Our crack team of aspiring high school-aged music journalists — for this interview, that included Laura M, CJ M, Aphra P, and Maja R — met with RP Boo on Saturday afternoon at Pitchfork Music Festival. These creative writing students channeled their musical knowledge and interviewing skills during the following on-the-spot Q&A with the Chicago footwork pioneer and producer, discovering how few collaborations RP Boo has done and how big footwork has gotten in Japan.
Kavain Space (aka producer and DJ RP Boo) made a grand appearance at the Pitchfork Music Festival. RP Boo created magical instrumentals with tracks that made everyone — from newcomers to professionals — dive into the dance craze known as footwork. A veteran footwork performer, RP Boo continues to sample his own tracks and host footwork events in the Chicagoland area. He has paved the way for younger dancers to try a style that fuses breakdancing’s fast pace with stepping’s groundwork. This makes footwork all the more original, and more deeply rooted in the city that allowed RP Boo and his creation to blossom. Along with other DJs and producers such as Traxman and DJ Rashad, RP Boo has helped spread `footwork from the U.S. to other countries where he has toured. From underground back rooms to the main stage, this producer and his style can only go up from here.
— Catarino “CJ” M
826CHI: Up ’til now, how did you experience the evolution of footwork? How did you shape that, like, manipulate it to your liking? ‘Cause I know you have a blast doing it.
RP Boo: I used to be a dancer. Having that perspective, I always dance to my tracks as I make ’em. I dance to ‘em myself. I knew I could dance to ‘em but then I start taking [my songs] out to parties and let the kids hear them, and I paid attention. A lot of ’em used to take advantage of it and say, “Hey, we’ll learn the beats and learn the kicks to it.” Then, the more they catch on to [the footwork], the harder I’ll make it. We never knew that it was gonna turn into something this creative, but God is good. It happened, and the world’s got it now. It was all fun but now it’s something bigger and better.
826CHI: How does this affect the youth in the Chicago community, especially in the black community and in other underrepresented communities? You’re here, supplying this outlet for young people to have.
RP Boo: A lot of them don’t know how to access it because in some ways it’s still considered underground. But once they see it, they catch on real fast. It’s like exercise to ‘em. They’re energetic, they get into it, they learn it, and they elevate. And a lot of people I knew when I was coming up, they fell in love with it and just took it to another level. They weren’t looking to get out of trouble, but the time they spent doing footwork actually kept them out of trouble. So a lot of people say thank you for that. As for the kids now, it’s hard because a lot of the violence that’s going on restricts people from going to certain areas. Not that they really can’t go, but they don’t know how to express themselves and just get to… you can walk anywhere in the world you want, if you really want to. Ao we just keep pushing it ’til they get it.
826CHI: Sampling is a big part of your work and your structure. What’s your selection process like? How do you decide what samples you’re gonna use?
RP Boo: It could be something from years ago. There’s still samples in my head that I haven’t used yet. When I release ’em, it has to be able to tell the story that I really want. Or, I can hear something somebody says — like a catchy phrase — and I’ll use it… it’s real easy. Whatever I touch is just magical, so I love sampling. I can take bits and pieces, two or three different samples, and put them in one track and a lot of people wouldn’t know it’s two to three different samples.
826CHI: You use J Dilla’s samples a lot.
RP Boo: You know what? I didn’t know how big J Dilla really was because years ago, I turned the radio off. When I turned it off, he was still irrelevant, but when I found out who he was, I was like, “This dude is just a genius.” The amazing part about J Dilla and DJ Rashad is that they both had the same press agent and I have that press agent. So that press agent knows how to pick people.
826CHI: Seeing you up there, it was so good. You were awesome.
RP Boo: Thank you, thank you.
826CHI: Growing in the hip-hop industry, did you ever collaborate with other artists or other rappers?
RP Boo: No.
826CHI: How ‘bout samplers and DJs?
RP Boo: No.
826CHI: Oh really? So it’s all your own work?
RP Boo: It’s all mine. I don’t do collaborations for reasons. They’re good reasons, though.
826CHI: What are the reasons?
RP Boo: I can’t tell you. But it’s business.
826CHI: Oh, okay. We understand that.
RP Boo: I’m not saying that I don’t have the idea to do that with some people, because I’m building a platform to do it… Basically I’m saying, I want to do it the right way.
826CHI: How do you publicize your footwork and music? You’ve got a lot of young dancers up there and they range from black to white. So do you put it out there, or do people come by word of mouth?
RP Boo: It’s all their doing. I went to LA yesterday and all I had to say was, “I’m coming to LA, does anybody want to come dance?” Oh, yeah. Ten people come. And these are footworkers that know how to footwork, like, basically I’m gonna say it: they’re professionals now.
826CHI: How does it feel to have started a movement that was real low-key, and now is getting bigger?
RP Boo: It feels very good. When I went to Japan, that’s where I first saw it. Japan is big on it right now.
826CHI: They take it to another level, right?
RP Boo: Yeah. Now Poland is getting into it real strong, too. Japan is ready for good competition. They’re ready.
826CHI: So how does the international footwork scene differ from the footwork scene here? A lot of your stuff is really locally-based.
RP Boo: Well, the footwork scenes… They’re different because over in Japan, they want to come over here to see what it really looks like. They’re embracing it, but I tell a lot of people, don’t worry if you don’t have it right. Just enjoy what you do because you’re creating something. A lot of people here in the States kinda say, “How is it that kids over in Japan really got this?” And it’s because it doesn’t discriminate. There’s no discrimination in dancing. None. And that’s what I tell people. That’s why I don’t discriminate with music. It’s not biased, it’s just… spiritual. You gotta have a groove. That’s this beat. That’s why I’m different from a lot of people but I still got this groove. It’s oozing out of me so I put it in my music.
826CHI: That’s awesome, man.
RP Boo: Mmmhm.
826CHI: So where do you see this going for you?
RP Boo: Only time will tell. You know, I don’t see it dying out. I say within the next four or five years, it’s gonna go global almost five more times. And there’s gonna be a lot of people that really enjoy it. It’s gonna last. It’s gonna last a long time.