DJ Rashad was destined to live forever. His music is the kind that seems infinite -- free of social and political woes, of economic hardship, and of consumerist image-making. A member of the hardworking Teklife crew, Rashad's pioneering footwork tracks zipped by at 160bpm with frenetic, transcendent energy. A prolific producer and DJ, Rashad oversaw the rise of Teklife to the international stage. Since his sudden death, very little of Rashad's work has surfaced, aside from an EP of unreleased tracks on Hyperdub, 2015's 6613. Perhaps they were letting us all pause for breath. Teklife have now announced , a 14-track double LP of collaborations between Rashad and DJ Spinn, DJ Earl, DJ PayPal, and more. The result of what was no doubt some emotional, painstaking curation, this dedication looks to be nothing less than definitive. Pre-orders are up for an April 8th release date. This will also be Teklife's first physical release, and they've provided us with a bonus Rashad collaboration with Machinedrum, which you can stream below.
It's not quite edu-tainment but there's probably a lot to be learned from DJ Clent's new mix History of Footwork Music Vol. 1. DJ Clent, one of Chicago's pioneering footwork DJs, has compiled the mix from the live, vinyl-spun sets of footwork icons including, RP Boo, Traxman, the late DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, as well as a many of his own tracks. Featuring nearly sixty tracks in a little over an hour, this mix covers a lot of ground and is an invaluable historical document for the genre-- we can only hope more volumes in this series are forthcoming. (via Do Androids Dance)
Three-and-a-half weeks later, we're still reeling from the death of DJ Rashad. Enough time has passed for the music community to begin reflecting on his humanity and musical legacy, and we invited some folks both close to and far away from Rashad to share some thoughts and memories.
Excerpted from a phone interview:
Rashad was like one of the craziest MFs you’d ever want to meet. Dude would touch a beat machine and just make something out of crap, just make it. I couldn’t do it, but we was always just rooting on each other. I would make tracks and be like, “Whatcha got, whatcha got?” And he’d be like, “Have I got something for you!” He'd play me something and I'd be like, “Ahhh, I gotta go back to the boards, make five more." Basically we was just competing with each other, but on the kindness of brotherly love. We played together. We played a lot of footwork battles. You’d know we was in the building. Rashad would play two, I’d play two, he’d play two, I’d play two, Spinn would would jump in and he’d play two, RP would jump in and he’d play two, Clent’s there and he’d come in and he’d play two. Just having fun-- me and Rashad going back to back, back to back, killing it.
I’ve been knowing him since 1997-- since he was a kid. I already knew Clent, I already knew Gant-Man. I had met Spinn through DJ Fast in the beginning of ‘97. [Rashad] was like “I’ve got the ‘Get Up Joe’ record, with you and Eric Martin.” I’d be like, “Yeah, you like that record? “Man I love that shit!” From then we just-- oh man-- became the best of friends. At a point we stopped seeing each other, because they’re all the way on the South Side, the South 'burbs, and I’m all the way on the West Side. Every now and then at parties or something, every now and then from ‘99-- we were just bumping heads-- until 2004, when I ran into him. Spinn and Rashad were dropping off a CD called Land of Smackdown Vol. 2, and I was showing them the record shops on the West Side that they forgot. When they started doing their own thing, they was with Beat Down Music with DJ Clent. They decided to leave and start their own network, which was Ghettoteknitianz. This was 2004.
As the years went on, we just became the best of friends. We jammed all over again. Rashad was always a hardworking dude. He might seem wild and all that, but this dude actually carried a job. He worked it! He used to work on a boat in Hawaii, on a cruise boat, getting money. But he left [the footwork scene at the time], so it was just me and Spinn and Clent and RP. He would come back. “I’m ready to get back down here, maybe get another job doing administrative things.” You a beast, working. My dumb ass can’t even get a job. But he was making heat! He started to deal with Godfather. He and Spinn started dealing with him, and he told me to get involved and I was all, “Nah, I don’t really want to…” It’s kinda crazy, because when other crews was doing stuff, we was just changing up our style. Styles was just changing, changing, changing, changing, changing. Just traveling together. When you travel together, you bond even closer. So it’s like we could be out in London somewhere, we could go to the store, go get some food, we gotta eat. We just sit and just talk about the future: the future and the plans for Teklife, or Geto DJs, or what I’m doing with Tek DJs, what we’re trying to do to further it.
