Friday Fives: R.I.P. DJ Rashad

As you are no doubt aware by now, last Saturday saw the tragic and untimely passing of Rashad Harden-better known to most as DJ Rashad. Found dead at his home in Chicago, as the result of a blood clot that started in the leg, Rashad is survived by his 9 year old son, Chad, father Anthony and mother Gloria. Today we pay tribute to a man who’s musical legacy has a profound effect on countless fellow artists and listeners alike and will continue to do so for years to come.

Taking Footwork from its humble beginnings as a niche dance craze on the impovrished South and West sides of Chicago, Rashad eventually sperheaded the genre’s rise to recognition amongst the global electronic music community. Starting out as a dancer, Rashad’s first foray into DJ’ing took place around the age of 12-when he would play events for his sixth grade school mates. Meeting long running partner in crime DJ Spinn in ’96, the pair soon became involved in the thriving Ghetto House scene in their local area. Debuting on wax with ‘Child Abuse’ on the seminal Dance Mania in ’98, Rashad would go on to blaze a trail for the frenetic and revolutionary sounds of Footwork, thanks to his productions for American labels and institutions such as Planet Mu and Hyperdub. His fifth and final album-and arguably his most fully realised work of them all, ‘Double Cup’, was released last year on the latter label-and was commended for its bold appropriation of the Footwork template across a range of styles and genres.

By all accounts a kind hearted, funny and generous man, the outpouring of grief from Rashad’s friends and associates is testament to the impact he made on every one he came into contact with. From a musical perspective, his legacy will be one of a fearlessly innovative discography that opened up a musical dialogue between Chicago footwork and countless other genres that continues to this day. Whilst of course this feature is usually a list of five things, here in the office we’ve gone with ten Rashad tracks after finding it impossible to whittle it down.

R.I.P. Rashad Hanif Harden 1979-2014

DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn – ‘Broken Hearted’ (Hyperdub) 

Appearing on Rashad’s ‘Rollin’EP in March of last year, this is a personal favourite from a release which marked a watershed moment for the producer. The percussion still pummels with genuine force as was his trademark, but the tune as a whole indicative of the greater degree of sheen applied by the producer in his latter works. Now producing for a global audience, Rashad and Spinn afforded equal prominence to the melodies and vocals to create a track that tugs at the heartstrings whilst remaining eminently danceable. Expert manipulators of soul vocals, the way the pair utilise the samples from Stevie Wonder’s slice of poignant late 80’s melodrama, ‘You Will Know’, is nothing short of incredible.

DJ Rashad – ‘I Don’t Give A Fuck’ (Hyperdub)

Lifting Tupac Shakur’s dialogue from the 1992 crime drama ‘Juice’, this one fizzles with a menace befitting of its vocal sample. With bass rumbling in the distance like a heard of angry, approaching elephants underpinning the whole thing, Rashad riffs out a synth pattern that has a distinct air of ‘dial-up modem’ to it.  Visceral and rugged, this is one’s capable of inducing a riot-with the excellent Ashes57 directed video perfectly summing up our feelings.

DJ Rashad – ‘Somethin ‘Bout The Things You Do’ (featuring Gant-Man) (Southern Belle Recordings)

This one comes from Rashad’s latest release on Southern Belle Recordings, which happened to be released a few days after his passing. On this one he flips Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel For You’ (featuring Melle Mel rapping and Stevie Wonder on the harmonica) which on paper really shouldn’t work, but very much does. Rashad had the ability to sample pretty much anything and make it bang.

Addison Groove – ‘Footcrab’ (DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn Remix) (unreleased)

The simplicity of this remix ­is incredibly effective. With references to Footwork already prevalent throughout the original, the further emphasis on groove and meticulously chopped vocal snippets exemplify the aesthetic of Footwork superbly. Whilst Addison Groove shifted the context from Chicago to the UK, Rashad & Spinn cleverly recontextualised the original parts to facilitate their signature sound. This is one of the standout tracks that firmly established the connectivity and crossover between Juke and British dance-music.

DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn – ‘Girl Bust Down’ (Juke Trax)

Released in 2004 on the Juke Trax label, ‘Girl Bust Down’ displays the early promise and originality of Footwork. The variety of programmed 808 drum patterns establishes a staunch foundation for erratic and varied MPC style vocal chops. The pulsating and evolving bass-line propels the track and complements the polyrhythmic percussion. The seemingly intentional slapdash mixdown carried over as an aural identity of Juke. An attractive aspect of the art form as the visceral overrides the mechanical. The raw, intuitive and creative programming ideas that take priority over technical proficiency remain apparent throughout contemporary Footwork pieces.

DJ Rashad -‘Who Da Coldest’ (Planet Mu)

Taken from the 2010 ‘Itz Not Rite’ EP on Planet Mu. The significance of this release can’t be mentioned enough as it hallmarks the year that Rashad’s sound went international. A super enthusiastic Mike Paradinas had deep belief in the Juke sound, he convinced Rashad to take his music outside of Chicago and together they delivered it to the UK with this seminal release. This track differs from most of his productions with a strong modular sound, an uncommon trait in modern Footwork. Gnarly stuff.

DJ Rashad – ‘Pass That Shit’ (featuring Spinn & Taso) (Hyperdub)

For me, this is Footwork at it’s finest. Initially your feathers are ruffled by a rough, cantering drum intro but that soon folds into a heavenly combination of syrupy raps, 808 bass, pulsating keys and schizoid drums. ‘Double Cup’ as a body of work was is a significant benchmark in the evolution of Footwork and it’s a tragedy that everyone won’t get to see where DJ Rashad was going to take things over the next few years.

DJ Rashad- ‘American Boy’ (Juke Mix) (Juke Trax Online)

This take on Estelle’s monster hit from the same year sums up Rashad’s persona fairly accurately. This man was all about having a good time and anyone will agree that this is reflected in his music. This simple rework taken from 2008’s ‘You Know What It Is’ on Juke Trax Online flows with the same vitality as some of the best Liquid DnB. (Hell I know if I heard this dropped in a set I would be the first man out dancing…)

DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn – ‘Space Juke’ (Ghettophiles)

Paper thin snares and budget bass busily hum beneath a mesmeric lead line that has the air of a pitched up version of video game keys that have the air of Jo’s Jungle classic ‘R-Type’. A turning point in Footwork’s evolution, this saw the same relatively sparse production values retained whilst the conceptual horizons of the genre were simultaneously being expanded like never before.

DJ Rashad – ‘I’m Gone’ (Ghettophiles)

Whilst the preceding nine selections were included in no particular order, it seems appropriate to conclude with this Gil Scott-Heron rework. Its nigh on impossible not to feel a pang of sadness listening to the vocals from Heron’s famously sombre ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ cut up over a vintage Rashad rhythm section. A genuine tragedy.

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