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RP Boo On New Album 'Established!' & The Founding Of Chicago’s Frenetic House Subgenre, Footwork

RP Boo in Chicago

Photo: Will Glasspiegel

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RP Boo On New Album 'Established!' & The Founding Of Chicago’s Frenetic House Subgenre, Footwork

Chicago DJ/producer RP Boo helped create the superfast dance music known as footwork—20 years later, he still sounds like no one else

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2021 - 12:20 am

"I'm sticking with DJing, because that's about love!" Kavain Wayne Space, aka RP Boo, says from his Chicago home on the zoom call. He wears a sleeveless white t-shirt and his smile lights up the bare room.  As you'd maybe expect from a DJ, he talks with his hands, gesturing so emphatically it sometimes looks like he's going to reach back and knock the White Sox cap off the perch behind him.

RP Boo may not talk like an elder statesman, but he's got some grey in his pointed beard, and he's been around for a while. He's one of the pioneers of Chicago footwork or juke, a superfast dance music invented in the mid- and late-90s that is built around rapid fire beats and incessantly repeated tape loops. When RP Boo says, "that's about…that's about love!" he sounds a lot like his own music.

Footwork has had moments where it almost seemed about to break into the mainstream; Kanye West's remix of Kid Sister's 2007 "Pro Nails" was a brief sensation, and DJ Rashad's 2014 album Double Cup received wide praise. But RP Boo has never quite become a household name, though he's gotten more recognition since the release of his first album Legacy in 2013.

His fourth and most recent release, Established! (Planet MU) shows that sort-of success hasn't dimmed his weirdness or slowed down that 160 bpm. He recently spoke to GRAMMY.com about the roots of Chicago footwork, leaving his day job, and being a legend.

The first track on Established! ("All My Life") is based around this loop that repeats "All my life I've loved to dance." When did you start dancing and did that lead you to making music?

For me, I watched my uncle dance, and he just enjoyed it. And whatever dance he was doing, we didn't know, we just made fun of it.  And I got a cousin that I'd say about in '81—he would make these dances up, him and his friends. And it was catchy to me.

I used to try to break dance but couldn't figure it out. And about '85 or '86, that's when the house music in Chicago [started]. It was like, I like these dances. So I picked up this dancing, and got kind of good at it.

And once I learned how to DJ, I still loved dancing. Whatever your body wants to do when you're at a party, whether you know how to dance or not—it's not about you doing it correctly. To be jumping up the dance moves is to be a part of dancing with God.

Read: Record Store Recs: Chicago House Hero Marshall Jefferson On Representation In Dance Music

So when did you start DJing? Was it in the mid-90s or was it earlier than that?

I graduated from high school in 1991. And that's when I started buying my equipment. So as soon as I got out of high school, I just started to—I forget what type of turntables they were, but they had belt drives and they had a pitch on them. And I learned how to work those real fast. How to work the pitch, how to blend the tracks and how to fade the tracks out. How to know the note of records, where you want to come in at and where you want to cut out at. And it was less than a year and a half to mastery.

When you started, Chicago ghetto house was popular. And juke is basically Chicago ghetto house sped up. How did you all start playing this music faster?

It was a group I think, on the West Side. I guess they brain was somewhere else. So they had the DJ, whoever made this tape, instead of playing the vinyl on 33 they put it on 45. And they bashed the dance floor with it. So I guess they won the competition.

But word started getting around and people started imitating the trend, and DJs started  producing those 160 bpm [records].

The title of your album is Established! with an exclamation point. And I know that it's taken you a long time to get recognition. Do you still have a day job?

No! No.

I was working at a Lowe's Home Improvement store until 2013. That's when I ended up getting let go. And at that point, I think of December of 2012, I had just finished Legacy.

I never thought that I would ever be without a job. The store manager at Lowe's was a real good guy. And he says, "Well, corporate states that you could come back here but you can't be hired for six months."

As I was walking out, I said, "What am I going to do with the next six months?" And I said this out loud, "I think I'm going to start touring."

I was depressed. I stayed depressed—that was in late February. And in late April, I get a phone call from New York. And he says, "I heard you have an album coming out. If we'd known you had an album, we would have booked you to do a release party here in New York."

