10 Years of DJ Rashad’s ‘Double Cup’: An Interview With DJ Spinn

In honor of the 10 year anniversary of the late DJ Rashad's influential footwork album Double Cup, Michael McKinney speaks to his close collaborator DJ Spinn about pushing the genre to mainstream...
By    December 17, 2023

Image via Wills Glasspiegel

Show your love of the game by subscribing to Passion of the Weiss on Patreon so that we can keep churning out interviews with legendary producers, feature the best emerging rap talent in the game, and gift you the only worthwhile playlists left in this streaming hellscape.

Michael McKinney understands the cultural importance of Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci.”

Ten years later, the cup runneth over. In 2013, DJ Rashad, an icon of Chicago’s footwork scene, released what became his magnum opus: Double Cup. Footwork—one of America’s great dance-music traditions, a whirlwind of claps and snares and samples chopped just so—was ascending across the globe at that point, but there’s always another dancefloor to convert. Double Cup was a hurled gauntlet for the genre: Hyper-regional club sounds wrapped around decades of dance-music traditions and launched into the stratosphere.

It was also something of a coronation. As a teenager, DJ Rashad had a slot on a local radio station’s airwaves, and he played—and danced—at a local roller rink. He knew footwork, juke, and ghetto house from a DJ’s perspective, but also from that of a dancer; with the House-O-Matics dance crew, he was partially responsible for throwing legendary parties in Chicago, filling up warehouses and filling rooms with motion. Double Cup was him pushing this sound he loved so much to a global stage, taking his crew with him and forging an entirely new crown in the process.

Death has a funny sensibility, though. Not long after the release of Double Cup, Rashad passed away of an accidental drug overdose. He had spent decades building up to this point, and, suddenly, his story seemed to come to a close. But his work lives on: It’s not every day that an album gets a ten-year reissue, after all. Prior to his death, Double Cup was already regarded as a monumental work in Chicago dance music; afterwards, it was monolithic. It became a testament to the power of local scenes, the importance of building an entirely new language with your collaborators, and the joy of setting dancefloors alight.

In the years since Rashad’s death, footwork has continued its slow-burn growth. Names like SHERELLE and Addison Groove are stretching the genre’s history into new forms abroad, while genre OGs, like DJ Manny and RP Boo, are offering their own takes on the Chicago club-music mainstay. But few names are quite as critical as DJ Spinn. The Chicago-born DJ grew up playing alongside DJ Rashad—in high school, they’d commandeer the radio during homeroom. In the years since Rashad’s passing, Spinn has picked up his torch. In his work with Teklife, a critical outpost for modern footwork, Spinn has helped shepard the genre into the future without losing sight of its roots.

This work—maintaining a legendary legacy without becoming a strictly archival project—might initially seem a bit fraught, but that’s what footwork has always been about. It’s about grabbing detritus from the past and cracking it into umpteen new forms, making something that feels radically new in the process. Ten years on, Double Cup represents a peak of the genre, and it offers a snapshot of countless crowded dancefloors. It’s 53 minutes of relentless forward momentum and a sweat-soaked celebration of communities. Somewhere in its folds, situated between the livewire samples and white-hot percussion tracks, lies an entire universe.

In advance of Double Cup’s reissue, we caught up with DJ Spinn, talking about dancing in roller rinks, hauling mixing equipment in the rain, the LP’s legacy, the future of footwork, and lots more.

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

You and Rashad connected when you were teenagers, right?

DJ Spinn: Yeah—8th grade. My first official time meeting him was a Friday night at Markham Roller Rink. Saturday nights were always packed there, and Friday night was kind of the practice night. You could go up there and they would still have the disco running, but it wouldn’t be as packed, so you could go up there, listen to some music, and practice. Really, that was the only way [for me] to hear the tracks that were out at the time—the Dancemania stuff and stuff like that. At the time, I wasn’t privy to all this; I was still a student. I’m hearing the music, but I don’t know where it’s coming from. I had a feeling it was from Chicago, because it sounded like Chicago music, [and it was] talking about Chicago stuff. But it could have come from anywhere. It was the sound that was taking over at the time: Ghetto house.

