Review Summary: step
Footwork is less a genre than a literal movement. As a genre, it's doing great, with releases ranging from standard works firmly in the Teklife crew to more left-field artists skimming the IDM scene. As a movement, it's still holding on. It's a dance party that started more than a decade ago, with everyone involved still going hard. There have been newcomers, and many observers looking in, but it never really made it all the way to the mainstream. Like all highly innovative styles of music, the people working the most to make it happen have not seen the success they definitely deserve. It's impossible to predict how long they'll keep working for nothing but the love of the dance. We know it will be a while, given the powerful dedication so many of them have shown so unflinchingly and consistently, but it'd be impossible to blame anyone for throwing in their shoes and moving on.
DJ Taye hasn't. Since his dorm room years in the early 2010s, he's been dropping projects at least once a year, making this his seventh album, but his first for Hyperdub. Although he's flirted with mainstream sensibilities since his beginning, this one is the first that feels like it really fits into a major label instead of the obscure Bandcamp sensibility. The high-pace drums footwork is famous for are put on hold slightly, used conservatively instead of constantly. Instead of looped vocal samples, Taye relies more on verses. He's been rapping for a while now, but now he tries layering his charismatic voice over his signature breaks, which helps glide the time by on more repetitive tracks. The songwriting is varied, with some help from old friends like DJ Paypal, who excels in building a sense of progressive tension when songs most need them, and UNIIQU3, who adds a Jersey club flair to "Gimme Some Mo." In an inspiration playlist, Taye shows that he was inspired by electronic artists bending the definition of a drum solo like Prefuse 73, Kode9, Lemon D, and of course Rashad. Other mentions like "Quiet Storm," "Imaginary Places," and "Money On My Mind" reflect the introspective, repetitive, anticipatory tones of so much footwork. What really sets Still Trippin'
apart from other footwork projects is what it reflects off tracks like "Po Pimp," "Cut You Off," and "Party All The Time." These songs have much more of a mellow, R&B-esque feel, with a laid-back pace that courses through the album, especially on the closer "I Don't Know," but even through the more energetic tracks, you can often feel a sense of relaxation that incentivizes repeat listens.
Don't worry that he's going too far from his home base. For one, this is still largely something that fits more into the world its created than the world that refuses to accept it. Tracks like "Truu" are not anywhere close to appearing on the radio in 2018, or any year. We're still a while away from Drake footwork playlist. More importantly though, it doesn't matter if that happens. Some would argue that footwork should keep its feet planted firmly to keep from dissolving into other styles and losing its sense of coherence. But footwork is a dance, not just a genre, a movement, not just a drum pattern. It requires pushing forward to not fade into nothing. Taye says so himself - when asked his goal for the album, he said "to make footwork universal." The thing is, artists like Taye are moving fast. Because of their innovations, culture vultures don't know how to absorb them. So whether the gatekeepers of modern music like it or not, the forward momentum happens on Teklife's terms. As they move, they skip on the sand that threatens to suck them in. While everyone else wishes they could walk on water, footwork dances circles on the dirt instead. We've been watching them for years. Let's join in.