Before his tragic death in 2014, it seemed likely that DJ Rashad was destined to become the “face” of footwork. Even though he came up at a time when many other juke DJs were getting similar exposure, even when he was appearing side-by-side with these artists on comps or in collabs, there was something about his work in particular that got people talking. Maybe it was just the perfect time and place for him to appear, maybe it was that on super-lean, hyper-catchy tracks like “CCP” and ”iPod” you could hear the 10,000 hours of practice paying off.
Footwork producer DJ Paypal doesn't appear on the surface to be the type of artist that treats his influences with any sort of mindfulness. From his trollish stage name to the plainly ironic bite of Pen and Pixel's distinctive, lens-flare-heavy aesthetic on the cover of his new mini-LP Sold Out, he reads on first glance like just another node on Internet Art's massive recombination engine, which endlessly churns out kitschy (and occasionally brilliant) assemblages of random late-capitalist pop-cultural detritus. There's also the matter of the style he's working in: footwork is a particularly holistic musical form that until very recently has been virtually inseparable not only from the dance style that it soundtracks, but also from the brutally segregated, impoverished black neighborhoods on Chicago's South and West Sides where it was born.
Perpetually hiding his face behind a black tee and dark sunglasses, Berlin-based DJ Paypal keeps attention locked solely onto his music. It’s the visceral free jazz wanderings throughout debut LP Sold Out that expands on the Brainfeeder language, one that has been so masterfully guided by Flying Lotus. DJ Paypal then utilizes that FlyLo association to justly propel the careers of Teklife mates DJ Taye, Feloneezy, and DJ Earl.
Sold Out, DJ Paypal’s newest joint, is most compelling because of its cheeky flip of footwork’s ethos. Paypal’s Teklife compatriots make a living pushing out footwork and juke with a stony expression—to them (and to many others), the style isn’t fun and games. It reflects life’s sobriety, whether in the form of DJ Spinn’s spartan, mechanical breakbeats or the late DJ Rashad’s smoother soul-influenced oeuvre.
Anonymity is often the basis for austerity — occluded features and ego removal as a mirror for reverb-obscured instrumentals and bombed-out soundscapes. Even Burial’s revealed himself now, so it’s a mostly tired pose when po-faced bros armed with a copy of Untrue and FruityLoops start driving the Night Bus with a mask on. North Carolina’s resident Teklife associate DJ Paypal treads dangerously close to that sort of self-serious posing (he’s interview-shy, no one knows his real name, and he seldom appears at gigs without a T-shirt draped over his face), but his new LP Sold Out makes it clear that if his countenance is to remain obscured, it’ll be by clown makeup.
DJ Paypal's full-length Sold Out, his Brainfeeder label debut, is an expansive take on footwork, incorporating expressive elements of soul, hip-hop and, most notably, jazz. With footwork the binding element across all tracks, Sold Out takes liberties and leaps in dabbling with sounds and textures. Single "Awakening" is saturated with insatiable, frenetic jazz — trilling horns abound, while frenetic drums underlie the entire thing — exemplifying Brainfeeder as the ideal platform for the album's release.Opener "Sold Out" is a dexterous symphonic explosion that slowly builds percussively, before dropping into fills of snare snaps, while "Ahhhhhhh" slides into twinkling keys, double-time hi hats and choppy, broken synths.
From his work as ringleader of the tongue-in-cheek Mall Music Inc. collective to the set of high-BPM Drake edits he released last year to his habit of performing live with a T-shirt covering his face, there's a giddy, playful energy running through everything DJ Paypal does. The Berlin-via-North Carolina producer's first release on Brainfeeder Records, the hip L.A.
Given that he's the kind of guy who releases 30 Drake remixes at a time, opens sets with Mario Kart themes and drapes a t-shirt over his face when he performs, DJ Paypal must have seemed like a match made in heaven for the Flying Lotus-helmed Brainfeeder label. The part-musician, part-troll has spent the last decade or so helping Teklife (the loose assembly of footwork producers and performers that emerged from the early 00s Chicago ice-rink dance fight scene) rise to international prominence, while simultaneously building an alluring individual presence of utter anonymity on the internet. On his marginally ironically titled debut Sold Out, Paypal continues to operate as both an individual and part of the wider global movement of footwork.