So we were at the Rink on a Friday night, [and] Rashad was spinning up there. We were like, “Okay—there’s a young dude up there DJing. Okay—he’s playing that stuff we’re hearing off WKKC!” That’s the college station out there, 89.3. So I tuned in to that; there was a show called The Young People’s Network. I didn’t even recognize that this is the same DJ Rashad from the radio, but I heard his selection, and I was like, “Dude’s got some tracks.” I watched Rashad come down from the DJ booth with two records mixing. These are records—records! There’s no CDJs; this is about ‘95.

Anyways, I watched him come down and hit some dance moves—some real smooth and cool stuff. Then he goes back and starts DJing again. After that, I was like, “I’ve got to meet this dude.” I’d seen him around, but I think that night I actually asked him something. We didn’t get real cool until high school—freshman year, for me, when we went to Thornwood together. That’s when we really started to get to know each other.

At what point did you go from going out to saying, “This is something I want to be doing?”

DJ Spinn: That was always in the cards, but you had to go through the dancing channels first. With him being a dancer too, I was more interested in learning how to dance. At the same time, I let him know that I messed around with the music. I wasn’t official at the time, but when I look back at it, I was doing some real inventive stuff to make my mixes—I mixed mixtapes together.

With mixtapes, you really didn’t know when to change the next track unless you memorized the tape, so you had to memorize a person’s whole mixtape. They would leave a track open: You might not get it from the beginning, and you might not get it all the way to the end. But I’d queue it up. I mixed from other people’s mixes, and I mixed mixes together. They were decent! They were decent mixes. It wasn’t trash; it wasn’t a bunch of train wrecks. I knew how to mix tapes.

That was my first method of mixing. I had a pitch deck: A standalone little recorder deck that had pitch on it. I mixed songs in the car; I mixed songs on the radio; and I came across mixes and stuff like that. My mom had a radio with RCA input, and that’s when I figured out I could record onto the tape. I didn’t know anything about mixers at the time. I made it mix: From the tape that was already in there to the tape that I had with the recorder deck; I could record back to the recorder.

When [Rashad and I] were in high school, we had homeroom together—we have similar last names. Our homeroom happened to be the arts and crafts room. There was a radio in there, and every Friday, the arts and crafts teacher said, “Y’all can play the radio! It’s a free-for-all. Every day, during the week, I get to play my music for y’all.” Basically, we took over the radio instantly. Nobody else vouched for it; they ain’t stick their hand up. We were like, “Alright, we got the radio, y’all.” The first Friday leading up to that, I was telling Rashad how I mixed, but I was kind of fronting. I knew what I was talking about as far as DJing, but I knew from watching TV and movies—Juice. I told him, “Yeah, I’m mixing.” And I was mixing records! But I didn’t have Dancemania records at the time. I only had some house records, or something like that. I’d mix on the top of the turntable and slow it down with my fingers. He was like, “Make me a mix! I want to hear something.”

The Friday [prior to that], they did another DJing gig at Markham Roller Rink: DJ Rashad, DJ Nehpets, Jana Rush, and Gant-Man. At the time, I didn’t know that these were all the kids from WKKC; I’m not putting this together. Nehpets was selling a mixtape called Space Age Pimp that night, and I’ll never forget it—It was purple. I bought that tape. I had a couple Deeon mixes, this, and a couple mixes from the streets. Like I said, I was mixing mixes together. I mixed a mix and brought it to school. At that time I had a mixer, so I could mix my records or tapes. I only had one pitch, so I had to accurately slow something down or speed it up. But I was cold at it.

I probably didn’t have the right counts, but all the blends were on point. I made that tape for the first Friday, and bro checked me out. There were some tracks playing, and he was like, “Man, how’d you get that track?”. I said, “It’s from that tape y’all were selling last week—the Nephets tape.” He heard some blends, and he caught me: He went, “Oh, you’re mixing mixtapes.” I said, “Yeah—I ain’t got no records.” He said, “I’m gonna invite you to my place—I’ma show you something.”

