- Still Trippin' is meant to be footwork's next step. In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, DJ Taye said he wanted to close the gap "between footwork and some of Chicago's rappers being the biggest rappers in the world." It's true that Still Trippin' takes a lot of cues from hip-hop—there are rap verses and vocal hooks, many of which are from DJ Taye, who, aged 11, was rapping and making beats. But it's essentially a footwork album with a more open-minded outlook than, say, the aloof paranoia of the Bangs & Works Vol. 1 compilation that introduced the intense Chicago sound to European dance music audiences. In a sense, the LP is also an imagined collaboration between him and his mentor, the late DJ Rashad. "I just really wanted to do something for him, musically," DJ Taye told the FADER. "This was the sound that he taught me." That sound is a smooth, soul-drenched strain of footwork, which DJ Rashad realised most fully on 2013's Double Cup, one of the scene's essential albums.
Still Trippin''s first half is smooth in many other ways. Synth lines unfurl over 16 and 32 bars, unbroken by bass throbs or jerky snares. DJ Taye's vocals seem slicked with syrup, a tone that suits his singalong hook on the DJ Lucky-assisted "Smokeout." The vocalist Odile Myrtil gives "Same Sound" a slow-jam feel. "Trippin'"s excitable 8-bit swirls aside, the hip-hop is mellow. The range here is laudable, but some tracks are let down by weak production. "2094"'s piano chords are lovely; its spaghetti-like synth undulations less so. The synth timbres on "Gimme Some Mo," featuring UNiiQU3, and "Same Sound" are similarly bland. Still Trippin''s sound design too often lacks textural depth, and it sometimes undermines otherwise good songs.
The hip-hop tracks are a mixed bag as well. "Smokeout"'s stoner raps and wispy tones are a low-key treat. "Another4," on the other hand, is freighted with well-worn hip-hop tropes: the Auto-Tuned hook, the triplet flow, the phoneline vocals, the single-phrase ad-libs. On tracks like these the erratic rhythms are reined in, which might point to the difficulty of combining rap and footwork. (The Era Footwork Crew's So·lo (z), a promising EP of "footwork with words," occasionally struggled to sound at ease with itself.) "Get It Jukin," however, has a simple solution. It's split into three clear-cut sections: Chuck Inglish's gravelly slow-fast flow, a frantic footwork bit, where his vocal is chopped and looped, and an instrumental coda with an unmistakable snare pattern.
The modest experiments work well. "Need It" continues footwork's healthy exchange with jungle (see DJ Manny's "Like That," DJ Rashad's "I'm Too Hi"), but the asymmetrical pair of vocals, unspooling at two different speeds, is a cunning twist. The DJ Paypal-featuring "Pop Drop," which recalls Detroit ghettotech, chops DJ Taye's vocals until mushed phrases like "fwerk" and "jukecheck" slip out the grinder. The trad footwork bangers are reliably excellent. "Truu," again with DJ Paypal, tacks a yearning vocal sample onto coiling leads and sawing digital strings. "Bonfire" gets all Jean-Luc Ponty with frantic jazz violin slides. A Pac-Man-esque death wobble wrings out "The Matrix"'s video game funk. The scratchy disco guitar loops of "Closer" come closest to invoking DJ Rashad, whose spiritual presence on the album is less audible than you'd expect.
DJ Taye is front and centre on Still Trippin', but he's never evangelising himself so much as the footwork sound. Just about every type of beat has its moment here, including the sample-based tracks of the type heard on his Hyperdub EPs, Move Out and Break It Down. The LP's commitment to variety is its salvation, but it's also its biggest flaw. It assumes the solution to spreading footwork globally—or simply evolving it—can't come from its own DNA. As it is, the LP's cross-genre hybrids rarely improve the footwork formula, and, by combining it with inferior versions of other styles, sometimes diminish it. The music's fiercely distinctive nature emerged from its regional insularity; if the world begins to embrace footwork as imagined by Still Trippin', the sound might lose as much as it'll gain.
03. Need It feat. DJ Manny
04. Smokeout feat. DJ Lucky
05. Same Sound feat. Odile Myrtil
07. Another4 feat. DJ Manny
08. Bonfire feat. DJ Paypal
09. The Matrix feat. DJ Manny
10. Get It Jukin feat. Chuck Inglish
11. Pop Drop feat. DJ Paypal
12. Gimme Some Mo feat. UNiiQU3
13. Truu feat. DJ Paypal
15. I'm Trippin
16. I Dont Know feat. Fabi Reyna