Let's be clear: footwork, or footwurk, or footwerk is not blowing up. Not like dubstep or electroclash or hyphy blew up. Footwork is really more of a lit fuse at this point, and one of those painfully slow, Wile E. Coyote-style fuses at that. Roughly, footwork pits sharp, repetitive samples of soul, hip-hop, and reggae against limping, junkyard-dog 808s. It is music composed, at least theoretically, to encourage a specific kind of dancing, but the strangeness of the tracks suggests the producers have ulterior motives. (The dancing looks a bit like breakdancing, but using your arms is discouraged.) Bangs & Works, Vol. 1 is the first widely available compilation of footwork music, released by London-based Planet Mu, whose founder, Mike Paradinas, is relentless in his quest for new sounds.
There is little question why footwork evolved in Chicago: House music birthed the raunchier, uptempo ghetto house (or "juke"), which in turn led to the stripped-for-parts footwork sound. Like ghetto house, tracks usually settle in around 160 bpm; at 140 you've found yourself a ballad. There are hip-hop roots too: the sound's genesis is rooted in RP Boo's "Baby Come On", a track that prominently features an Ol' Dirty Bastard sample (sadly not included here). Other tracks owe a debt to hip-hop's vulgar confidence. Kanye West is said to have been influenced by the scene's early progenitors.