Denver's DJCHAP Joins Forces With the Influential Teklife Crew

DJCHAP is off to a good start. So far, he's earned the respect of one of his biggest musical influences, grown an online following from around the world, and just dropped an EP of fresh footwork tunes that has earned praise from influencers like XLR8R and Potholes in My Blog, among others. But he remains relatively unknown in his hometown. "I feel like my reach globally is much greater than it is in Denver," he says. Sometimes it's easier to get thousands of Soundcloud followers than steady local bookings.

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CHAP's style is marked by frenetic rhythms and pulse quickening sample triggering. On his new EP, Amaneci, the essences of footwork, jungle, R&B and house intermingle in moody spasms of raw, claustrophobia-inducing dance. Released on TAR Records, Amaneci follows the label's usual format -- three tracks curated by label founder and Brainfeeder-affiliate PBDY, who selected from CHAP's surprisingly deep catalog of unreleased tunes. "He made art from my art," says CHAP of the process.

The EP showcases his depth and diversity. The first track, "SS," opens with haunting bell chimes and wisps of Amen break, evoking the sounds of classic Jungle Sky records. It's a stylistic reference Castellanos appreciates. While footwork remains relatively new, the values and aesthetics are of a finer vintage. "It reminds me of old jungle -- the way they'd use samples and a lot of bass and poly-rhythms," he says. "It's like an old sound trying to come back and people need to get accustomed to it again, especially the tempos."

Despite it being a newer style, CHAP is wary that its recent rise in popularity could spell disaster for the sub-genre's continued development. "Some people don't know how to approach it except to copy a template... Maybe it'll last, but sometimes a genre -- without any knowledge of it -- it gets saturated with people that don't know what they're doing, they're just trying to jump on something."

CHAP (born Christian Castellanos), started making music in 2008; it was hip hop beats before experimentation took him farther afield, drawn by the sounds of West Coast maestros like Flying Lotus and Samiyam. Then came the influences of UK garage, ghettotech and juke, which lead him to Chicago footwork icons, DJs Rashad and Spinn.

"Their music just changed my life. I was hooked on it," he says. That feeling multiplied the excitement he felt playing an opening set for Rashad at Rhinoceropolis last year -- a crossing of paths that would lead to CHAP's affiliation with the influential Teklife crew. Despite the thrill of being asked to join the ranks of his musical idol, it was an offer he was nervous to accept initially.

"[Rashad] asked me about Teklife," he explains. "I told him I wanted to do my own thing for a little bit. I didn't want to give the feeling that I was trying to be with Teklife just because Teklife is Teklife." CHAP, however, would eventually say yes. And now he works tirelessly on music, preparing for bigger stages and larger opportunities on the horizon.

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Patrick Rodgers