When Rashad invited me to his house, he called me while I was at work. I called him back, and it sounded like he was at a party. He was like, “You still coming over?” I said, “Where you at?” He said, “I’m at home.” I was like, “Man, what’re you doing?” He said, “I’m in here mixing!” I said, “What? You got turntables in there?” He said, “Bro, come over. You’ll see.” I’m geeked.

I got over to his house after school for the first time we linked up. I’m like, “Oh, man, they’re in a nice condo.” You’ve got to get buzzed in through the gate. Rashad’s funny, man: He was tagging the elevators. [laughs] He couldn’t help himself. He was just that type of dude. We were walking down the hallway after he tagged the elevators, and we got into the apartment. I’ll never forget that smell. I always loved that smell; it reminds me of success. I’m like, “Man, it smells good in here. It’s put together.” He says, “Man, come into my room. Forget all that.”

I’ll never forget the mirrors. To be a dancer, that’s the number one thing that you’ve got to have. There were mirrors almost everywhere in this house. It was cool: “We’re gonna get some practicing in.” He’s like, “Come back here.” He took me to his room, and he’s got everything I wanted, and even stuff I never knew about. I see the turntables. He had the DJ starting kit, the [Technics SL-]BD10s and the Gemini belt-drive turntables.

Then I saw his WKKC tag, and I said “What! Y’all have been on the WKKC?” He said, “Bro, I DJ on WKKC.” It all started coming together. He was like, “Man, go ahead and mix.” I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m wrecking over there, but he’s like, “Man, it’s all good. I know that you know what you’re doing. Let me show you something.” After we mixed for a bit, he pulled out a drum machine. He had a Gemini mixer with an 8-second sample on it. [laughs] I’m wild about this: I’m like, “I this is that stuff that I saw in those equipment books.” I forgot what it was called—Musician’s Friend?

One of my buddy’s grandfathers used to get those mailed to his house. We’d look at these books and see this equipment. It was real technical stuff. The only reason I could keep up with that language was: I used to read a lot of game books. I read a lot of Electronic Gaming Monthly as a little kid. So I’m reading these books, and I’m looking at this equipment: “How’d he get all this stuff? That’s $500!” I asked him, and he said, “Man, I DJ. Matter of fact—you can have this mixer.” I’m like “What?!”

After Rashad showed me his drum machine, we started doing a little dancing session; he was showing me some moves. It was a rainy day, and his dad came home early. Rashad ran to the refrigerator when his pops came in. When his pops came in and saw me, he looked surprised. He said, “Hey. How are you doing?” I’m like, “How are you doing, sir?” He says, “Rashad’s not supposed to have any company.” [laughs] It wasn’t a good first meeting. Rashad has his head in the refrigerator, and he’s like, “Where’s Rashad?” He took Rashad back to his room, and Rashad said, “You gotta go, bro.” I’m like, “Damn, alright. This was cool, though.”

I took the bus back in the rain, but I had this mixer. I didn’t have an umbrella, and I was trying to not get it wet. I’m geeked. All I want to do is [use the mixer]—say, “Shit, shit, sh-sh-sh-shit. Bitch, bitch, bi-bi-bi-bitch.” After two weeks of just being at the house with the mixer, Rashad was like, “Man, you can use the drum machine.” We were rocking with each other from that day forward.

My understanding is that early on he was doing a lot of ghetto house and what would later become juke. Were you on a similar tip?

DJ Spinn: It was all ghetto house. We didn’t know the difference between ghettotech and drum and bass—none of that stuff. All we knew was Dancemania records. In the mid-‘90s, we were both on a record called “We Bout It,” with DJ Thadz. We never really got our own record, but we were happy to get those tracks. Rashad did a track called “Child Abuse,” and my track was a remake of Paul Johnson’s “Mothaf*cka.” That was one of those tracks I made when he let me use that drum machine, and when he gave me that mixer: “Motherf*cker. Motherf*cker. Motherf*cker. Mo-motherf*cker.” I’m hitting that shit live, and then it got pressed on record. It was like, “Wow, we can do this, even with this little equipment.” After that, we were dancing. We got the House-O-Matics dance group together, but Rashad was probably already in two or three dance groups before that. We knew that trying out for the House-O-Matics would help our DJing career.

Tell me about throwing your own parties.

