Over the last several decades, the Chicago producer and DJ RP Boo has been in the strange position of watching the sound he pioneered hopscotch around the globe. Since the late 90s, he’s been at the avant edge of the regional (now international) form of dance music we’ve come to call footwork, crafting layered, complex and absurdly fast pieces that have since been absorbed into the DNA of music all over the world.
In addition to the producers everywhere trying their hand at the form—from the new generation of Teklife producers like DJ Paypal and DJ Earl to weirdos making beats on ancient computers—it’s easy to feel the Skip-It rhythms of footwork’s kicks in everything from Japanese experimental music (like Foodman) to mainstream R&B (like some of Jeremih’s left-of-center experiments). It’s rare that pioneers of a form so vast receive proper credit for their influences, but thanks to a string of releases on the the tastemaking label Planet Mu, RP Boo’s been able to maintain x`his place in the global conversation around the sound—each release showing off either decades-old tracks that anticipated the current wave of producers’ rhythmic trickery, or demonstrating his still formidable chops of bass-drum destruction and catchy vocal choppery. All this to say, in any genre, there are few legends you get to watch do their thing in real time, knowing full well how important they are to the canon of modern music.
So, it’s incredibly exciting that this week’s Noisey Mix was put together by the man himself. In the summer, he’ll release a new album on Planet Mu, his first since 2015’s Fingers, Bank Pads, and Shoe Prints. Though we can’t say much about it yet, a number of tracks from that record make appearances in the mix below, and if they’re anything to go by, it’s showing off the raw experimentalism for which RP Boo has become known over the years. Those ones are sandwiched between footwork greats old and new, including DJ Earl, DJ Spinn, and the late, great DJ Rashad, among a whole host of others. It’s a wild hour tour through, what RP Boo says sounds like “pure darkness,” but to me sounds like blunted tracks from all corners of the constellation of footwork—from jazzy numbers that float around to crushing sub-bass abstraction. You can listen to it right here, along with a brief conversation with him about the mix and what’s in store on this new record.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
RP Boo: Have an open ear, heart and when the rhythm rides make sure you hold on. Picture your setting in an atmosphere with pure energy and the lights are jamming with your every movement that will identify that right body stroke .
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
The color of this mix is black, pure darkness.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
Do you have a favorite moment on the mix?
When it starts out with an unreleased made track that DJ Rashad personally sent to me about two weeks before his passing, just one of my favorite moments strikes around 29:58 when the two tracks are blending (“Round 2” “don't give A fukk”).
So, you have this new album coming in the summer, can you tell me about how that first came together? What were you hoping to do with the tracks on this album that you haven’t done so far in your career?
Every two years I always try to map out A time to release another album. I always move on with what’s to be unexpected, not afraid at all and let the results speak for itself with room to learn, as well for shaping what’s to come.
With the release of Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints , you spoke a bit about how Planet Mu had a hand in the way they were presenting your history to the world. How is this record different? Do you feel it’s a more authentic representation of where you’re at as an artist right now?
I didn't want anything of old in my collection even though [there’s] some great ones that still can make an album, and I was just creating fresh things and wanted to just move on with those instead of having them sit and wait. Being more authentic strengthens my foundation of growth.
There are a lot of vocals on the new record. What makes a great footwork vocal for you? How do you decide what bits to keep in your vocal chops?
I [understand] the words that relate to what footwork has in its art form and the journeys that helped build it/I’m now just translating it in my way, that will have people continue wondering how [I] come up with this. Before I record I know how it is to be, and learn how to not waste, even with words.
You’ve gotten to watch footwork unfold since the very beginning, and your mix obviously includes people from the new generation of producers too—I was wondering, what are your feelings about the current state of the form?
I always enjoy hearing other producers put how they feel into the tracks. It broadens the horizons—YES! It has a great future, even if it has a low voice on some sides of the planet.
Your history as an artist is obviously so tied into the history of footwork, do you ever have ambitions to try out other forms or styles? Or is footwork always where your heart is going to be?
Life is my heart. When an ear has its true understanding, then will one hear. So many other forms and styles [have] been traveling within my tracks, from the start knowing that I will not stay in one place. I will move around and, who knows, create/reveal a newer twist that can open an awaiting [genre] to be named and put in place with all the others before it. Take Footwork for example, no one in the birthplace planned to make it come, it was created from years of just experiencing the great times on the dance floor. R-P-BUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!
RP Boo Noisey Mix tracklist:
DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn - “I Ain’t Playing”
DJ Rashad and RP Boo - “Flying (Remixed)”
RP Boo - “Heavy Heat”
DJ Phil and DJ Manny - “Break 4Luv”
DJ Spinn - “Give It 2Ya”
RP Boo - “Hopes Up”
DJ Spinn/DJ Manny/Chap/DJ Phil- “Super High”
RP Boo and DJ Phil Feat Crossfire - “Flight 1235” *
RP Boo - “There U Go Boy”
DJ Acey - “Get Back”
DJ Earl - “Fukk It Up”
RP Boo - “Tribute 2 Jammin Gerald”
RP Boo - "Round 2”
DJ Rashad - “I Don’t Give a Fuck”
RP Boo - “Bounty” *
DJ Phil and DJ Manny - West End Girls
RP Boo - “Off Da Hook”
RP Boo - “The King”
RP Boo - “The Ultimate”
DJ Rashad - “Lazer”
DJ Rashad - “Slip Away”
RP Boo - “Earth Battle Dance” *
DJ Rashad - “More Butta”
RP Boo - “Bu’Moon”
DJ Manny - “Drums Please”
RP Boo - “Bang’n On King Drive”
* = unreleased from RP Boo's new album