The Most Exciting Genre in Dance Music Is Reaching a Boiling Point in Its Hometown of Chicago

Here, a primer on the evolution of footwork: who's doing it, where to hear it, and a playlist to stream right now.

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The late DJ Rashad (L), pioneering footwork producer, performing live at Brooklyn's now-defunct music venue, 285 Kent, in 2012.
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For the uninitiated, a furrowed eyebrow is an acceptable reaction to hearing footwork for the first time. Named for the rapid, customizable dance moves that are often performed to the music, the Chicago-bred genre takes minimal house and hip-hop stylings and speeds them up to a breakneck speed, creating music that's both frenetic and hypnotic. At first, it can sound like the musical equivalent of a panic attack, but if you give it a chance, you might fall in love with its oddly infectious and inventive take on dance music.

DJ Rashad (left) and DJ Spinn in Monterey, Mexico, for the NRMAL Festival, 2013.
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Footwork has even been embraced by musicians within the dance music scene, like Sinjin Hawke and White Rainbow, who use footwork's signature BPM (160) to add a new layer to their sound. Footwork legends like DJ Spinn and Traxman have played footwork records in sweaty Chicago basement parties since the early 2000s, but recently that the style and its influence have been felt globally. Young footwork DJs like DJ Earl, Young Smoke, and DJ Paypal (cha-ching!) are keeping the genre fresh and alive, and producers like Tripletrain from New York and Foodman from Yokohama, Japan, prove that footwork can't be confined to the Windy City alone. It's only going to get bigger and better from here.

DJ Rashad performing live in Chicago for the Boiler Room Pitchfork Fest Afterparty, 2013

We've put together a footwork primer for you, including the O.G.s of the scene, the up-and-comers, and artists whose work has been influenced by the sound. Check out Sweet on Spotify (we're wearesweet) to listen to the playlist.

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