DJ Spinn: House-O-Matics was throwing parties all around the city, for their dance group and in conjunction with other dance groups. These were really big dance-oriented parties: Everybody was dancing. As soon as you step into the building, everybody’s dancing all night. We recreated that some years later. We started putting together events by ‘09. We had the battlegrounds going in Chicago. Early on, though, it was all put together by the dance groups. The dance groups would promote the parties, and everybody was invited. It wasn’t just a dance group thing. These parties would be pretty big. There’s this one banquet hall, Cavallini’s—it was probably 200 capacity, but we put 300 people in there. 90% of the building was dilapidated, and the windows were busted out.

It was a huge building. When I think about it now, I’m like, “Was this place even operable?” I don’t think it was up to code. We had windows open, and big fans [running]. There was electricity in there, but I don’t think we had air conditioning. But we were kids; we were 15 years old. We were happy to have a home to DJ with our dance group and to represent. That’s all we wanted to do.

Let me show you something: This was the pinnacle, to put our name on a flier like this. These colored flyers: It was an award to see this around the city. This was in ‘97 or ‘98; it was a Bud Billiken Parade afterparty. Those were the biggest parties to be at, back in those days. After the parade, we’d throw a big party. Those were the days right there.

[Spinn points the camera towards a poster advertising an after-parade party at Cavallini’s. The lineup includes “DJ Boo, DJ Slugo, DJ Lemo, DJ Spin, DJ Billie, DJ Chip, and the House-O-Matics.]

Is that RP Boo, or is that somebody else?

DJ Spinn: Yeah. You notice I’m Spin with one “n”? I eventually found there was another DJ Spin, so I had to put two “n”’s in my name.

At what point did you notice your music into juke and footwork?

DJ Spinn: I never wanted to shift it away from ghetto house. All those old, early 2000s and late ‘90s tracks—those are the blueprint to post-ghetto house. To give you a picture of that, Dancemania Records stopped pressing records around 2000. Even before that, it was hard to put a record out, because money was getting low. Other DJs were getting opportunities to put their records out first before newer guys, like ourselves. So, by 2000, we weren’t trying to get on Dancemania any more. The dance groups kept us motivated to make music.

In the late ‘90s, radios would do a thing called the “30-Second Workout.” It got extended to 60 seconds, and then it got extended again. DJs would submit their own mixes. It was a drastic shift from ‘95, when Rashad was DJing on WKKC: In ‘99, none of the younger guys were a part of those programs anymore. Working on the radio seemed far-fetched to us; it was way older guys. We were happy about the workouts, though: At least we got something on the radio.

After a while, though, it was like, “They’re playing us. What are we really getting from this?” So we started making a bunch of underground renegade music: We focused strictly on the footworkers. That’s the birth of footwork, when ghetto house was in its decline. When it was juke, we were making ghetto house—it was just faster. We were still dancing a bit up to 2000, and we were like, “Let’s change this up.” The technology was changing, too: We had the opportunity to timestretch. We could speed something up and make it sound like a chipmunk, or we could make it super slow. Once you could take a song and manipulate its pitch and time, we started sampling everything. In the early 2000s, it was no holds barred.

The dominant narrative around Double Cup, at this point, is one of a thrown gauntlet: It was a way to push footwork into a more mainstream audience and make it even more global than it was in 2013. Does that track for you?

DJ Spinn: Yeah. We had a goal: To make it sound more polished than we ever had. We got this opportunity with Hyperdub, and we were gonna give them our best to date.

When you and Rashad are working on Double Cup, how did that manifest? How did your approach change compared to earlier releases?

DJ Spinn: A lot of those tracks were just made and put out. Double Cup was made to be Double Cup. It was started from the idea of “This is going to be for the album.” We had the EPs that led up to Double Cup; we was getting acclimated on how to schedule records: “We could put out some EPs that lead up to the LP. Okay—I guess that’s the formula to putting out music”. We had a chance to put out wax again, so we wanted to put our best foot forward. Once we started doing our homework about Hyperdub, we said, “We’ve got to give them some quality work. We can’t play; we’re on the radar.” We took it seriously, but we still had fun.

