Chicago’s footwork scene reached a fruitful zenith this year, with its most notable exploits being Deejay Earl’s hyper-repetitious Above & Beyond LP, DJ Rashad’s ambitious and hooky TEKLIFE Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi, and the most bare-bones and fascinating of the three, Da Mind of Traxman (birth name Cornelius Ferguson). In its strict toolset of footwork’s traditionally sharp hi-hats and snares, gut-punching kicks and relentless vocal loops, Traxman’s followup to 2009’s Get on tha Floor feels archetypal, at least to the brand of juke this side of 2012.
Though equipped with the barest of necessities, Da Mind of Traxman is far from complacent. His forte of aligning samples with elaborate rhythms is mesmerizing, and his efforts to derail a given groove, i.e., how the funky sway of “Setbacks” is obliterated by a distressing skip, make for disconcerting trips through fractured pattern. The samples themselves are peculiar, at times lifted with the same ear for quick mantras as Traxman’s fellow Ghetto Teknitianz and neighbors (“Going Wild”, “Conq Dat Bitch”) and at others from transitional moments that hide their sublimity, as heard on “Itz Crack”’s clock-stopping break and the transfixing croon and trickling piano that open “Rock You”. The latter instances are spotlighted by an infectious, not incessant, application of iteration.
In the midst of experimenting, Da Mind stumbles onto numbers that are just that-- experiments. The twitchy “Let There Be Rockkk”, in theory, could bring the explosive chorus of the AC/DC hit on which it’s based to new levels of sonic excess, but the result has little bite to it even when examined simply as modernization. A squirming synth line on “1988” provides a piquant timbre, but when paired with an equally effervescent beat limits it to escalation that never seems to resolve. As underwhelming as they may be alongside craftier works, they’re not misplaced; these still showcase other facets of Traxman’s adroit production.
Exploration and exposition are essentially Traxman’s M.O. on Da Mind. When not eschewing interpretation of human language on “I Must Deadly Killer” and “Conq Dat Bitch”, he crosses the road paved by legendary beatsmiths Madlib and J Dilla on bustling, harmonic frenzies like “I Need Some Money” and “Lady Dro”, which are stellar hybrids that bear both street-strolling swankiness and foot-tiring metric underscores. Given the length and many stylistic intersections, one could guess that Da Mind would fall prey to incongruity, but they should consider that it’s bookended by a tantalizing micro-banger and a Prince-sampling life lesson about eternity; and notwithstanding the diversity, Traxman advances while consistently using simple but flexible means.
[Buy Da Mind of Traxman from Planet Mu Records]