RP Boo Talks Footwork, Past, Present and Crew Connection

RP Boo Talks Footwork, Past, Present and Crew Connection

November 20, 2018

Written by:

Simona Mantarlian

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RP Boo played Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht on Sunday, November 11. It was a bass heavy workout session which rightfully concluded an extended weekend of experiments in sound and rhythm.

We dig into the fast and passionate world of the Chicago footwork scene, exploring its roots and evolution along one of its original movers and shakers: RP Boo. The futuristic genre which originates in the sounds of ghetto house, hip hop and Dance Mania '90s tape culture created a next-level sound, synchronized to a street dance which took dance-floor participation to a next level. Over a sunny Skype conversation, RP Boo gives inspiring insight on making music, empowering the scene and staying true.
I know Chicago like in my sleep and I think the footwork scene has tremendously just died. Everything now is on social media.

Musical Memories

RP Boo
RP Boo
Where do you find yourself right now?

I’m in Chicago, the far south of Chicago, right by one of the five greatest lakes in the U.S., lake Michigan.

How is your day?

It’s a sunny day, not too hot - perfect weather.

That looks like a studio room, is that right?

I’m in the house, yeah.

Great, music is the topic. Your sampling refers to some records you grew up with, so I wanted to ask which are your first musical memories?

My mother and father always listened to radio when I was a child; there was always music played in the house. And my father had a bass guitar, he was doing this – and still does the same thing today – playing the guitar without the amplifier. He knew what he was playing because he was feeling it, but I couldn’t hear what he was playing. One day we were listening to the radio in the car, mid 70s, and I remember a commercial of a funk band and I was imagining that would look pretty cool. I just saw myself doing it, without realising that I was continuing to listen to music in the car. I have a brother, I am eleven months older than my brother, he had his side of the car I had my side – but what I would do is just listen to the radio, just do that and imagine myself being in the process to create music. If I listened to music, different types and genres of music, it was beauty to my ears and my spirit. I would always have in my mind a song I recently heard that I loved and figure out whatever the musician is doing.

You were mentioning funk and 70s records - that sound is having quite a comeback right now as far as vinyl digging. Does it happen in Chicago as well?

No, in Chicago right now everything is so digital. I miss going to record stores and picking up songs. There’s a couple of record stores in Chicago. You might have to travel public transportation up to 45 minutes to 1 hour just to get a small selection. Even if you would have to pick up a sample nowadays everybody does it in the studio – even the old school people that used to have turntables are playing digital now and the turntables are collecting dust. I’m getting my studio set up now and I still have my records in storage, but I would love to get back to sampling, there are some records I haven’t even touched. And I would still like to get vinyl copies of some songs and actually sample it from the vinyl.

When did you get into record playing and parties?

I would go to parties in Chicago that my cousins used to have. I figured that’s something I wanted to do around 1990 when I was in high school. When I was junior in high school I saved some money, bought these turntables and started buying records. So I got good at spinning and started playing out, being just a record DJ – that got good really fast. One day I met the crew House-O-Matics, who heard a mixtape I had put together. They liked the tape but thought it’s from Deeon or Milton at that time. A guy said no, we have a new crew member and he did the tape. I remember it was on a Wednesday; on Friday I had my first gig and it never stopped from there.

How do you relate and connect to the dancefloor?

The group House-O-Matics was already part of a dance group. The president of that dance group used to dance with House-O-Matics. But they started their own dance crew and I checked it out and it was all Chicago but gave away an energy that was very new. House-O-Matics was doing the biggest parties in the South side of Chicago. All the youth and teenagers from all the sides of Chicago were coming to that area. There I saw so many different styles of dancing developing and so much creative talent. The music was hitting hard, it was ghetto house – I wasn’t a producer, but I was able to play it because I heard the latest records. For three or four years I DJed with House-O-Matics and became their main DJ – so I was able to play with them and after them. So if I saw them having a good time, I was on a mission that every track that I was playing next was going to hit even harder and harder. So that’s something we’re sharing with each other – it was a great connection. I’d play at a party and they were like we’d like him to DJ every time.

It was a call and response with the dancers.

That’s exactly it.


How about the samples you chose? Do you look up certain phrases or lyrics, or how does it go?

I first started listening to hip-hop. A lot of hip-hop was sampled up. Certain samples or songs that I heard that made me try something different – not using the same sample that the hip-hop producer was using, but my own. As the years went, I was able to re-track all the songs I used to hear. So I had an archive in my head of songs that were resurfacing that I was able to go back to.

