The gigantic sea monster from Japan known as Godzilla has appeared in more than two dozen films since debuting in Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla back in 1954; Godzilla resurfaces in theaters today, and it’s the first American take on the iconic kaiju since Roland Emmerich’s 1998, um, abomination. I don’t use the term “iconic” lightly—Godzilla has a strong grip on pop culture beyond just the cinema world, and closer to home the creature has played a role in the development of footwork.
Back in 2002 Michigan’s Databass Records released Godzilla Remixes, an LP by local ghetto-house producer DJ Slugo. The title track is built on what sounds like a sample of the blaring horn signaling Godzilla’s impending onslaught; “Godzilla” retains that sinister monster-movie mystique even though that familiar sound has been chopped up and looped in a skittering pattern, and then affixed to a pileup of lean, palpitating drums. The track had also been called “11-47-99,” which is how it appeared on a 2001 Databass LP; it was also under Slugo’s name, but as the years passed more people began crediting the song to another Chicago producer, Kavain Space, aka RP Boo. With Godzilla out in theaters I decided to talk to Space about the track and his career.
The 42-year-old had been making music long before chic London label Planet Mu released his proper debut, 2013’s excellent Legacy, and he’s regarded as one of the architects of footwork. Space started making tracks after purchasing a Roland R-70 drum machine from Guitar Center in 1996. “I got the last one,” Space says. “I called ahead of schedule to let them know I was gonna pick one up. When I got there they said, ‘We don’t have any more, all we got is the display model.'” He got the drum machine for a discount, and it came loaded with countless sounds from customers who had tinkered with the machine before Space picked it up. A year later he joined the Illinois Record Pool, where he came across the LP that provided the foundation for “11-47-99” in 1999.
The record wasn’t actually a Godzilla soundtrack but a 12-inch of “Simon Says,” a 1999 single by New York rapper Pharoahe Monch, which actually uses a Godzilla sample. It piqued Space’s interest, and he ended up walking home with a copy of the single. “When I got home I was saying, ‘I hope there is an instrumental,'” he says. “When I played it it had all that I wanted.” “Simon Says” also hit close to home. “It made me have a flashback of remembering all the Godzilla movies that I used to watch at my uncle’s and I was so mesmerized by all the sounds,” Space says. His uncle lived with his grandmother when he was six, which is around the time he started watching those old monster movies on Sunday afternoons. “I just got glued to the TV.”
Space made “11-47-99” in late November 1999—he says he’s pretty sure it was one of four tracks he made the day before Thanksgiving—and he debuted it before the month wrapped up. “I played it at a party and everybody just lit up,” he says. The tune’s numerical name references the location of the neighborhood party where Space first played it, which he says took place at an old Masonic hall on 47th Street; 11 stands for the month, 47 the location, and 99 the year. Space started busting out tracks that provided the foundation for footwork before 1999 (including “Baby Come On,” which some consider the first footwork track), and “11-47-99” continued to cement his reputation—even though it spread outside of Chicago under another producer’s name.
Space prefers to not talk about Slugo on the record, but a quick scan of the web shows that Space is getting more and more credit for the track. Critic and footwork expert Dave Quam, who wrote the liner notes for Planet Mu’s important 2010 footwork compilation Bangs & Works, Vol. 1 (which includes a cut from Space), helped clear the air in a 2010 Resident Advisor feature on the evolution of footwork. As Space began promoting Legacy last year Fact, XLR8R, and Vice electronic music site Thump published interviews with the producer where he asserts that he’s the creator of the “Godzilla” track.
Legacy not only gave Space a platform to talk about his role in footwork and making “11-47-99” but it also gave him the chance to tour abroad. He tells me about the fans in Poland who told him they’d been waiting to see him perform since they first heard “11-47-99”; one admirer in Osaka asked Space to sign a Roland R-70 drum machine, which he’d purchased after he’d heard it’s the drum machine Space uses. Another fan in Osaka presented Space with a gift—an LP of the Godzilla soundtrack. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what it’s saying, but this is one of the best things I’ve ever received,'” Space says.
- Courtesy Gamall Awad at Backspin Promotions
- RP Boo’s drum machine and Godzilla LP
He hasn’t sampled the LP, at least not yet—he’s got a lot of material stored up over the years, and he’s not in any rush. But Space has plans for the new Godzilla movie. “I have plans of going to see it just to hear what it’s going to sound like and see if I can come up with some ideas,” he says. “I’m going to check it out especially for the sounds.”