RP Boo Embraces His Legacy As The Godfather Of Footwork

Photos by Michael Salisbury

Photos by Michael Salisbury

Hometown: West Side, Chicago  Follow: Twitter // Soundcloud

RP Boo has legacy behind his name. The Godfather of Footwork, he’s the rare, living legend, a pioneer and forever in his prime. Music frenetic, personality upbeat, the line between him and his sound is blurred, and all that’s left is energy. After years in the game he’s at the peak of his craft, and he’s thinking philosophically. 

The RP stands for ‘Record Player.’ His craft is footwork, a tweak on juke, or ghetto house and booty house. The tweak was his own - a switched up pace, faster with more swing. Before RP Boo, Juke. After RP Boo, footwork. Invent footwork, then perfect it.

The standard had been four-on-the-floor drum patterns (kick every quarter note) , but RP moved past this sound, composing his music with drum machines that are fast, raw and bouncy. Alongside those skittery, stuttered drums are a wide a variety of samples - RP Boo prides himself on having the best samples around ("the sample is what you use, for who you are to tell a story - just IF you need that story to tell what you're trying to express"). It makes for high intensity dancing, often competitive, and great energy.

His connection to footwork is inseparable from his person. RP Boo has been dancing for nearly his whole life, long before he began djing. Only years in did his own djing start. When it comes to footwork, the two elements are inseparable. 

“Footwork, what makes it for me is a two piece part, but they connect. It’s the music, and the dance, and they always fuel each other. And that was from the beginning....even for those that were in Chicago, they couldn’t figure out why the dance style grew so much. It was a two piece part, dancers versus the djs. Some of the dj’s had the biggest impact, such as myself, because I was a dancer - I was a dancer before I was a DJ.” 

RP Boo was dancing since he was a kid, and eventually had a reputation across the city for his acrobatics, dancing in a crew called Mega Move. Inspired by his brother and the passion for it that ran through his neighborhood on the West Side, dancing is his first love. 

“The West Side of Chicago had already begun making dances and putting names to them.  The West Side was more advanced, more the future or what was about to come with footwork..in 1983 or 84 it was a place called The Factory on Cicero, that’s when I first started seeing the dances develop, but not knowing what the future was gonna be.”

He started producing and, when people needed DJ’s, spinning at events . RP would slip in songs of his own when he filled in at the end of a show, during what was called a solo. The best dancer of each crew would face off, and people started asking for more and more RP. More, and more, and more. He really popped in 1998 when he released his first big track “Baby Come On”.

He continued djing, creating and leading a movement that spread throughout Chicago and beyond. In 2007 he released a mix called Dude Off 59th Street that took him to the next level. Something about the project had clicked with people, and his fanbase grew exponentially, reaching a wide ranging international audience. It was a career marker for him, an event that defined a before and after for him. 

Since then, he joined the British label Planet Mu, at the behest of DJ Rashad. He was always part of the extended Teklife family. He’s released 2 critically acclaimed albums; Legacy in 2013 and Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints in 2015. He plays shows everywhere from China and Japan to Portugal and Spain. He’s the godfather of footwork. 

After all this time, he’s sure in his performance, his music, his image and values as an artist. One of his greatest strengths is conveying his personality across his music with only drums and samples. It’s why Dude Off 59th Street clicked and put RP on.

“That mix to me was not to me the footwork mix, it was a mix of me playing music...some footwork in there, it was some juke in there, some four on the floor in there. A lot of people couldn’t figure out, how is it that CD stands out. Because that’s just who I am, over the years I became the music - I just play how I feel at that moment…(DJ) Rashad used to say, you wanna hear it where it’s not diluted, not watered down, get it at it’s best, wait to you hear RP Boo.”

When you hit that point of your name being synonymous with your craft, legacy is a word that starts being used. It's been on RP Boo's mind. He believes in individuals and community, and needs to share whatever he can, in any medium he can.

"You have to understand what it means to leave a legacy. I made the album Legacy before I knew what it means. What I found out it means, a lot of people can't handle that. Legacy is - you are the person with the vision. The person with the vision, the vision outlives them. And that means somebody has to believe in who you are, and walk with you and you pass the it on. That's what you do for your children. You leave the legacy.”

It's a philosophy he's running with, a way to stay connected while sitting at the top of his game. He’s gone out of his way to spread the love and knowledge around, wherever possible. Most notably, Jlin, the breakout Gary, IN footwork producer was mentored by RP Boo. 

“I told her, she's going to be understood before they catch up to who I am. And she sees it. I said, don't worry about me - I'm just a mentor. I sit in the back...When I heard her, going through the years of what me and Rashad and a few other people was going through, we was at the stage where we could hear something, and I was like how is it someone’s missing this? This is something totally different, even she’d come through the footwork genre.”

He taught her the basics of djing and pitfalls of the industry. Past that, he stepped back, gave advice and let her do her thing. She's found critical acclaim since then, particularly around her 2016 project Black Origami. It's not just artists RP wants to support - he's looking for concrete ways to help people out, through jobs in particular ( his specific plans are still under wraps).

His is a strange fame, maybe not a household name, but he’s revered in a way that’s rare. It makes sense, footwork is a small circle with outsize influence, and RP Boo started it. So one of the strangest parts of RP Boo’s success, is learning how to live with it. He’s a chill, modest guy by nature, and had to teach himself to big himself up. Even hearing his own music can be a weird experience for him that he had to get used to.

"It's a lot of tracks I've made that I enjoy, but I hear it differently when someone else is playing them...I was in the Bud Billicken Parade and Magic Mike played "Get Em". I was walking, and I could hear it coming from off the subs and the tops from a different angle. I was like 'ya, that's "Get Em", but I heard it for what it, who I was. Now you get to listen to who you are. I was like man, this track is so cold."

Along with accepting his music, was accepting the accolades. He continues,

“I had to accept who I am, about how good I am, and how great I am, from the people. I had to keep hearing it, I didn't take credit for a lot of things and rather just sit back. But it was, you had to take credit, or somebody else will. And I learned how to take credit. I'm at that point in my life where I am a signature. That's hands down, I'm a signature.”

He’s not wrong. Nobody sounds like RP Boo. And that’s why he has a legacy to think about. But no matter what happens, he’s already made one for himself. He’s passed his good karma on, and it means the vision will live on too. In fact, RP's only just getting started. 

"My father...said, you can either put yourself on the stage, or get behind the stage. One holds more value. Behind the stage is the most valuable...Focus on getting behind the scene. Control it, and in order to control it you have to walk the walk....If you're don't, you're just a person back there using good words...just the facts of the matter...you didn't walk the walk but were a scammer. Do it the right way. It takes time...you have to walk that walk and have something of similarity to understand it. Anyone of success, who's in power, did the same thing.”

RP Boo has major plans, to be not just an artist but a boss as well. His legacy has already been cemented for years, and there's still so much more to come. I wouldn’t bet against him.