When did you guys first start getting into dancing?
(Steelo) – We have been dancing for quite some time now. I want to say 10-12 years strong, with us being from different sides of Chicago, Litebulb from the Southwest, P-top from the North and both Chief Manny and myself (Steelo) from the Southeast, South shore area back in the day (98-06″) it was hard not to see someone dancing throughout Chicago. Footwork flooded parties, parades, schools and neighborhoods. Chicago has its own style of Hip-Hop dance as well as Juke/ Footwork. We did both but eventually felt that Footwork outweighed the others, so it was just as easy as knowing someone who was in a Footwork group or who hung around one.
How did The Era come about?
(Steelo) – After footworking throughout the city and somewhat dominating the battle scene with our group “Terra squad” we felt as though Footwork the dance, needed some type of expansion due to it blowing up overseas music wise. Litebulb started to travel and perform with DJ Rashad and Spinn, gaining a chance to invite a few friends. Word got out, then we created Nu Era in 2011-12 which was soon to be as The Era Footwork Crew. This happened after we all sorta fell back on pushing the brand because of real life issues in 2014, then P-top and Litetbulb randomly met on set to do a movie with Al Pacino, set up by Wills Glasspiegel. Wills is studying for his PHD at Yale and is also working on a feature length documentary around Footwork and its history, he’s also an advisor on The Era and apart of our media team. From then to now, connections and opportunities seem to fall in line seamlessly along with a lot of dedication and hard work which comes with the love for it!
Talk about the history of juke and foot working culture here in Chicago?
(Litebulb) – Footwork is a Chicago dance & music culture that moves at 160 BMP and has a very deep history, being an integral part of the cities underground culture since the mid to late 80’s. Footwork has evolved around the world as of recent years, but this all began from the warehouses and basements of Chicago. The scene moved from ghetto house to house to Juke and now Footwork. During these times there were dance troupes around like House O Matics, K-Phi-9, Main Attraction, U-Phi-U that would perform and compete at local “Dance Downs” (dance competitions held at gymnasiums, schools and centers) and even perform nationally across the US. Popular Footwork Dj’s like RP Boo, DJ Rashad and others were dancers first and were apart of these historical groups. RP Boo came up with the idea to make music to the way he danced and what he was seeing in the circles of parties he would DJ in the community, which was footwork dancing and has always been around. RP created some of the first Footwork tracks with other greats like DJ Clent, Rashad, Spinn, Traxxman, Gantman and more. Footwork Dancing has always been around and it’s kind of hard to really know it’s full origins, but I do know it started on the Westside of Chicago with Legendary Footworkers like Nic the Man and Anthony Brown from the Southside evolving the dance style from its early years. Anthony Brown Established some of the fundamental basics to the craft and started the first battle clique of just footwork dancers called the “dungeon”, Going into the 2000’s, more dance troupes and battle groups emerged creating an entire scene. Footwork DJ’s & Dancers had some main stream success, but it wasn’t until 2010 – 2011 when the DJ’s became successful outside of Chicago for their music and the scene evolved into what we see today, flourishing overseas and around the US. We established ourselves as The Era in 2014 and began evolving the culture our own way as we see it ever since.
I want to talk about two occasions. First, what’d you guys think of the Footworkin’ in Tokyo documentary?
(P-top) – Footwork in Tokyo is big and has gained my respect on so many levels . The documentary they put out was nice and cool. I feel like they really respect our culture and have the patience to learn where it comes from by understanding our experiences we went through. They also do this by learning and earning a name, turf, and respect. Footwork is expanding worldwide and to us, Tokyo is a another lil Chicago but in its own way.
Also, what’d you think of ‘To The Max’ by Drake & Khaled?
(Litebulb) – Well obviously the track sounds like a mixture of Jersey Club and Florida Jook, but what caught us first, was that it has the same tempo of our Chicago grown culture, Footwork. We talked about the controversy around this track with Tiffany Waldon from The Triibe and gave some good insight on it. We knew this track would be played on Chicago radio stations heavily but the hard part was knowing that the main players in Chicago Footwork music and all of the new music being released wouldn’t gain any radio play at all, which it didn’t sad to say. This plays on the relationships of Chicago radio DJ’s and Footwork DJ’s and how they are disconnected in a sense but all still know each other. That’s the main reason why you still hear the same 3-4 old footwork tracks like “bounce & break yo back” etc, still being played on the radio but no new material at all.
Look, we all know that footwork has in the past and still does influence artists in the main stream culture like Dej Loaf, Flying Lotus, Missy Elliot, Chance The Rapper, etc, but its up to the larger artists to appropriate where need be and the smaller artists to always fight for appropriation. We produced a video and even added the Khaled song to our setlist as a way of us taking ownership and representing a positive aspect to the song for our culture with our own spin to it.
Last year you guys decided to start making music as well.. Talk about your guys first project, In The Wurkz?
(Chief Manny) – In The Wurkz explained itself. It was explained uniquely, because when we footwork, we call basics, wurkz. That was a play on of us saying we are in the moment. It’s like a never ending thing. If you start on something and you’re creating it, but you’re not completely done, you’re in the works of it. This project came about almost randomly. We were asked to be on stage and perform for an hour and to just dance or footwork for an hour… that’s a long time. The group came together and agreed on getting on the microphone and telling our story over footworking. That’s how In The Wurkz came about and like I said, the music and even in footwork, we are always going to be in progressions.
Can we be expecting more music projects from you guys in the future?
(Chief Manny) – You can definitely expect us to tell our stories over footworking beats. Whether it’s a chant, through another producer, or a full out song, we are definitely going to continue to push music and dance together as one. So, music is a definite yeah. Our follow up project was titled So-lo(z), which was a solo project from each one of us. It also was a play on how back in the day we used to solo after a dance routine. That project was a way for us to express ourselves individually. You can expect us to make sure we have space to create on our own as well as a group. We will continue making music, but also dance videos where we dance over music, like the All Day video.
When it’s all said and done how would you guys like to be remembered?
(P-top) – I would want my team to be remembered by the world knowing how we changed the way the culture is spreading historically and giving it the respect it deserves right along with the dance, music and how we put both together in our projects, shows, music, documentaries and choreography.
Also representing a chance for dancers to be viewed in a more positive light with more dance artists being the headliners of the shows and being the voice for dancers all over the world, we need it.