RP Boo, Legacy

[Planet Mu]

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When footwork was blowing up in 2009 and 2010, there was an ongoing debate about what constituted the “real” end of the scene. Certain older heads — predominantly affiliated with the Teklife crew — were perturbed by the attention Planet Mu was heaping upon oddball youths like DJ Nate, who did not necessarily tool their tracks for the scene’s dancers. Their opponents argued that Teklife was too conservative. If both sides agreed on anything, however, it was the music of RP Boo. Kavain Space (which sounds like a perfectly good artist name in its own right) has been honing a sparse, collage-like take on footwork for years, earning him a scene prestige rivaled only by the likes of Traxman and DJs Spinn and Rashad. In spite of this, Space has released very few tracks officially; ignoring Dude Off 59th Street, a mix of mostly of his own tracks, it’s fair to call Legacy his debut. It’s also the best footwork LP in some time.

Bear in mind this assessment comes at Legacy from an angle somewhere between those warring factions. Space’s style will probably not win footwork many more fans than it already has — at least not to the extent that Teklife’s clean functionality and pop sampling have made them perfect crossover candidates. At the same time, the producer has far more range than most of the scene’s younger names, with whom he was grouped on Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works compilations. What results is a kind of perfect midpoint; as clumsy as it sounds, Space is a footwork producer’s producer, or a footwork fan’s producer. He exists for the heads.

He also, of course, exists for the dancers. There are some fantastic battle tracks here, most of them contorted breakdown tracks that would sound perfect in between more linear Teklife-style productions. “Havoc Devastation” is a fine example. The track has been circulating for ages, but it retains all of its menacing power, alternating between chants of a sampled, “minister of death,” and the producer’s own, “havoc on the flo’.” Its percussion seems almost daubed on, landing in spontaneous bursts, while unbridled horns enhance its fervor even more. Opener, “Steamidity,” does a similar exercise with imposing strings and Space speaking of, “keeping it real.” These lyrics may sound laughably facile, but they take on an uncanny sensibility in the context of the artist’s arrangements. “Speakers R-4 (Sounds)” is based around the obvious statement, “sounds…that’s what the speakers are for,” but its emptied-out surroundings, all tripping toms and clustered, militant snare punches, lend it a kinship to house tracks where the only word is “jack” — the vocals are as cogs in the machine like everything else.

Beyond this inventiveness, Legacy is also made alluring by its morose undercurrent. Footwork tracks have long spoken in violent euphemisms for winning a battle, but Space’s production has a particularly rough edge, one which in places calls to mind vintage New York rap. “No Return” capitalizes on a creepy sample from GZA’s “Liquid Swords” to mesmerizing effect, while the similarly Wu-like, sub-cushioned “Invisibu Boogie!,” which is based around a clipped vocal, has a generally dusty, stammering vibe — though its persistent scratching might fall on the wrong side of instrumental hip-hop. Throughout Legacy, Space hints at the world beyond the battleground, and this comes to a head on “187 Homicide.” The track layers an R&B melody, clips from Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Mo Murda,” squalling sax, and persistent rainfall in a kind of noirish ghetto concrète, and unavoidably brings Chicago’s catastrophic murder rate to mind in the process. It’s a prime example of how Space’s music works on multiple levels, reiterating what made “slowfast” footwork such a vital prospect in the first place.

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