Were you trying to do anything new, conceptually or sonically, with it? Or was it more like, “We gotta do what we already do, and do it very well?”

DJ Spinn: It was what we were already doing, but we wanted to keep it raw and gritty. For most of the tracks that I worked on with Rashad, we had to come up with melodies. It wasn’t just drum tracks. With, say, “Let U No,” all those extra fills and crazy stuff—that’s all done on purpose.

In 2013, as footwork was becoming a more global thing, did you still feel like it was intimately tied to Chicago?

DJ Spinn: By 2013, we were touring for three years. That led up to that fall, where we went on tour with Chance [the Rapper]. That was our way of seeing different states. Before that, we went straight overseas. We were overseas for three years straight. We weren’t really doing shows outside of Chicago too much. We were on the plane for three months; we’d come back home, work on music, and then go back overseas.

Without us being overseas in London, we’d have never gotten that opportunity. We went to Chance’s show [in London], and we were the last people to get in. Our homie was DJing for Chance, and we got in contact with him. He told us we were on the list; we weren’t on the list, but I ain’t mad at him. We finessed our way in. The security gave us that look like we were somebody; they knew we wouldn’t do any harm. We went in, and Chance was immediately like, “What’s up? Would y’all like to go on my first tour with me?”

Mind you, I thought my buddy would be DJing [too]—opening it up with hip-hop, and then we’d close it out with footwork. My buddy didn’t go on that tour, though, and we ended up getting two slots: We got to open up and we got to close. At that time, we weren’t tripping about closing. But then I saw the superstar thing happening, where Chance would smash it. It was like, “What are we supposed to do after that?” [laughs] But we still did our thing. That was one of the best tours I participated in.

Do you hear Double Cup in modern electronic music? Do you think people are still trying to chase that dragon?

DJ Spinn: I think the people who know about it are: The people who produce, the people who DJ, the people who are really in tune with it. Outside of that, I believe our sound is still untapped. I was just telling the guys; We’re the last dance phenomenon that’s gonna hit the world. Let’s be easy, y’all; everything gets better with time. As long as we stay with it, it’s gonna get better. There’ll be more history, and more ups and downs, and more humblings. We had to pay our dues so people could eat. That’s what it’s about: Solidifying our genre. That’s what I believe Double Cup really stood for; it’s a time capsule. It’s got old-school house samples, and R&B samples, and ‘70s soul samples. But you get us with our originality, too; we’re influenced by hip-hop.

Do you feel Double Cup established a fulcrum—a before-and-after kind of thing? Or is it part of a continuum?

DJ Spinn: I believe it’s a continuum. To be honest with you, I’ve been going through so much stuff in my life; I had to take a break from producing. I really wanted other people to shine. And they have—there’s a few exceptional records out here. There’s nothing groundbreaking, in my opinion, but that’s still to come. It’s about bringing back that vibe: Dancing, being creative and funny. That’s what the music we made was about; it was about having fun. It wasn’t about being mainstream. We wanted to get on the mainstream people’s radar so we could remix their music legitimately.

When you’re saying not much has been particularly groundbreaking, I’m curious as to what you’re pointing towards. What’s missing? Is there a direction you want modern footwork to go?

DJ Spinn: I want more originality. Get away from the samples. Samples are cool, but I want to hear people’s voices. Us Black artists in Chicago, we put our voices on tracks. Everywhere I go, I say, “Put y’all’s stuff in it.” I want to hear the Spanish version of Teklife. I want to hear the Portuguese version. It don’t even gotta be Teklife—just footwork. That’s what makes it a thing, when people put their own culture into it. Now they’re making footwork! It’s easy to sample something from Chicago, but to put yourself into it: That’s what makes it them. People gotta put themselves into a track. Even if everyone else doesn’t understand it, it’s cool. It’s about the rhythm; it’s about how it sounds. If it sounds good, then it feels good. That’s James Brown right there.

It’s about building something that’s specific to you.

DJ Spinn: Yeah, but within the genre. There’s a few must-haves for footwork, but not too many. You could go into any pocket of creativity with the sounds, but the drums have to be a certain kind. I tried making footwork with hip-hop drums, and it just doesn’t fit. I tried making house with footwork drums, and that doesn’t fit.

