In 2017, foundational Chicago footwork collective and record label Teklife dropped On Life, a compilation highlighting all the producers in its wider family. That record became a series, and the new On Life: Vol. 3 arrives four years after the second chapter. Given the engrossing sounds it contains and the growth in Teklife’s ranks of artists, I hope the series has no end in sight. Major players, underappreciated veterans, and younger additions to the crew fill On Life: Vol. 3 with electrifying tracks as strong as material they’ve put out on their celebrated solo ventures. On “Whistle,” for example, Boylan slices and dices sampled whistling till it sounds like a backmasked birdcall, equal parts gentle and prickly, and DJs Phil, Spinn, and Manny collaborate to create a refined matrix of percussion on “No Love” that glimmers like its splendid synth melody. Curiosity draws me to the producers who’ve most recently become part of Teklife’s growing crew, since they’re mostly unfamiliar to me. Their presence proves that Teklife has learned to expand sustainably in the decades since Spinn and Rashad cofounded the crew as GhettoTeknitianz in 2004, and these newcomers add new links to the chain that will carry Teklife’s core values and evolving aesthetic into the future. A key example is Chicago beat maker DJ Jalen, who released a giddy EP in March called Footwork Trax Online Vol. 1. He supplies one of the highlights from On Life: Vol. 3: “Workin Me” bounces along on a raw, plasticine vocal loop and steam-engine percussion, both of which pay homage to footwork’s past and make a solid case that Jalen’s playfulness should help shape the genre’s future.
Teklife’s On Life: Vol. 3 is available through their website.