While notorious in the Chicago streets, RP Boo's music had been unfairly confined to a few white labels and self-released mixtapes until his two archival Planet Mu LPs Legacy and Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints introduced broader audiences to his sonic history, some of it fifteen years after it was first recorded. I’ll Tell You What! is the next step in his mission, and the first time he’s released an album of contemporary material. The title, a favorite maxim of his, welcomes listeners to sit down and let him narrate in the unforgettable abstract fashion he's known for. He explores familiar motifs such as the cosmos, movement, and opposition, using densely interwoven vocals, unpredictable percussion, and evil humming bass as his tools of choice.
RP Boo’s music doesn’t follow the traditional rules that most compositions do. Layering decades of samples from yesteryear to the present over his commanding vocal cut-ups, he transports the listener to their own realm of the space-time continuum. The main difference between this record and his prior work is now we hear Boo tell new stories about preaching his gospel outside of Chicago, from his experiences frantically touring the globe over the last five years. The words “things ain’t been the same / since I hopped the plane” are repeated on top of engine sounds and rumbling bass on Flight 1235, a glorious paean to his new jet-setting adventures.
The spirit of competition runs through RP’s veins as much as blood does, something you can’t unlearn when you’ve been making music for Chicago’s footwork circuit as long as he has. The local culture has served as a shelter from the violence that has plagued the city, pitting kids against each other with their feet rather than weapons. On At War Boo reminds us “we are at war in the streets”, a double meaning to both the mayhem in this world and the sweetness of rivalry on the dance floor. Another battle-themed track Cloudy Back Yard, one of the spacier moments on this album, is an abstract on the state of footwork’s home. Chicago remains the backyard of this artform even though it’s left the porch and traveled to new neighborhoods worldwide. Back at home though, competition among the DJs and dancers continues, and as the man himself says, “with all this hate, there’s smoke, and it’s cloudy”.
I’ll Tell You What! throws more than a few curveballs into the mix. Footwork has always borrowed from hip-hop, and many vocal tracks are almost condensed raps, dating back to the street chants pioneered on Dance Mania Records in the ghetto house days. On Bounty, Boo grabs the mic and brazenly lays down a full-on verse of terror over a thick atmosphere of his signature sweltering low-end and erratic Roland R-70 patterns.
While he’s most famous for his confrontational battle anthems, his melancholy moments are just as powerful. You get the best of both of those worlds on U-Don’t No, with soulful samples finishing his own cocky sentences, one of the most elegant tracks RP has made to date. Deep Sole closes the record out, with the words “It’s always beautiful at the end” looping over waves of hypnotic synthesis, confidently looking death straight in the eyes.