Over the past few years I’ve been impressed by the cross-pollinations between Footwork and other genres. With it’s growing popularity there have been endless re-appropriations of the sound –from the more subdued tracks by Machinedrum to the sub-bass pressure of Africa-Hitech. The frantic Chicago sound has rekindled global interest in the oft-forgotten 150+ bpm space. The most interesting occurrence is how the sound has caught the ears of OG producers.
On April 7th, stalwarts of the West London Broken Beat scene, IG Culture and Alex Phountzi, released their debut EP as NameBrandSound. The duo’s EP, “Nowaday’s Pressure” fuses Footwork, Jungle, Soul, and Dancehall to create a release that seamlessly bridges generations and geographies.
Growing up in Memphis there was a rap radio station that would stream live parties. Like every underage teen, I was fascinated by the concept of clubbing and tuned in every weekend to imagine the hedonistic jubilance occurring. Party streams were common in the pre-Clear Channel era, but what made these parties unique was the music. The DJ’s were spinning Chicago Ghetto House.
The current notoriety of the Southern United States may be Trap music, but the culture is more dynamic than mainstream media portrays it. During the 90s, Ghetto House and Miami Bass dominated the sound-scape from cars to boom boxes. There was something raw about a bass heavy rhythm and repeating vocal sample. This was the foundation that Footwork was built on.
Around that same time I was introduced to UK Jungle music. To be frank, that shit blew my mind. It was like everything, yet nothing I had previously heard. I got the same visceral feeling listening to Jungle as Ghetto House. Hearing these two sounds simultaneously occurring thousands of miles apart made me wonder what it would sound like to have a Jungle producer working in Ghetto House and vice versa.
Towards the end of the 90s, Jungle was commercialized into Drum and Bass and many key players in the scene moved on. A section of the producers pioneered the Broken Beat sound. Broken Beat incorporated elements of House, Afro-Latin rhythms, Soul, & Jazz, but was informed by sound system culture. It was funky, it was soulful, it was percussive, but most importantly it had bass!
Enter IG Culture and Alex Phountzi. The duo has consistently produced solid music from Jungle to Broken Beat, Nu-Jazz, and now exploring hybrid Footwork. As NameBrandSound they have linked Jungle to modern Footwork. The “Nowadays Sound” EP manages to craft a narrative connecting 90s UK black music culture to it’s modern Chicago counterpart.
Name Brand Ah Murdah is the joint that highlights this connection. The dancehall sample, bass pattern, and tight yet unstructured rhythm highlight the best of both genres. It’s like a wormhole has opened where both scenes are exchanging ideas through time and space.
When genres surpass their original audience they either flourish with new ideas or languish from exploitation. Footwork has remained one genre that has maintained a proper balance. Producers like the late DJ Rashad have received their props as pioneers while global inspiration has influenced the sound. If the “Nowadays Pressure” EP is any indication of what’s to come, I’m optimistic.
You can cop their EP now in the Ninja Tune Shop.