Films | I’m Tryna Tell Ya

Tim and Barry are the paps who snapped the emergent London grime scene of the mid-noughties, and have since established themselves as the brains behind online music channel Just Jam.

They also infamously fell foul of the Metropolitan Police when they attempted to host an event at the Barbican earlier this year.

In 2012 they ventured to Chicago to document the city’s footwork scene. For the uninitiated, footwork music is a sub-genre of ghetto house, a 160bpm sample-storm of complex rhythms, rapid-fire drums and chopped vocals, sculpted specifically for the dance floor.

Premiered at the ICA this November, I’m Tryna Tell Ya is a frontline snapshot of that scene, a movement born in the Chi-town projects and now a ubiquity in clubs across the globe.

Its popularity is largely thanks to exposure from labels such as Planet Mu and Hyperdub, and the trailblazing Teklife crew, headed up by DJ Spinn and the late DJ Rashad, who passed away suddenly in April.

The film journeys to the epicentre of this ghetto culture – studios, bedrooms and dance battles documented in raw, roughly-edited form.

Veteran producers Traxman, DJ Clent and RP Boo reflect on the origins of the sound, while new-breed artists such as DJ Earl and Manny demonstrate their mastery of the drum machines and dance moves that make it.

It’s a sound architected by a symbiosis of production, DJing and footwork dancing – the latter being the most vital to its blueprint – and many of the scene’s protagonists specialise in all three. As Manny composes a beat on an MPC, he describes the process as “dancing in his head”.

At the heart of it all are Spinn and Rashad. Spinn the creative powerhouse knocking out 15 tracks a week, Rashad the class clown effortlessly chopping samples while heavily intoxicated.

I’m Tryna Tell Ya is a candid insight into a game-changing, grass roots subculture and a touching tribute to one of its fallen soldiers. RIP Rashad.

Featured photo by Tim & Barry