No one could be blamed for considering footwork an acquired taste, as it is a curiously tossed salad of so many dance music subgenres that came before it. Uncompromisingly frenetic in energy, it's somewhat reminiscent of the early '90s house sound that was riddled with break beats. Considering that footwork's roots are firmly planted in Chicago, it's only natural that the rhythmic bastard child known as ghetto house would continue to be nurtured within this regional sound. Cornelius Ferguson a.k.a. Traxman is the perfect candidate for footwork's ambassador, his own history within Chicago's dance scene stretching back at least 20 years. Da Mind of Traxman is as good an introduction as any for this hi-energy hybrid while serving as a music appreciation course in soul, funk, and house.
It certainly helps that Ferguson is an avid crate digger and somewhat of a jazz head, allowing him to flip samples with ease and fit any sound that comes to mind into his meticulously crafted productions. “Footworkin On Air” begins the album with a chopped thumb piano placed against a 303 acid pattern, resulting in a beautiful synergy of ancient and modern technology. The dangerously addictive “Itz Crack” is built around a Ronnie Laws sample staple, its elements constantly messed with as halftime claps and rapid-fire snares keep the beat. “Let There Be Rockkkkk” serves as further evidence that literally anything can inspire Traxman's creativity. A bizarre vocal sound byte plays call-and-response with hard-as-nails guitar riffs, typewriter taps, and video game bass lines, all of it leading to a head-banging crescendo. “Rock You” steps away from the ruckus and embraces the warmth of a Stevie Wonder classic, bringing some subwoofer- splitting bass tones and oscillating bleeps and bloops along for the ride.
Traxman works his way through the music's history throughout the album, touching upon the booty-centered hedonism of ghetto house (“Going Wild”), rave piano delirium (“Work Me 2011), and 303-inspired acid house trips (“1988”). Ferguson's dizzying chop science continues to mystify with “I Must Deadly Killer” and “Setbacks,” re-imagining soul gems for footwork's finest dance crews. The former reworks a melancholy monologue from the Godfather of Soul into a dark dance floor destroyer, its backing saxophones becoming shadows of themselves within Traxman's hands. “Setbacks” is straight up jaw-dropping, taking a well-known Foster Sylvers cut and slicing it with samurai precision, so much so that even the pronouncement of the first “s” in “Setbacks” is used as a hi-hat within the track. That's how deep the science goes.
Da Mind of Traxman is proof that it takes an intricate thought process to produce superior rump- shaking tracks and a deep knowledge of your music's past will generate future floor fillers. It may take a couple of spins for listeners to catch on, but the patience will be rewarded. It must be stated, however, that this album could be the gateway drug for future footwork addicts worldwide.