As DJ Roc, Clarence Johnson has helped make footwork a global phenomenon | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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As DJ Roc, Clarence Johnson has helped make footwork a global phenomenon

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As DJ Roc, Chicago producer Clarence Johnson helped mold footwork and provided the support it needed to become an international underground phenomenon. He started making juke tracks in the early 2000s, but just a few years later he adopted the faster, battle-ready footwork sound. Johnson strengthened the footwork scene in 2005 by cofounding production collective Bosses of the Circle, which soon expanded to include future experimental star Jlin. He became a force in those years, during which Chicago house hero DJ Sluggo released several of Johnson’s CDs. Footwork dance battles accompanied the finale of the Bud Billiken Parade, and CAN TV program Wala Cam, which documented the scene, expanded to YouTube. When UK label Planet Mu got interested in releasing footwork, Johnson was among the first artists it tapped. His sole album for the label, 2010’s The Crack Capone, preceded even Planet Mu’s watershed Bangs & Works compilation, which bolstered footwork’s international reputation and historical legacy. Johnson also contributed two cuts to Bangs & Works, which Pitchfork recently ranked 129th on its “best albums of the 2010s” list. Lately Johnson has aligned himself with DJ Clent’s Beatdown House, which is putting out the sequel to his 2018 album, Roctober. On Roctober Vol. 2 (for which this show is a release party), he sometimes reshapes his volatile, hammering bass till it’s smooth and sensual—he understands how to push footwork’s unpredictable, ever-evolving aesthetic in idiosyncratic directions without damaging its integrity.   v

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