

It’s been over a decade since labels such as Hyperdub or Planet Mu, the imprint behind Legacy Volume 2, yanked footwork from Chicago’s streets and onto turntables across the US, Europe, and elsewhere. While it never divorced the music from the frenetic dance steps it spawned, it arguably threatened the music’s context, or perhaps compilations such as 2010’s Bangs and Works Vol 1 merely placed pioneers such as DJ Rashad or DJ Diamond among music’s most radical avant-garde. Such moves opened paths for Jana Rush‘s footwork-based sonic overloads or Jlin‘s polyrhythmic, industrial intensity. That 2010 compilation was also most likely the first time anyone outside of the windy city’s post-Ghetto House 160 BPM scene had heard of Kavain Space, aka RP Boo, arguably the creator of the footwork genre to begin with.

Even though he had been crafting immersive, mind-altering beats and frighteningly fast, dizzyingly repetitive, relentlessly motion-demanding music since the mid-1990s, RP Boo didn’t release an album until 2013, a compilation of tracks spanning a decade. So it only makes sense that a decade later, he would revisit the same turf, recordings he’d made between 2002-2007- for Legacy Volume 2. Anyone coming to RP Boo or footwork in general via this release needs to be prepared to have their bones rearranged and their senses overloaded.

Using a Roland R-70 and an Akai SO1, the kind of equipment Boo’s trusted in for a quarter century, he creates rubbery, skittering drum hits that seem to be ever searching for a landing, hemmed into place by trebled smacks and tempered glass shards of repeatedly sampled melodies or words. “Total Darkness”, which found its way into that first Bangs and Works collection, is particularly striking. With the constantly repeated “Ooh/I feel/Ooh” glitch sailing over stubborn Roland-generated drum fills, it’s an all-demanding, perhaps frightening slice of unapologetic repetition.

“Flo-Control” repeats the title as a nervous twitch, with the sporadic “baby” or “there it go” piling on, as a singular tap and a smattering of drum hits are all there is grounding any of it. “Say Grace” repeats a sampled sweeping orchestral gesture, snapping it back over and over as an elusive pulse constantly tries to undermine whatever melody the track allows. It’s music that has no interest in meeting a listener halfway. But play any of these tracks a few times and feel them worm their way into your brain like pop songs.

Elsewhere, samples of a Japanese horror film, nearly unidentifiable snippets of 1970s sweet soul, and even a warped Paul McCartney “Live and Let Die” chorus serve to show how RP Boo re-imagined Chicago house via 1990s parties as a DJ, ultimately creating slippery, demanding beats that kept dancers drilled and frantic. Unsurprisingly, one of the tracks was used in King Charles and Pause Eddie’s video demonstration of old-school Chicago footwork moves. Watching the two of them do the Erk and Jerk or the Dribble to Boo’s “Bow Oh” shows the music’s initial purpose.

Another way to get a sense of Boo’s genius is to watch him craft a beat, his head bobbing to emphasize how rhythm is at the heart of what he does, even as he dodges the kind of four-on-the-floor that House was built on. While those visuals serve as a needed reminder of the music’s direct connection to dance and statements of resistance with centuries-old roots, RP Boo has claimed. “Music will always outlast the dance.” In this way, he recognizes the timeless importance of his creations on a purely artistic level—a legacy for sure.

RATING 8 / 10