Footwork producer, Teklife member, and south suburban high school science teacher Nate Boylan turned 40 last month, and on Friday party promoters Custom Vibes throw him a belated birthday bash at Exit. “Boylan said he hasn’t had a birthday party in forever,” says fellow DJ Erik “Pranas” Voit, who cofounded Chicago electronic collective Mucho Culo. “You only turn 40 once, so we agreed to help him put this together.” The performers with their names in the biggest type on the flyer are ghetto-house legend DJ Deeon and underappreciated footwork veteran Jana Rush, but there will also be an extremely special guest whose identity won’t be announced in advance (trust me on the “extremely” part). DJs from Mucho Culo, Select Inverse, and Custom Vibes spin throughout the night.
To promote the party, on Monday Voit dropped “Pick It Up,” a sublime footwork track he made with Boylan. He calls Boylan his doppelgänger in the track’s Soundcloud description, and while that may be so, this is the first music they’ve released together—they began collaborating just a few months ago, after talking about gear at an event. “He heard I had recently picked up an [Akai] MPC2500, and he offered to come through and show me some workflows,” Voit says. They made “Pick It Up” a couple weeks later, after an unfamiliar song caught Boylan’s ear while he was driving. “He said, ‘Pharris was going crazy on Power 92!,'” Voit remembers. “‘I almost crashed my car three times trying to Shazam this.’ We got downstairs to my studio and Boylan played the sample for me.”
The song Boylan had heard was “Pick It Up,” a recent hit single from Chicago rapper Famous Dex—whose career seems to be done suffering from the September 2016 Instagram leak of surveillance footage that apparently showed him beating his longtime girlfriend. Dex copped to the assault in a 2017 interview with rap podcast No Jumper, and the video (and Dex’s confession) convinced XXL editor in chief Vanessa Satten to leave him out of the magazine’s coveted “freshman class” issue last year. But Dex is still on hot hip-hop label 300 Entertainment, which signed him before the leak, and for “Pick It Up,” released in October, he recruited Asap Rocky for a guest verse. The song is closing in on the top half of the Billboard Hot 100 chart: as of February 3, it had jumped from number 66 to 58 in a week.
Boylan and Voit preserve almost no trace of Dex on their collaborative track—they use part of Asap Rocky’s verse, and they lean hard on the featherweight singing Dex sampled for the original “Pick It Up.” That wordless vocal melody originally opened the 1975 soul single “Nothing Can Stop Me” by Cissy Houston, who was not only a champion solo performer and beloved backup singer (for the likes of Elvis, Aretha, and Beyoncé) but also the mother of Whitney Houston. Boylan and Voit distill and clarify Houston’s heavenly touch for their speedy track. Voit says that when he first heard the samples, he asked Boylan if they had enough material to build an entire song. “Boylan laughed knowingly,” Voit says. “About an hour and a half later we had the whole mix and arrangement done.”