Summing that up: I was very sad. I felt like a part of me had died. I had just talked to him bro, just talked to him [when the news of Rashad's death came]. Me and Bobby Skills were at the the studio together, and I had a whole bunch of new tracks and played [Rashad] some over Skype, and he was like, “Oh my god man, send that to me!” So I sent that to him along with Bobby’s, because he did a track called “'Bout That Life.” I was in New York when I got the call, and it was chaos at that moment. Something that was really surreal-- a lot of people couldn’t deal with it, a lot of people couldn’t accept it. But I look at it as a sign from God saying, “Yeah, I can give it, but I can also take it away.” God doesn’t make any mistakes. It was for a reason. The impact that he made is so big. That will never die.
Our job is to keep it going, keep it cracking, because if the situation happened-- knock on wood-- with me or RP or Spinn or Clent, he would do the same thing for us. The same thing. We got a job to do. All I’ve got to say is thank God for Rashad, thank God for him making this ultimate music, sharing ideas. No mess with everybody-- don’t want everybody to go to sleep because we gonna fresh paint you to death. That’s kiddie stuff. We go hard having fun, doing music. Thank God for Rashad. We always gonna pump his music, ain’t nothing going away. That’s just gonna make me go even harder, make everyone else go ever harder. Rashad man, his heart was so big, dude. I can smile with that bro. I’m not sad, not at all. The only thing we have is memories; we can’t live forever. And like Rashad would say, “Don’t just sit around-- stop bullshittin’, man. Let’s track out. Let’s go. We got some weed. We got some blunts. C’mon, let’s do this.”
Signalling a trend which will surely continue for at least the remainder of 2014, Sleigh Bells has shared a remix made in part by the late DJ Rashad. It seems inevitable that Rashad's unheard work will continue to surface post-humously, and that is a great thing. The shock of Rashad's death has yet to subside, but the music is still as tight.
The Guardian reports that DJ Rashad did not die of a drug overdose, as was previously speculated. The coroner's report identifies a blood clot in his leg as the cause of his passing. Rashad complained of an ache in his leg but, "because of his young age, no one considered the possibility it might be life-threatening." The drug paraphanalia found near his body was all marijuana related. This report has yet to be confirmed.
RIP DJ Rashad. We'll love you always.
The best part about the career of Rashad Hanif Harden, known forever as DJ Rashad, was watching him become as great as we all expected, and then jump yards beyond that. It's rare that a truly game-changing talent gets recognition as he is active. We at AdHoc have been loving DJ Rashad since literally day one, and the news of Rashad's passing on April 26 was devastating. Our reactions were both mental and physical, with a sick confusion prompting disorganized emotions. Easy to take for granted, great electronic music comes along often enough. But innovators are scarce. Fewer exit before their peak is even reached.
For now, let's focus on the good times.
DJ Rashad, who passed on to the other next plane this past weekend, was immensely prolific throughout his career, beginning with his first single in 1998 (the mislabeled DJ Thadz joint "Child Abuse") before breaking ground with "Iz Not Rite" and going global with a spellbinding, archive panic-inducing body of work. The long, continously upward trajectory of Rashad's career-- much of which can be read in Ad Hoc's obit here, in addition to spotting shout-outs on tunes like 2011's "We Run It"-- is almost as fascinating as the music itself, not to mention the personalities who shaped it. Rashad-- along with his lifelong DJ and production partner DJ Spinn-- was, as multiple sources have pointed out, a man of few words, opting instead to let his tracks and live sets do most of the talking. The following interview, conducted in September of 2013 for an Ad Hoc oral history of footwork that has yet to see the light of day, is being presented in tribute to the person behind the tunes. The interview's original aim was to get deep into footwork's beginnings as a genre. Conversation is a funny thing, though: Rashad was a person who seemed to live very much in the moment, and at the time, the tunesmith was just on the cusp of his musical prime. The past wasn't on his mind so much as the moves he was making in the present and the future, and with the release of his seminal work for Hyperdub, the 14-track party monster Double Cup, he made good on them. Even better, this was all being made clear on a moldy couch and a wonky Skype connection in Brooklyn's now fable-riddled and defunct 285 Kent.
