A Brief History of Footwork

With its origins in juke, ghetto house and ghetto tech, footwork was born in the streets of Chicago as the soundtrack to dance battles, lending it the “frenzied but controlled” quality coined by our guest music historian Sherelle.

As a DJ and radio host, she chronicles higher tempos across the ages. Her fortnightly Reprezent shows have become a staple for higher-tempo persuasions, while her recent Boiler Room has become one of the most talked-about debuts of the year. Here she hones in on the quintessentially Chi-town sound, picking out five records that helped cement it in the annals of dance music history.

Sherelle plays Patterns, Brighton on 31st May for a 160 Special with Fixate. 

Where does your love for footwork stem from?

My love for Footwork stems from first listening to DJ Nate. It was a track I first downloaded on a now defunct website called RCRD LBL. I also am a massive fan of Machinedrum. He had mixes for Mixmag and Clash which I would regularly listen to when I was younger. DJ Rashad’s Boiler Room was definitely my turning point into DJing.

What marks out a footwork record, compared to the rest of the genre?

It’s fast paced and off kilter. It’s frenzied but controlled at the same time. It’s layered with drums, claps, strong repetition and can be quite sample heavy. The purest way (in my opinion) is creating a track on a MPC. This is how the all the greats like RP BOO, DJ Clent, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, Traxman, Jana Rush and countless others have create some of their most iconic tracks.

Footwork is for the purpose of Footworking. It’s made with the intention to battle. Over the years, and due to its popularity, people have created their own takes on it. You can hear influences from juke and ghetto house and ghetto tech because that’s where it originated from.

What footwork record has left the biggest impression on you as a DJ, and why?

Brighter Dayz by DJ Rashad. The track changed by life and almost gave me a sense of purpose. I was sitting a desk for a job which I didn’t really like. I was having a crisis in terms of my career. Little did I know that I would be made redundant 2 weeks after that, if i didn’t find DJ Rashad, i think i would be in a very different place.


Sherelle’s history of footwork in five tracks:

DJ Nate – ‘Make Em Run’, found on Hataz Our Motivation (Planet Mu, 2010)

First off and most importantly. We should point out that the Bangs and Works album was very important in opening the eyes to the scene. A few months before its release, DJ Nate releases Hataz Our Motivation via Planet Mu. The opening to this track will blow anyones mind if they haven’t heard Footwork before. DJ Nate is one of the most forward thinking producers of the scene. His tag ‘Da Trak Genious’ is the thing i look forward to hearing. Mike Paradinas aka µ-Ziq is one of the people to first stumble across the genre and put it one the map. Others include Kode9 of Hyperdub, J-Cush of Lit City Trax and Tim & Barry of Just Jam visually documenting the growing scene.

Traxman – Footworkin On Air, found on Da Mind Of Traxman (Planet Mu, 2012)

One the best uses of a beautiful Earth Wind and Fire track. Traxman is one of the pioneers behind footwork first starting out on the ghetto house and juke scene. He, like others, have built this genre from the ground up. Da Mind of Traxman is one of those pivotal albums because it features tracks like ‘Itz Crack’ , ‘I Need Some Money’ and ‘Sound Filed’. It’s also important as it received critical acclaim at the time.

RP Boo – invisibu Boogie!, taken from Legacy (Planet Mu, 2013)

RP Boo was first featured on the infamous Bangs and Works back in 2010. His first album, it features pinnacle tracks like Speakers R-4 and What’cha-Gonna Du. But Invisibu Boogie! is one of the most coldest footwork tracks of all time. Interestingly RP Boo works a lot with DJ Deeon and DJ Slugo being about the House-O-Matics crew. One of his most revered tracks 02-53-03 comes from his original production of DJ Slugo’s 114799. He had been in the game a whole 15 years before releasing this album.

DJ Taye feat. Dj Paypal – ‘Go Away’, from Break it Down (Hyperdub, 2015)

DJ Taye is the youngest member and one of the last Teklifers to be on the wing of DJ Rashad. His productions should be protected at all cost as he is one of the traditional and orginal new gen of footwork. DJ Paypal another member of Teklife is just as technically gifted as Taye. They are a match made in heaven both frenzied in their attack in production. ‘Go Away’ is a turning point in a new sound of the genre and its influence can be heard in less traditional footwork circles like Europe.

DJ Rashad – ‘Only One’, from Double Cup (Hyperdub, 2016)

Off the most iconic Footwork album of all time bringing the gap between footwork and the world. Only one is a track that really shows Rashad’s range. Its also one of the most beautiful.

Sherelle plays Patterns, Brighton on 31st May for a 160 Special with Fixate. 

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