To start, footwork is primarily a dance music style that pays homage to Chicago house and hip-hop—but manages to sound unlike either. Much like hip-hop, footwork isn’t just a style of music—it’s a culture that brings together music production, eye-popping dance moves, and a playfully confrontational battle vibe.
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The term “footwork” is often (incorrectly) used interchangeably with “juke,” the style’s closely related cousin. Truth is, the two genres do have a lot in common: both are direct descendants of ghetto house (a rougher, tougher, faster strain of house Chicago that was popularized in the late ‘90s), both run somewhere in the 150-160-BPM range, and, confusingly, both have associated dance styles of the same name. Where footwork and juke music differ is that the former is a bit more frantically paced—slightly more aggressive, and utilizing an abstract, hip-hop-styled approach to production (ie. pitched-down vocals, more sample-focused)—whereas juke is essentially a grittier, dirtier, faster version of house, made more for grinding than gettin’ fancy on the dance floor.
Like pretty much every form of dance music, there is, at the very least, a template for plotting out a general beat for the style. Point Blank has developed a quick lesson on getting the basics down for a juke beat with 808 kicks, which will get enthusiastic Ableton producers on their way, and below Computer Music has assembled a similar tutorial. They’re not explicitly footwork tutorials—but that’s where you get to put your own spin on it.