Going from 150 to 120, or something?

DJ Spinn: Yeah, but with the same sound kit. Those sounds were made to go at 160, and the sounds for house are made to go at 130 or 140.

How would you say your approach to production has shifted since Double Cup? What are you looking towards right now?

DJ Spinn: After Double Cup, I probably made one track that pertained to drugs outside of marijuana. That’s “On Deck.” That’s my goodbye to lean, pills, and all that other stuff. It was cool at the time, but for me, being a grown man in my early 40s now, I can’t live like that, and I don’t want to put that message out. I ain’t judging nobody, but I watched my friend pass away due to drugs. That really had an impact on what I talk about. I don’t say the n-word too much any more, either. I don’t disrespect women. I just keep it party.

Given your earlier comments about individualism in footwork, outside of your lyricism, how do you try to put yourself into your production?

DJ Spinn: I try to be more original. I play more melodies instead of sampling. I understand that, one day, somebody will want to sample my music, and I’m fine with that. But in order for me to really eat off that, it’s gonna have to be original. The more original it is, the more my family can eat. That’s the goal now: I gotta make a catalog of music that my sons can sell. Or they can keep it; whatever’s best for them. I still own my masters. The stuff I did with Hyperdub—whatever I put out that’s newer, that’s probably under their masters. But, with everything I put out before Da Life, I think that hit the contractual statute of limitations. I’m a firm believer in owning the masters to my music.

Of course. It’s about building and owning a legacy.

DJ Spinn: I’ll lease it for a few as long as it can come back to me. [laughs]

In the past 10 years, how would you say Teklife has evolved?

DJ Spinn: We got more into the marketing and merch over the years, where we started with just the one T-shirt design. We put out records, which was our goal. I wish we had more records out. It feels like people are waiting for me to do something and get them inspired. Not to toot my own horn, but it’s been ten years. Everybody gets their time to put their music out. I really don’t feel that same feeling from when Double Cup was put out. Even with my own music: I wouldn’t put it out if I wasn’t happy with it, but I still haven’t put out my full LP yet. When I do that, I want it to be on that level with Double Cup. There’s no greater than. Just on that level.

I had an album or two that got lost with break-ins and my computer getting stolen in Peru. That had some of the last tracks Rashad and I worked on. It was incredible, and I can’t even start to put those pieces back together, because it was all about being in that place at that time. I keep that in my memories, but now, I gotta make something better.

Talk to me about maintaining legacies: about Teklife, and about Rashad, specifically. How do you maintain those legacies without it becoming too archival?

DJ Spinn: Just staying authentic. A lot of my people that do music ask me for some advice. The best advice I could give any type of artist is: Nobody can be you. The secret is always looking in the mirror and being better than yourself. It’s a vibe. Teklife is a vibe; footwork is a vibe; juke is a vibe. It’s a vibe that the world needs. People need to dance with each other; people need to dance against each other. [laughs] People need to dance again: not TikTok dances, not these 10-second dances. Kudos to the guys who can make it big with this rapping stuff, but footwork is yet to break out. It comes in spurts, but it’s coming. I firmly believe that. When it comes, we’ve got to have a plan to keep it solidified for years to come.

What would a breakout footwork moment look like?

DJ Spinn: Its happening right now. A lot of kids probably don’t know who I am, or who Rashad is, but they’re into the sound of ghetto house and juke music. They’ve been resampling, and getting DJs and producers to remake songs. There’s a lot out there. They’re not the best, but it makes me happy to see that the kids are getting into it. It’s like, “Okay, I hear y’all.” There’s one big record out now—FendiDa Rappa & Cardi B, “Point Me 2.” It’s one of those hybrid tracks. Even with that coming out, we need more of that. That’s part of it: We always get spurts of big records, but if you have a wave, you’ve got to keep it going.

When a person like myself gets to meet all these young artists, and once we get relationships going, I believe things will get a lot clearer, and we’ll be able to set bigger goals. I’m the one that’s going overseas; I’m the one that’s done this. They can take this to the next level, and that’s a whole new check. It’s a whole new way to entertain people. I don’t think the kids from Chicago understand that they can have that impact. They’re happy to perform, make their videos, and get some shows out of town. When I tell them they could go global, I think it scares a lot of people.

