On the 26th of April, DJ Rashad was found dead in his apartment on the West Side of Chicago from a blood clot. He was only 35 years old. His contribution to the Chicago house scene over the last decade has been great, comparable only to the impact of Frankie Knuckles in the 1980s.
Knuckles, who died in March, was known as the ‘Godfather of House’. Rashad was his successor, Godfather of the Juke House/Footwork scene, which spread from the small projects of the Windy City to clubs worldwide.‘Double Cup’, his critically acclaimed 2013 LP, was the culmination of years of work.
Check out Cherwell’s introduction to Juke House to find out more about the fascinating and challenging genre Rashad helped to define. Expect sparsely syncopated drums, eerily pitch-shifted vocal samples and crackling distortion. Rashad’s fingerprints are all over every juddering beat.
I Don’t Give a Fuck
The fractious energy of ‘I Don’t Give a Fuck’ is typical of Juke House. Each beat is overtaken by the next almost before it has registered on your eardrums. Yet it also has the frail beauty which set Rashad’s best production work apart from his more aggressively percussive contemporaries. The arrhythmic beeps sound like they are emitting from a haunted electrocardiogram machine.
Broken Heart (feat. DJ Spinn)
Footwork is a genre defined by collaboration, and Rashad was at the centre of a network of innovative house producers and DJs. His friends and fellow DJs have been expressing their shock all over the internet. Spinn’s tweet on the subject was perhaps the most fitting: “Detroit I need y’all to come out tonight!!! @djtayeteklife we can’t do nothing but go hard tonight for our brother @DJRASHAD #teklifeforever”. The scene, already reeling from the death of Knuckles, will remember Rashad not through mourning but through dancing to the music he loved.
In light of the DJ’s death, the sample lyrics (“I left three days ago/but no-one seems to know I’m gone- gone- gone”) reverberate through the track with a grimly percussive urgency. These vocals are remixed from a Gil Scott-Heron track, also excellent.
Let It Go
‘Let It Go’ is the most melodic Rashad gets, yet it still retains the bleakness of his most abrasive work. The drums clatter with unusual clarity as synthesised strings pulse below the surface. This release, from his 2013 Rollin EP, gives some indication of the direction Rashad might have travelled in had he survived the blood clot: the beat is tighter and lighter and shorn of the oppressiveness of his earlier production work.
‘Ghost’ represented Rashad’s oeuvre in Cherwell’s introduction to juke house. It boasts fragmentary bursts of piano amidst stuttering samples. At times, it achieves a fragile beauty, as the female voice seems to escape the endless recursions of the 808. By the end of the track, though, the piano and the glimmering female sample are survived by the juddering male voice endlessly repeating “Ghost. Ghost. Ghost.” It’s as if putting a name to the spectres that hover around the bassline make them cease to exist.