On the day of the release, I texted back and said I don't have the job [keeping me from touring anymore]. He says, "Can you be here in two weeks?" I was like, "Yeah!" I end up getting at least seven opportunities to play overseas within the first week.

"You just have to be prepared to let the world blossom and blossom with it. But you can't predict it." RP Boo

So you never had to go back to Lowe's.

No.

You just have to be prepared to let the world blossom and blossom with it. But you can't predict it.

Do you hear your music as an influence in a lot of what's out there now?

Oh yes. DJ Rashad [who died in 2014]—I was a great influence on him. And him on me.  And so Rashad was saying, "Hey, wait till you hear RP, this is the only guy that would change his style, multiple times. And as he changes it, that influences how other people listen. It's something about how his music just keeps changing."

I was listening to the track "All Over," which has the Phil Collins sample. How did that song come about? Did you have the sample first?

Yeah. Those are the songs I grew up to. In the '80s, we watched the videos, nobody paid attention. But that was the new wave of the future. And these are all the songs; I listened to Genesis, to the Phil Collins solo projects. And I found myself over time collecting them, I have them in my phone. So then I could drive and hear these songs.

I've had it in my archives for years. And I tried to play with it at least about nine years ago, and nothing worked. So I said, in due time I'll come back to it.

And one day I was going through my files just listening to music and I listened to [Phil Collins'] "I Don't Care Anymore."  And I looked at the BPM and said, [claps!] "Oh, this is right where I need to begin. And I played with it and let it run. And that's where I stopped it. [Makes a record scratch noise.] [Sings] "All over..ah..ah…all over."  And it worked. It worked out.

You have a song called, "Haters Increase the Heat" about overcoming detractors. But when I was listening to it, I thought, who can hate you?! [RP Boo gives a look.] They're out there?

Def. It's more about people that have no clue about what you do or what you're going through. Rashad dealt with that.

And I was like, oh, you know what? Let me make some music. That's why I say, [rhythmically quoting his track] "Haters increase the heat. It's getting hot, it's getting hotter. Haters gonna keep making my tracks get hot."

In other words, I will take the negative and do something productive, and show you what you can do with the negative and make a spark.

Have you been able to continue working during COVID?

I was able to do a lot of direct streams and recorded streaming projects, direct from our festivals overseas, and two remix projects. So I was able to stay busy. [Sighs.] But I've missed the touring.

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

Alison Wonderland

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

The world-renowned EDM fest has released the lit roster of over 240 artists for its 23rd annual event, set to return to its ninth year in Las Vegas from May 17–19

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2019 - 04:55 am

Today Insomniac, which hosts the now-global Electric Daisy Carnival and other major EDM events, announced the highly anticipated lineup for its flagship Las Vegas fest, set to take place May 17–19 this year. EDC 2019 is positively stacked, featuring GRAMMY winners Diplo, David Guetta and Tiësto, plus GRAMMY nominees TOKiMONSTA, Paul Oakenfold, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond and Kaskade.

Deadmau5 will be making his first return to the fest since 2010, bringing his new "Cube 3.0" stage setup, and Guetta will be back for his first time since the 2012 event. Australian singer/songwriter DJ/producer extraordinaire Alison Wonderland, plus GRAMMY-nominated rave icons Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren will also bring fire to the three-day event.

Unlike a typical music festival lineup, EDC lists theirs alphabetically by day, giving way to a treasure hunt to the many gems across the lines of names. Underground techno queens Charlotte De Witte, ANNA and Amelie Lens will all perform at the event, which has eight(!) stages, along with fellow techno heavy-hitter Adam Beyer.

South African DJ/producer and underground house legend Black Coffee will also perform, as well as fellow house heavyweights Green Velvet, Patrick Topping and GRAMMY nominee Eric Prydz. Green Velvet will be offering two sets, one as Get Real, his project with Detroit legend Claude VonStroke.

Several artists will be hopping on the decks together, including Topping, who will be doing a B2B set (a.k.a. back-to-back, or collab set, for those not up on the rave lingo) with fellow British DJ Eats Everything. U.K. dubstep stalwarts Skream and Rusko are on the lineup for an "old skool dubstep set," which, as Your EDM put it, is "absolutely unheard of."