You’re making me think of folks like DJ Nate: Of folks who move between juke, footwork, and hip-hop. That seems like the middle ground you’re speaking towards.

DJ Spinn: People have been looking for that style for about 25 years. We’ve always wanted to get people to drop verses. That’s why you get songs like the other version of “Feelin’”—I think it’s on Welcome to the Chi. We got one of our guys, who’s a rapper. We took what he said and turned it into a bigger song than what his song was. That’s what I was trying to tell a lot of artists: There’s guys from Chicago who are doing their thing, and we work together. I was letting them know, “We could take over. We could be in France and London with these records.” They said, “Nah. It’s gonna hurt my rap image.”

When The Era started coming with the rap mixtapes, I was like, “Okay! Y’all for real about this!” That’s what it’s about: It’s all about showing that you’re serious. Once you show somebody that you’re serious and consistent, you’ve got a thing going. If we stay serious and consistent, and people hear the work, then they’ll say, “They’re serious, and they keep it coming, and they keep feeding us!” But in this day and age, you’ve got to feed people a lot. [laughs]

What’s your relationship to modern 160? I think about how footwork, jungle, and drum-and-bass have gotten so tangled on dancefloors.

DJ Spinn: The DJs and producers I’ve met over the past 13 years—Addison Groove, SHERELLE—it’s a plethora of people who keep dance music alive, in that range from 140 to 170. That’s the thing that always got me bewildered: We’d play, and people would act like footwork and juke was the fastest music to ever be made. I’m like, “Nah!” There’s gabber; there’s drum-and-bass; there’s quite a few genres that can get way faster while still fitting into the pocket. I’m just happy to see that everything is still flourishing. I don’t have a hating bone in my body; I want to see everyone do their thing. I’m just a little salty that Chicago’s DJs and producers don’t get that we all have opportunities. The door is open. I’m not holding it for y’all: Y’all don’t have to go through me to get a record out. You can put a record out through Teklife if you want, but we showed y’all that you can go to Planet Mu. Hyperdub’s checking us out.

There’s so many labels. There’s Moveltraxx. There’s labels devoted to strictly footwork: Duck n’ Cover from Japan, there’s some guys from Poland putting out juke. That’s what it’s about: Genre solidification. That’s the dream. I’ve said it quite a few times, but to one day have that DJ Rashad award, or, one day, a DJ Spinn award. That’s the legacy I’m looking toward. I’m confident with how we make music. I’m 42 years old, but I swear, I don’t feel a day past 22 when it comes to making this music. I can do this on the lickety-split. At this point in my life, I’ve got the responsibility of my kids; I can’t be a wild man out here. At the same time, I want to be a creative man. I could be a TikTok star; I could make TikTok music in a heartbeat. But come on, now. That should be kids doing that. That’s not for me. I want to make young music for grown people.

Do you feel a responsibility towards shepherding footwork towards a new stage, or is that something you want to leave to a broader community?

DJ Spinn: Nah. It’s up to me and the teachings that Rashad put out here. I’m not the main ingredient, but I have to be active and show people the different ways you could be creative. I believe a lot of people still haven’t tapped into the ways to be creative. I love to motivate people. I was talking to my people in India when Taso was over there. With how I was talking about how important it is to put your voice in the track, they came back a day later, like, “Check this out.” And I’m like, “That’s what I’m talking about!” At this point, we don’t have to go outside and find singers. It’s always cool to people that really can sing and the people that really rap, but you can do it yourself, too.

What’s something you recently came to learn about yourself?

DJ Spinn: I’m very patient. [laughs] I have learned to master my emotions the best I can and be patient.

How’d you get there?

DJ Spinn: My kids push my patience. I’ve got a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old, and I blow my top with them sometimes. I’m like, “Man, what am I doing? These are my kids. Chill out.” That helps me deal with the stupidity of grown people, too. I still deal with a lot of stupid grown people who disrespect me and try to take me off my square. But it’s alright; you’re not doing anything right if people aren’t hating on you, so I guess I’m still doing something right.

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!