I’m Dante Sanders, professionally known as DJ Taye of the Teklife Crew from Chicago, Illinois.
How did music influence you at a young age?
I was always listening to rap, just the combination of the arts, production, lyricism, and everything coming together.
How did that turn into you producing rap beats and how did that evolve into footwork?
As a pre-teen, I was finding out about more things in music and more specifically, the down south Atlanta snap era; that simplified music a little bit more for me. It made the music more open, you could see how they were doing it. Once I had figured out a couple programs I could use and a couple people in the area of Chicago who were making music, that’s when I felt more comfortable to get into it and try to learn how to do it. I downloaded FL Studios and then a couple years later, I was hearing about footwork from some friends I went to high school with. They were always talking about DJ’s, especially Rashad and Spinn. I talked to them online and eventually, we met up.
Did making rap beats influence your footworking music? If so, how?
It definitely did but it took me awhile to differentiate the two. I always put them together when I first had started footwork. That’s why the first few years I was making footwork tracks, the footworkers were complaining like, “Yo, this is too smooth. I can’t dance to this.” So, I just had to figure out how to put them both together in a certain type of way, and in my own type of way.
You have been a part of Teklife for 8 years now; in what ways did joining Teklife fuel your passion for footwork?
When I joined at first, I wasn’t really thinking, “Oh yeah these guys have to like my stuff”, or anything like that. I was actually thinking they probably wouldn’t like it or thought it was too close to a certain sound. It really invigorated me and gave me a lot of hope. Even just having a music career and having those two guys appreciate my stuff, it really humbled me as a person. I was 16 when they brought me into Teklife. At the time, I was the youngest person coming into the crew, so it just fueled a lot of passion in me and gave me a lot of drive for almost the past decade now. I didn’t take the music too seriously back then, but now I’ve started taking it way more seriously.
You were able to work with the legendary DJ Rashad, how did his death influence you to go harder and get the word of footwork out more?
Just the fact that knowing that he was so close to accomplishing what he was trying to accomplish all these years, seeing him not be here to see all this stuff, pushes me to go harder and keep the vision as true as possible.
How do you plan to continue to carry out DJ Rashad’s vision now and in the future?
Just keep spreading the music as much as I can, staying up with Spinn, and always listening. Yesterday I was reading this book called How to Change the World. Obviously, we’re trying to change the world with footwork, right? So it’s been a good book to read. It says that sometimes, it comes to where you ask yourself what you want to do and what you want to accomplish? what is morally right to do and what do you morally need to accomplish? What I want to do? I always wanted to rap over anything and I know I need to forget it. I know morally, Rashad blessed me with an opportunity and I need to pay him back in some type of way and help him fulfill his vision. So morally, we have to keep the footwork and dance aspect in the music, which is what’s creating the music.
What were some of the biggest pieces of advice that DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn gave you coming up in the foot-working scene?
They had been making music since they were my age (11-12). Spinn said he could play the clarinet and Rashad could play the drums. Basically, since they were making music already, they had learned so much and had so many experiences already with what not to do in the music game. Who not to deal with, who not to trust, and not to give your music out. Don’t just do business with just anybody, and don’t let people lowball you. Just the smallest things about business, but the biggest pieces of advice. Along with mentality and mindset. Not being too egotistical, not being big headed, and not being judgemental.
Still Trippin was released through Hyperdub, a London based electronic label, and how did that come about? In addition, do you have more work releasing through them?
When I went to NIU in Dekalb in 2013, I remember Rashad and Manny were traveling to New York playing these lit city parties. They were making footwork crack more out there. But at the same time, Kode9 from Hyperdub was traveling from London to New York and he had met up with Rashad. Rashad was calling me while I was at school saying “Yo, this is gonna be the label”. At the time I didn’t take it for granted. I was still working on my own craft in music. So eventually when they did the 10th Anniversary Hyperdub compilation, Rashad told me to send Steve some music. I already had the music on deck, so I started sending him music and he enjoyed it. Steve liked it so much he ended up putting a couple tracks on the compilation. After that, he added some more tracks and had enough for an EP. Even though he had an EP, Steve ended up asking for an album, and that’s how it got solidified in 2014-2015.
What does DJ Taye bring to footwork that sets you apart from others?
I think I bring my own vibe of chords and melodies. I have a lot of different musical interests like rock, a lot of jazz, old school stuff and a lot of new trap rap. I try to bring realness and be authentic.
Now that you have had shows around the country and gotten some response from people around the country, how have people who are not from Chicago reacted to footwork and the culture around it?
It’s crazy because its like I’m seeing a little base grow everywhere because of the seeds Rashad has helped plant outside the country and even inside the country. I feel like in the past 4 years, we helped grow the scene out here in Atlanta and in Minneapolis. Even in smaller cities like Kansas City, Nashville, cities in California outside of LA, and Seattle. I’m seeing this little base grow of people actually getting in circles and dancing. Just to see it outside of Chicago is a beautiful sight.
What’s next for DJ Taye and Teklife?
I honestly just wanna sit and construct some more. Build more. How can I make it more welcoming, even for people already involved? I’m working on a bunch of art stuff – merch, websites, video games, etc. I just want to make this footwork stuff a cool genre. We’ve had thoughts of creating a Footwork magazine, similar to a skateboarding magazine. I have a bunch of pictures and ideas for what we want to do. We could have our own niche, but have it be really ingrained in the world so everyone knows what’s up.
At some point, I realized 4 years ago people thought Teklife was just Rashad. And that’s no disrespect, he put in his work. Some people don’t really know any other people in the group and some people think it’s just me in Teklife. I just want everybody in Teklife to be at that highest state and show their artistry. I want all my friends to do it how I’m doing it right now. I want all my friends to put in this much work. I’m not saying that they’re not, but I want them to believe in themselves enough to. I just want the whole conglomerate to be around the world, almost like a cult.
As you look back over the years of being in this industry, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
You’ve gotta realize your energy and keep your energy to yourself. You have to realize how good you are and believe in that.
Written by: Alec Baumrind
Red Bull Music Presents: Peak Time with Vivian Host featuring Teklife Live on redbullradio.com celebrates the past, present and future of the world’s premiere footwork crew, Teklife. The very first Red Bull Radio Live event in Chicago will be a live recording of Peak Time, where Vivian Host will be joined by famed special guests, DJ Spinn, DJ Taye, DJ Gant-Man, and DJ Manny. The event will be a one-of-a-kind, live oral history of the footwork music and dance genre that developed into a cultural movement.On Thursday July 19th the Q&A portion of our event for Teklife will be livestreamed on Red Bull Radio starting 8pm (for anyone who wants to tune in); the episode will also re-air on Friday, July 20th at 11am. – Check it out here – https://www.redbullradio.com/shows/peak-time/episodes/teklife