A winter’s night on Rinse FM, and Kode9 and Cooly G are at the controls for the monthly Hyperdub show. The next track comes in, and it’s pure fire: a carnival-time snare-roll loop just long enough to make you wonder if it will ever end, just long enough to make your stapes purr. Those snares — high-definition, big room snares, the kind of snares you call Mr. Snares in company; “Oh my gosh,” says Cooly G, “what’s this?” — the new Innerzone Orchestra, maybe?
Right on cue, something changes: the drums tangle and stall, rhythmic thread trapped in a zipper. A slim palette of minor chords, molded zig-zag to pitch; a kick drum’s epileptic thump scattered across the mix. The snares return, choppier, a shorter, truncated loop that’s got you by the hair. Kode9 takes the mic: “Yeah, out to the Teklife crew!”
Well, shit. Of course this is footwork, of course it’s Teklife-affiliated. This is the Hyperdub show, after all, and we all know a DJ Rashad EP has been in the pipes for a while (you can find the track they’re playing on there). Now that you mention it, it couldn’t have been anyone else.
Anyone else, that is, apart from Addison Groove, the nom de guerre first used by UK dubstep producer Headhunter when he tried his hand at (heavily, very heavily) footwork-influenced bass rave bangers. Anyone else apart from Pearson Sound, the UK dubstep producer whose “Work Them” (produced under his now-retired Ramadanman alias) deliriously pressed B-more breaks into Chicago juke shapes. Anyone else, in fact: because who expected footwork to open out like this, to adjust its contours to these new international pathways?
Make no mistake. “Drums Please” and the rest of Rollin’ is still recognizably footwork. Only footwork got a job, moved out of its parents’ house, and makes eye contact when talking to strangers; it might even pay taxes. Footwork now goes to nightclubs in Europe, smokes kush with design students, represents the street in magazines they only sell in the shops in art galleries. Footwork left you, the no-fi ghetto fetishist, behind: you were holding it back, and tomorrow is a day that has footwork’s name written all over it.