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DJ Roc
The Crack Capone Noel Gardner , November 9th, 2010 08:35

It's a pretty arresting title, The Crack Capone, and one imagines that Chicago's DJ Roc knows it. There's a considerable gap, however, between what it sounds like it ought to be – an album by Memphis Bleek or similar weathered thug rapper – and what it is, twenty tracks of electrifying, BPM-cranking footwork and juke music by one of Chi-town's premier riders for the form. The crack of the title is onomatopoeic, the unpolished snap of the drumbeats Roc crams into his productions. Juke, latterly footwork, are predominantly products of the Windy City's black community, for whom this is as much a dancing as a musical culture, and currently the end of the line for the continuum which went from… let's say Ron Hardy to Phuture to Green Velvet to DJ Funk to DJ Slugo to the newer breed of footwork cats. Disco is house is techno is ghetto is juke is footwork and Planet Mu, the ever-alert UK electronic label, are all over it in 2010. In a few weeks you'll have Mu's excellent Bangs & Works Vol. 1 compilation to soak in; for now, chew on twelves and comps of tracks by DJs Nate, Rashad and Roc, real name Clarence Johnson.

Most of you reading this outside of the United States – outside of Illinois, most likely – are going to be new to footwork as a genre. As an album genre, this is effectively its Year Zero no matter your homestead: Mike Paradinas, head of the Planet Mu label, has not only glommed on to footwork's now-you-follow-now-you-don't rhythmic teasing, but has also taken it upon himself to get it out there in forms other than scratty-lookin' mix CD-Rs, YouTube uploads and the odd twelve-inch. It is sort of odd and imbalanced that the credit for such a marketing advance has gone to someone who until this year had no association whatsoever with footwork or juke, but it's hard to see any reason to object, although without checking I'm sure some prick posting on Dissensus (or similar) has managed to manufacture some faux outrage about 'outsiders' (or similar).

Averaging less than three minutes per track, The Crack Capone is a great and captivating record which is certainly more broadly representative of footwork production than DJ Nate's Da Trak Genious, the most hyped Mu footwork release to date. The guts surrounding 'Phantom Call''s skeletal drums is the giant, swollen choral loop; 'King Of The Circle' moves from slow, oozy jazz sax to insect-on-hot-foil ADD percussion (just because Roc and pals probably aren't taking much/any inspiration from olde worlde IDM doesn't mean that this isn't as densely devious as Mouse On Mars at points) to the kind of synth vulgarity Rustie is laying on thick right now.

The sub-bass and descending vocal samples on 'Girl Wen U Dance' sound inextricable from dubstep to these ears, but in this present file-swapping online culture there might be an element of chicken/egg in there, especially when one considers dubstep-raised, footwork-obsessed UK producers like Headhunter and Girl Unit. 'I Don't Like The Look Of It' takes its title and central vocal sample from the Willy Wonka movie, and weirdly has emerged almost exactly concurrently with a Lil Wayne track employing pretty much the same idea. (Wayne's effort hit the net around March, so it might feasibly be a bite.) 'Get Buck Jones' is effectively free of syncopation, a throwback to 'classic' juke and one of the few tracks here that clubfooted Brits could feel confident about dancing to decently.

DJ Roc's compiled highlights are a choice advert for this subgenre and its current crop of producers, insofar as they combine amateurishness in the best way – that is, no obvious interest in compromising their brevity and rawness as their profile grows – with a care and intricacy that confirms how much pride they take in their creations. The samples will sometimes be as microscopic as yer most scholarly Matmos or Oval track, but there's rarely question that these shudders of muted snare thuds and ever-decreasing circles of rap vocal are meant to be danced to. Moreover, if you've not seen footwork dancing, you owe it to yourself to clock a few video clips, just to confirm that there are kids in front of the decks as skilful with their feet as those on the other side are with their hands.

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