I’ll Tell You What–RP Boo

51IHyS-Fh1L._SS500

When I saw I’ll Tell You What! by RP Boo, I was immediately interested by what appeared to be an album of electronic dance music (in general, not the genre called EDM). What surprised me though, when I looked up RP Boo was to find out that he is a producer of “footwork” music, a genre of dance music which is very explicitly connected to a particular kind of dance, also known as footwork. Personally, what I listen to the most  on my free-time, disconnected from reviews or attempts to remain “cultured,” is either dreamy, abstract music or dance music (not all the time, but probably the highest amount). As a result, the fact that I had completely missed this movement and everything around it for so long was a bit shocking to me, and I knew at that moment that I needed to get a bit more educated in what footwork is and what type of music it is associated with. I have watched a few videos now of footwork dancing and, after listening to this album, I think I have had my mind opened up to a new musical movement that has been going on since the 90’s but which still has a lot of life and relevancy right now.

Something that is important to realize about any music which is made in this footwork style is that its roots lie in the street dance of the same, and the “battles” which take place of people dancing to this music. The dance itself is characterized by very fast foot movements (thus the name) with lots of twists and turns involved in it, which means that the music accompanying it must cater to this rhythmically. As a result, footwork music is relatively toned down house music, not necessarily in terms of energy or pace, but definitely in terms of how much is physically present in the music itself. For the most part, footwork music is heavily reliant on sub-bass and pop/R&B samples to provide nearly all if not the sheer entirety of the instrumentation. The problem that could arise here is a bit of repetitiveness in the sound of the songs, and I will start off now by stating that this is something to expect of the genre as a whole. Hard transitions between songs, and sometimes between sounds within individual songs, break up some of this, but it is really the syncopation and rhythmic complexity that needs to be on point for it to work well at all as music to listen to in depth. However, as the many great artists of House music have shown over the years, music of this shade can be compelling to listen to for its musical quality as well as for its quality as dance or club music. All I will say is that, from my limited experience, footwork seems to shoot more for the latter than the former, with I’ll Tell You What! by one of the movement’s founders, RP Boo, being no exception.

“No Body” really worked as a jarring introduction, to this style of music and to the album all together. I cannot say it is a pleasant listening experience, with much of the song basically being just the sub-bass I mentioned before with a rhythm that often feels needlessly complicated. Still, I thought the song was not terrible, and I could move to it pretty well. It is just unfortunate. In truth, though, the album really feels like it kicks into gear on the next track, “Back from the Future” which uses the bass and a dark synth pulsing. Given the song’s title, it all felt very appropriate and like I was truly witnessing some sort of R&B music that traveled through time and back, becoming distorted and with flourishes from the future in it. The sample here compliments this as well, though I will say that I thought the track lost the eeriness I liked early on when this kicked in. Still, it started the album in a direction of upward momentum, which I think is maintained by the following song “At War” which turns the throbbing sub-bass into an aggressive entity underlying samples saying things like “we are at war in the street,” “crossfire,” and “keep the home fires burning” really adding to the tension here. In a lot of ways, this sets the song up to have a sort of break in this tension, but at just over three and a half minutes, I think the fact that this song keeps the pulse up for dancing while keeping it there in a way that underlies some kind of strong grip it is meant to have works well.

The momentum is kept up by “Cloud Back Yard,” though it is ultimately one of the less memorable songs given how in the background it really is. The sub-bass and distorted female vocals keep up the eerie vibe of the album as a whole, and this is one of the songs that I could immediately start dancing to and really get into it. Not one of my favorites, but worth spotlighting. “U-Don’t No” brightens the tone in a delightful way, though I will say that I would prefer if the sample were not as dominant a presence in the track, since they ultimately become a bit corny. For example, having the samples communicate to each other could work well, but the sheer tone of the forceful rapper saying “do I give away my soul” met by the softer singer saying “no, you don’t no” came across awkwardly, perhaps because the rhythm tries to bend around these samples so heavily. It makes the song feel subject to the ill-chosen samples, not the other way around, making this moment of bringing the mood up ultimately fail, especially since this song also lacks a strong enough beat to really pull movement out of the listener.

Unfortunately, this is the last time I was ambivalent on a track, since a few of the ones to follow actively sounding bad to me. “Earth Battle Dance” is as bare-bones as any moment on the album, starting with almost nothing but a snare and sub-bass rhythm. Still, this only lasts for a minute, but the harsh switch to a sample heavy, brighter second section actually hurts the song overall. This second section adds nothing to the song or album as a whole, and really takes away from the song’s potential to work even as a dance background. Even worse though, “Work the Flow” has a titular sample repeated throughout the track which overwhelms everything else. Nothing else is even noteworthy here, since the sample takes over everything else so completely that any sort of hope for what the instrumentation is doing is gone. Definitely the worst track on the album, and one I actively dislike and would skip on any future plays. Finally, “Bounty” is too long, becoming so repetitive with its samples, sub-bass rhythms, and instrumentation that all of it becomes grating past an initial listen. To be honest, I liked the song on my first listen, but it has gotten worse each time it has come up since, to the point that it is extremely outputting.

It is strange, but one of the album’s best songs is to follow, with “Flight 1235.” The early part of the track is not too special, essentially running the same ground as earlier songs like “Back from the Future” and “At War,” though this part of the song keeps up well with the quality of those tracks. Still, the best part is when the melody changes, with a new sample looping that makes everything sound much more upbeat and optimistic, as opposed to the somewhat moody production before. After a couple of minutes in this, the song wraps back around by re-introduces the initial sub-bass and sample, but keeping the second part’s melody and sample as well, making for the first complete catharsis on the album that actually works well. This song is an amazing example of what RP Boo is really capable of in terms of making music that just sounds fun and catchy. “Flight 1235” was definitely the easy song for me to really get into.

But this high is shortlived, as the problem of “I Got the Flow” returns for a second time in “U Belong to Me,” and I do mean exactly the same problem. The sample is repeated so obnoxiously here that it overwhelms any enjoyment I might have gotten otherwise. “Wicked ‘Bu” comes next, and it is likable enough, but similar to “No Body” the song ultimately underwhelms. It is pleasant and I can stand to listen to it, even though RP Boo comes close to overusing the sample again, but I actually found it a bit more soothing this time while still having enough energy to carry itself. It is the first song in a while on the album that sounds strictly made to be danced to, which is not really a problem in my book given the genre’s roots. Then the album ends on a high note with “Deep Sole,” a calming comedown at the end of the record that certainly is “soleful” in how it keeps up a dance rhythm and tempo while having a surprising amount of emotional pull.

Essentially, do not come to I’ll Tell You What! expecting an album for the mind or the heart, but one that is completely about the body. Even still, I found that on that ground RP Boo’s made a really mixed bag here, where the best songs hit that electronic dance bliss to get the head nodding and the feet moving, while the worst is there to be skipped. In fact, it falls along an exact 50/50 spread with the good and the bad. This makes the album something I feel mostly indifferent about as a whole, especially since enough of the high quality lies in the opening half to give a distinct flow to the music. That leaves me feeling that this album is one to take quite a few tracks from, but not enough to make me recommend it completely. I am glad to say that looking into this album introduced me to a new type of music I can explore more in the future, but even my limited experience with RP Boo and the footwork genre tells me that this is far from the best out there.

5/10

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s