The setting was perfect: among the many dope shows the venue hosted over the years, Rashad's headlining sets as part of the Lit City Trax parties came to define the space for countless heads, and the most exhilarating aspect of them was watching Rashad and Spinn continue to improve, push their limits, then push them further. By last September, Double Cup was still a month and a half off. Originally, only Rashad was slated to be interviewed, but to my surprise (and also lack thereof), he was joined by Spinn, speaking from an apartment in London, shortly after their last gig for the month. The two were thick as thieves, and they both laughed continuously throughout the conversation, which was peppered with morsels of insight into their coming up and their production process. It catches them right at the peak of their powers, and is one of the best memories (of many) I have of Rashad.
Ad Hoc: Are you all in the UK right now or are you in the Chi?
Rashad: Yeah, we’re in London right now. Wrapping up a tour. We’ve on tour for a month and a half. We're coming back for November 6th or some shit, [doing] an album release party for Machinedrum's Vapor City. [That album]’s dope, man. I love it.
Ad Hoc: How’s the UK responding to footwork?
Rashad: Oh, man, it’s been a massive response. It's getting really huge out here [in London]. They love it.
Ad Hoc: What’s the difference between the hometown vibe and the UK?
Rashad: Well, as far as the home, everybody knows what it is, versus here, it’s more new, so it’s kind of more exciting to people. Versus at the crib, you know, it’s the same love but it’s not as new or as fresh as it is out here.
Ad Hoc: Growing up, what did you guys listen to, and how did you get into making music?
Spinn: We first linked at [Thornwood High School], but it all started from dance.
Rashad: Dance music, probably. First thing I listened was probably rap, house, a little bit of everything. Rap, funk, and money. [laughs]. All the ladies.
Spinn: First MTV video shit.
Rashad: The shit now, though... been onto house, techno, ghetto house.
Word came on Saturday that DJ Rashad, the master of Chicago's footwork movement and one of our favorite artists, has passed. He leaves behind an audacious body of work, which boasts the full-lengths Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome To The Chi and Double Cup. An autopsy was conducted yesterday, and the cause of death has yet to be confirmed. Drugs and paraphernalia were found near the body. As told by a statement from his publicist, DJ Rashad was born Rashad Hanif Harden on October 9, 1979 in Hammond, IN. His family would soon move to Calumet City, an Illinois suburb near the south side of Chicago. Proximity to the city would allow him to get involved with the city's dance music scenes, in which he initially participated as a dancer starting in the seventh grade. He had been DJing for even longer, though, taking to the decks publicly at school dances in the sixth grade. Rashad was initially involved in Chicago's ghetto house scene, a branch of the city's indigenous house music which sets jubilant samples and sometimes-obscene vocal flips to beats at a breakneck BPM. Alongside DJ Clent's Beatdown House, Ghettoteknitianz, and his own Teklife crew, Rashad was key in ghetto house's shift to juke and footwork, the genres in which he would prove preeminent. Rashad's vision of music was an inclusive one, as marked by his plentiful collaborations with local peers across his recorded work as well as his gracious invitation to listeners and strangers across the world to revel in the universe crafted by his ecstatic, genius music. Rashad's most notable collaborator was DJ Spinn, with whom he toured his singular sound around the world. Ad Hoc could not be more grateful that we were privy to his talent as a musician and warmth as a human across the shows that we booked him for at 285 Kent. Rashad leaves behind a nine-year-old son, Chad, and parents Gloria and Anthony Harden. The world lost much on Saturday.
Well well well, the Teklife boys have another round of tasty treats. The footwork dream team of DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and Taso has remixed a cut off Dam-Funk's and Snoop Dogg's collaborative LP, 7 Days of Funk. This comes within a week of Taso dropping recent AdHoc favorite "Droga de Diseño" and around the same time as DJ Rashad just rolling out of bed and yawning out a killer EP. The remix of "Do My Thang" sprinkles crusty drum samples and synth straight out of Herbie Hancock's Sunshine over the unrecognizably mutilated, underwhelming original. Listening to the Teklife remix of this song feels like routing a power drill through your ear canal to burst open the full cache of seratonin.
Woah Hyperdub is ten years old. That means that the Five Years of Hyperdub comp came out five years ago, which means it took only half a decade for electronic music to start mattering to a significantly larger amount of people. To celebrate a decade of rump rumbling, Fact reports that Hyperdub is putting out Hyperdub 10.1, which will feature a best-of disc as well as new jams by DJ Rashad, Kyle Hall, label head Kode9, and OG dubstepper Mala. Heck. Maybe we'll even see some Laural Halo or Burial on there. Just spit balling, Hyperdub. Do you.