What I like about your use of samples the most is that the words, when cut up, they become very powerful.

That part right there was a growing process, being able to speak how I feel and put it into the music. It’s not saying that it has never been done before, but I found something that I was most comfortable with and it worked, and a lot of people enjoyed it – I had so much of that energy to give and put out there. I see people gathering up and feeling that it motivates them to be not like me but be able to say “hey, I can borrow something from this, but make my own beats” – so it’s about giving back.

Chicago, Japan and Beyond

Speak of inspiring people, do you know Moor Mother? I saw she is co-curating Le Guess Who this year and she picked you as one of her favorite artists to perform this year.

I didn’t get to meet her, but it’s always the people who like the songs that I have done and that feel inspired that I get feedback from. For some reasons I have so much respect coming from different artists, poets, musicians and I tell them “if you never met me before, I’ll put it out there, treat me like a regular person – just like you, I am a human being, and I’m here to be a support for you and motivate you do bigger and better things. Even if you go further than me, my job is done. Right now I’m open to do different things with different artists and lift them up. Years ago I said I wanted to be a teacher – and this is what I do now. I say I’m doing my job to be able to be a part of this act together with these upcoming souls, it’s a blessing. I never pitched any of this, I just enjoy the living and enjoy the moment as it comes.

I think we need in the community the kind of teachers that are less like the school teachers who limit people, and more like the ones who make people free. How is the community in Chicago? Are there footwork parties that caught your attention lately?

Not much – I know Chicago like in my sleep and I think the footwork scene has tremendously just died. What happens is, everything now is on social media. So here they have different social media gatherings and groups like on facebook. From what I see from people who still try to be active, I support the dancing, but the attitude when they talk to each other doesn’t fit right. For the past two summers in Chicago there have been some good things like showcasing more footwork to the public, but it’s more dealing with the city of Chicago. I wouldn’t say people are trying to capitalize, it’s more like “hey, we would like to use certain dance crews to do certain things”. From what I experienced, dealing with promoters and bookers before social media came out, I’ve seen a lot of situations when people are being used, and I’m not supportive of using people. That’s why I do my own thing, they do their thing, but I still support them. Two weeks ago we had a day parade in Chicago, that’s where I did the video for “Bangin’ on King Drive”. That’s from a festival dealing with youth showcasing their dance skills. But I have so much history in that parade that I don’t have to show up and I’m still there.

Is there a scene that you are in touch with from the Netherlands?

The last time I was in the Netherlands was also for Le Guess Who? and I love it. I stayed at a hotel that was some kilometers away from the festival and what I did was walk – back and forth. I saw a lot of good people, but never had conversations. This year, when I found out I’m going back to the Netherlands I asked them to put me in the same hotel, because there was so much to see and indulge in. It’s an honor to go back. When I’m traveling, the people that I get to talk to, that I have met somewhere and I can always see them is mostly when I go to Japan or when I go to London. I’d make sure to go to the Dalston area where I could see Tim and Barry who do the timandbarrytv session – that’s the beautiful part about travelling: once I meet somebody and we have a connection and I’m coming back, I would make sure to see if they’re in town or, if they don’t know I’m coming but they’re there, I’ll go surprise them.

Any artists in Japan you want to give a shout-out to?

I would give a shout to DJ April from Booty Tunes, Takuya, Weezy who is a producer and footwork dancer representing it also in Chicago. When I’m in Osaka, that is the land of DJ Fulltono, he’s the man – main footwork producer throughout the whole Japan. One more shout-out to our translator from Japan – his father is American, his mother is Japanese. Every time I’m in Japan he waits at the airport and takes me where I need to go.

Are there footwork battles in Japan?

Yes! There is Battle Train Tokyo. A couple of American guys come over to support that. Shout-out to all the Chicago crews that came to Japan to represent (The Era, Creation). Creation is very popular in Japan. It’s ran by a founder called Charles, we call him King Charles. These crews have some of the best students and they’re always there.

It would be awesome to have footwork dance classes in Bucharest at some point. There is a class I know in Berlin. And some voguing going on in Bucharest for now.


Something for the end of our interview?

I don’t use this anymore, but this is what got me started – it’s the first piece (wipes dust of Roland R-70 drum machine and shows it to the camera).

*photo credits: Wills Glasspiegel
About the Author

Simona Mantarlian

Simona studied Film Journalism and Script-writing at the National University of Theater and Film in Bucharest. She is a spiritual anarchist and an obsessive vinyl digger DJing underground parties in Bucharest, Berlin and Hamburg.

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