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RP Boo, ‘Legacy’ (Planet Mu)

RP Boo
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Label: Planet Mu

On “Invisibu Boogie,” an early track from RP Boo’s long-awaited debut LP, Legacy, the 15-year-veteran footwork producer puts the “work” back into Chicago’s unstoppable dance movement. “Invisibu” is mix of deftly curated drum patterns alongside scratches and synth tides jacked from two Boogie Down Productions songs, arranged into a sly Jenga tower piled so high and precariously that it only could’ve been constructed by a longtime genre architect. It’s a slow burn that seamlessly slides into the bleeping intro to “Red Hot,” a more frenetic track where barely-there bass provides the heartbeat of a banger meant to serve those with fancy feet. “You hear the song coming like a thief in the night,” Boo explained in a recent interview, describing the ideal battle-worthy footwork track. “Keep it quiet in the beginning and feel it coming up through your feet. It makes you want to dance with your opponents. It’s B-boy juice.”

Legacy compiles a decade’s worth of archived tracks from the legend, easily earning its title. Great timing, too. Recent releases from DJ Rashad (whose Teklife crew has fostered a younger, fresher take on ghettotech), club-fusionist Traxman, and young Planet Mu cohort DJ Nate have pushed the regional, sample-heavy B-boy style to the center of underground dance circles. And when it comes to sampling, Boo is a master of vocal cuts, from his own chants to lifted and re-sculpted pop detritus. “The Opponent” flips Aaliyah’s cooing “What would you do?” into an invitation to face off when laid over a bloated, squelchier version of Timbaland’s “Try Again” beat; when sampling Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” Boo emphasizes the radio hit’s operatic builds and singing synths, but strips away the pretty-boy wails for a call-and-response march mirrored in the police-scanner code that gives the track its title: “187 Homicide.” “Serendipity,” an ode to “keeping it real” loops pitchy strings — evoking an eerily chopped, steroid-pumped rendition of Requiem for a Dream‘s haunting theme song “Lux Aeterna” — with bluesy cries of despair. Boo pulls and stretches these emotional moments to the point of combustion, massaging them until they explode outward — and onto the dance floor.

For all of its club-worthy moments, though, Legacy‘s bass manipulations and orchestral fusions translate best through a pair of headphones. In a recent documentary that traced footwork’s origins, Boo described being inspired by all sounds, limited only by what the average pair of ears can hear. That solidarity with nuanced music-making is important here, and most apparent in the bass lines. There’s a whole song devoted to that idea, too: “Speakers R-4 (Sounds)” pushes those cushioned thuds to the foreground, because, as he says, “That’s what the speakers are for.” But that doesn’t diminish the album’s melodic complexities. “Sentimental” and “What Chu-Gonna Do” are soulful — balladic, even — with whirring, skipping bass and the ADD-addled clicks and clacks of competing drums set deftly beneath gentle keys and whispered pleas.

The tribal, made-for-the-streets aspect of Chicago’s dance culture is apparent as well. The battering “party time” anthem “There U’Go Boi” is a challenge for dancers to keep up if they can, as a seizure of keys and clapping drums melt into a psychotic instrumental whirlwind. “Battle in the Jungle” outright taunts, “You got a warface? / You don’t scare me,” evoking footwork’s early days, while epitomizing how the sound’s originators are still vying to one-up each other on the new shit while still claiming dibs on the old. Boo is an essential part of that cycle, and his feuds with peers and fellow legends like DJ Slugo are part of history, too. But Legacy benefits from having something to prove. It’s an album of scorching, scene-defining hits, and Boo is willing to battle with anyone who disagrees.