DJ Taye's 'Still Trippin' Reminds Us Footwork Never Stops Pushing Forward

 Photos by  Michael Salisbury

DJ Taye is a footwork ambassador. The Chicago footwork producer and Teklife protege has made it his mission to spread the word of the genre he loves, juking his way across the country, torch of the late, great, iconic DJ Rashad in hand. On the eve of his release of Still Trippin’, a project 2 years in the making, Taye has the opportunity to take a big step forward for the footwork community, informing new listeners on the genre’s past, present and future. Teklife is still here, and not going anywhere.

The 23 year old footwork DJ / producer from Harvey eats, sleeps and breathes footwork. The genre sounds tractor-beamed from the future but has been around for decades, an offshoot of the rapid fire beats of juke / ghetto house emerging in the 90’s, with another degree of separation connecting those subgenres to the Chicago House that started it all. Footwork is as local as it comes, and Taye’s introduction to the community was gradual. Growing up, Taye heard it on the radio here and there, and found a tape of a Bud Billikin beat on the ground with his friend Dez (co-producer of  “Burnin’ Ya Boa”) around 2006. In 2007 Taye began making rap beats, but kept hearing more and more footwork, drawn to its unique presence. Eventually it clicked. “Around 2008 I got more into it as an actual fan, like damn, why is it the most crackin’ ass electronic music in the world? This is pure art. I started delving into the footwork in Chicago and realized it was an underground scene with dances and shit.”

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“Still pushin’. STILL pushin’. Still pushin’ for him. For HIM. For what he built. This is the vision he gave us. “

New listeners don’t always get it at first. Taye pantomimes their incredulous response with the derision of someone tired of explaining the obvious -  “Oh what’s this weird ass music, with people jumping around, weird-ass, freaky, scattered hi hats, demonic sounds...’ all this dumb shit they want to say.” But as Taye tours, his performances are opening ears. “I want them to see that it’s actually an art form and a culture with real people involved in it. To get the dance with it, not just the music, and see it as some type of fad or some shit.” For Taye and his Teklife family, footwork is life, the air they breathe, their past, present, and future.

Taye’s experience with footwork began in 2010, when the then 16 year-old began going back and forth on social media with a local crew, sending tracks and getting tips on production. The group was named Ghetto Tekz, what would become Teklife. One day they advertised tryouts and Taye showed out. He made the team, and it was “L’s up” from then on. The figureheads of the group, DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn, became mentors to young Taye. Footwork spans generations, and Taye couldn’t have had better teachers, two creative geniuses and pioneers. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 2014 when Rashad passed away. The man who had given Taye everything was gone, and now Taye wants to honor him the best way he can, through his project, Still Trippin’. If there’s one thing Taye wants you to know about the project, it’s that Still Trippin’ isn’t a record about the past, but the present and future. “Still pushin’. STILL pushin’. Still pushin’ for him. For HIM. For what he built. This is the vision he gave us. “

A tribute to Rashad, the emphasis in Still Trippin’ is on the word “Still”.  Rashad’s movement lives on in the Teklife we see today, “still using everything that I was taught, everything I learned over the years...they try to make it like an aftermath...I’m not here to do that...All I want to do is give the respect, saying that this is the music I wanted to make with him, this is me paying homage TO him....You can obviously hear him and his presence. Like Spinn says, when we do this we feel his energy, we feel his vibe. That’s him talking to us, communicating with us, communicating with the world. We’re still part of his music, we still have parts of his energy is what I’m saying. We still have it, it’s still here, we’re still trippin’." DJ Taye and Still Trippin' remind us that Rashad is still here, ahead of his time, gone before his time, and timeless. One of a kind, a music legend. Taye is here to help make sure the world knows, a disciple with a message.

While Still Trippin’ is an ode  to Rashad, it remains “universal to people’s lifestyles. Whatever you want to do, whatever invigorates you, whatever keeps you goin’, this should be it. This is what kept me going, so I want it to keep everyone else going.” The project is cinematic, spanning emotion and experience. It explores all sorts of different sounds and vibes to get this point across. From intense self-titled track, to the nervous “Need It”, the chill closing track “I Don’t Know”, and the bright “Same Sound”. There’s something for everybody.

Footwork is a community more than anything, and Still Trippin is meant to reflect life beyond just Taye’s experience. As such, he brought on all sorts of talented producers, including Teklife members Manny and Paypal, Jersey Club superstar UNIIQ3, and more. It begins with the album art, portraying a bustling Chicago in greyscale, the night taking over and the music starting. It’s a moment that extends, one night of endless nights, a movement continued. The good, the bad, and everything in between.

This particular movement is in great hands with Taye. Electronic music in 2018 is diverging and the EDM big-tent festival boom is in its end days, but the response has been an increased interest in niche electronic music and genres that have been around for decades. Club, bounce and, footwork, for instance, have, all found new fans in search of authenticity. Though footwork has been juking since the early 90’s, DJ Taye is making the push to mainstream today, demonstrating that the enigma of footwork has broad appeal.

As Taye continues to tour and make connections across the world (he’s signed to Hyperdub and has a growing international fanbase), new fans will embrace Taye’s uniquely accessible yet complex style. And without realizing it, they’ll step through the doorway that Taye helped build, into the world of footwork that they never knew existed.