For those who may not be familiar with Chicago juke music or its more esoteric and explosive permutation footwork, XLR8R ran this nice little feature a few years back. I’ll just sum it up by saying the music is something like the sound of jacking Chicago house crossed with gangsta rap and a whole lot of methamphetamine—basically 808 drum machines going off the rails as they reach to tempos in excess of 160 beats-per-minute, and jarringly repetitive samples of rap lyrics employed in such a way that the words lose all meaning becoming just another element of the track. It’s raw shit to be sure, made straight up for the battling dance crews on the rough streets of South Side Chicago.
Then sometime around 2010 (with the help of a few key players in the UK, like Mike Paradinas and Mark Pritchard), this simple template went viral, re-igniting the creative fires of bass music producers the world over, who had been struggling under the dead weight of dubstep’s mainstream success. And suddenly footwork‘s influence was seemingly everywhere; you could hardly turn around without hearing the stuttering 808 drums and vocal chopping that are the genre’s hallmark.
All this to establish that at the current moment, there is footwork, i.e. the pure stuff from folks like RP Boo, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn et al, which is mainly still an insular Chicago thing, and then the footwork-fusion stuff which is everywhere else.
Lil Jabba (real name Alexander Shaw) then is somewhat of an outlier. With ties to Chicago’s TekLife crew (essentially the footwork mafia) his street cred is unquestionable, yet he’s white, Australian, makes his home in Brooklyn and his music sounds very little like anything coming from Chicago.
It’s true, these tracks are characterized by the same lo-fi production and isosceles rhythms that typify the genre, and the 808 drum kit is definitely prominent on the scene. But Jabba’s sonic palette spreads well beyond that of his fellow Tek-Lifers.
His sinewy drum tracks (which employ lots of tom rolls) are laden with an assortment of aural intrigues: angular synthetic melodies, snippets from arcane film, various glitchey and gurgling sonic artifacts of unknown origin, and a general haze of cough syrup ambiance, that is both placid and paranoid. It’s exceedingly dense for the famously minimal genre. Connecting dots from Miami bass to Detroit techno to London jungle, recalling the freewheeling anything-goes aesthetic of early ’90s hardcore rave music in its best sense.
You can purchase here.
Check out more Lil Jabba sounds over at his souncloud page