By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY — Earl Smith grew up in Chicago and since grade school has been surrounded in the rich DJ and dance culture that exists there.
“Around my neighbourhood, lots of my friends, they used to footwork, so it was just immediately right where I live, I grew up right in it,” says Smith.
Attending a local footwork spot that the late pioneer DJ Rashad began spinning at; Smith became drawn to the sounds of an emerging genre.
Chicago is an important city for the growth of underground music, and the sound of footwork draws from a variety of styles such as house, jungle and hip-hop. The style took off in the early ‘90s, categorized by breakneck BPMs and dance steps alike.
“It was like man, this is a whole different sound. And basically Rashad’s been a real friend to me… he kind of approached me one time and was like, ‘Yo, you’ve got some nice tracks.’ Pretty much from there I just asked him and he was like, ‘come out.’”
It was at that point that he joined the ranks of the Teklife crew, a Chicago-based collective of producers, DJs and dancers that push the footwork movement.
“I think what makes us unique is that without the music it’s a dance culture, and that this music it evolved from house music, to ghetto house, to juke to footwork.”
Smith started out producing beats just over a decade ago when he was in the eighth grade, and began DJing about a year later.
I learned to make music first and then I wanted to go play the tracks, so you need to know how to DJ,” he explains. “So I learned from locals in different spots, they taught me how to beat match and I just figured it out and then over time I got to work with people like Rashad and Traxman and Clent and I could just learn from everybody around me.”
Here in Calgary, a group of promoters are working to put footwork on the map and unite the scene here with Vancouver’s. As well as DJ Earl, they also recently brought Taso, another Teklife affiliate. Record label Philthtrax, Two Headed Dog booking, the Footwork Jungle blog, and the NOIR and Percolate nights at Habitat are actively committed to integrating some Chicago flavour into Calgary’s nightlife.
DJ Earl plays Habitat Living Sound in Calgary on May 21 and the Fox Cabaret in Vancouver on May 22.AB, Alberta, BC, British Columbia, DJ Earl, Fox Cabaret, Habitat Living Sound, Teklife