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But wait, who are the headliners? Pasquale Rotella, CEO and co-founder of Insomniac, believes that headliners are everyone that attends the festival, spreads the love and makes all the magic possible.

"Being a Headliner means looking at the world a little differently, and seeing beauty and inspiration everywhere you look. It’s about lifting up the people around you and making time for your family and friends. This is a journey we all take together—always connected and committed to one another," Rotella said in a statement on Insomniac's website.

If you want to get your dance on and check out the carnival rides, interactive art and plenty of lights and lasers with EDC in Vegas, you're in luck; tickets are still available. Check out EDC's website for more info.

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Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry

Janet Jackson

Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

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Recordings By Janet Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Odetta & More Inducted Into The National Recording Registry

Selections by Albert King, Labelle, Connie Smith, Nas, Jackson Browne, Pat Metheny, Kermit the Frog and others have also been marked for federal preservation

GRAMMYs/Mar 25, 2021 - 02:37 am

The Librarian of Congress Carla Haden has named 25 new inductees into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. They include Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814,” Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Nas’ “Illmatic,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection” and more.

“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Hayden said in a statement. “We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public’s input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture.”

The National Recording Preservation Board is an advisory board consisting of professional organizations and experts who aim to preserve important recorded sounds. The Recording Academy is involved on a voting level. The 25 new entries bring the number of musical titles on the registry to 575; the entire sound collection includes nearly 3 million titles. Check out the full list of new inductees below:

National Recording Registry Selections for 2020

  1. Edison’s “St. Louis tinfoil” recording (1878)

  2. “Nikolina” — Hjalmar Peterson (1917) (single)

  3. “Smyrneikos Balos” — Marika Papagika (1928) (single)

  4. “When the Saints Go Marching In” — Louis Armstrong & his Orchestra (1938) (single)

  5. Christmas Eve Broadcast--Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (December 24, 1941)

  6. “The Guiding Light” — Nov. 22, 1945

  7. “Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues” — Odetta (1957) (album)

  8. “Lord, Keep Me Day by Day” — Albertina Walker and the Caravans (1959) (single)  

  9. Roger Maris hits his 61st homerun (October 1, 1961)

  10. “Aida” — Leontyne Price, et.al. (1962) (album)

  11. “Once a Day” — Connie Smith (1964) (single)

  12. “Born Under a Bad Sign” — Albert King (1967) (album)

  13. “Free to Be…You & Me” — Marlo Thomas and Friends (1972) (album)

  14. “The Harder They Come” — Jimmy Cliff (1972) (album)

  15. “Lady Marmalade” — Labelle (1974) (single)

  16. “Late for the Sky” — Jackson Browne (1974) (album)

  17. “Bright Size Life” — Pat Metheny (1976) (album)

  18. “The Rainbow Connection” — Kermit the Frog (1979) (single)

  19. “Celebration” — Kool & the Gang (1980) (single)

  20. “Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs” — Jessye Norman (1983) (album)

  21. “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814” — Janet Jackson (1989) (album)

  22. “Partners” — Flaco Jiménez (1992) (album)

  23. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/”What A Wonderful World” — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) (single)

  24. “Illmatic” — Nas (1994) (album)

  25. “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money” (May 9, 2008)

Learn To Make Beats With Library Of Congress' New Digital DJ Tool

Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Why Dead Poet Society's Jack Underkofler Has The "Least Picky" Backstage Rider

Jack Underkofler

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Why Dead Poet Society's Jack Underkofler Has The "Least Picky" Backstage Rider

In the latest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, learn why Dead Poet Society lead singer Jack Underkofler is committed to having the world's most reasonable backstage rider

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2021 - 12:26 am

Some artists make larger-than-life demands on their tour riders—hence the classic urban legend about Van Halen requiring the removal of brown M&Ms. 

For their part, Dead Poet Society have decided to take the opposite tack, as their lead singer, Jack Underkofler, attests in the below clip.

In the latest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, learn why Dead Poet Society's Underkofler is committed to having the world's most reasonable backstage rider—including one ordinary pillow to nap on.

Check out the cheeky clip above and click here to enjoy more episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.

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