A year after his passing, it’s still extremely difficult to grapple DJ Rashad’s sudden death, but it has become increasingly important to celebrate his life, legacy and importance to footwork and contemporary music at large. It’s neither our place or within our skill set to eulogize Rashad, but with anniversary of his passing taking place this past Sunday (April 26) and our monthly slot on KCHUNG going down the next day, there wasn’t a better time to lay down some of our favorite tracks from the legend. Double Cup features heavily of course, but so does Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome To The Chi, DJ Spinn’s Teklife Vol. 2: What You Need and the dozens of other collaborative projects he helped out with and/or co-produced. DJ Earl, DJ Manny, DJ Phil, Taso and more pop up here and there and Rashad’s influence, both in terms of the raw musical inspiration he imbued and his own oversized personality, is palpable among Teklife’s younger generation. Hyperdub’s Rashad-inspired Next Life compilation is still available here and there are still so many artists from Chicago putting on for footwork and furthering the legend of Rashad Harden.
This Saturday, Atlanta’s Helix and Chicago’s DJ Manny will take over Chinatown’s Shambhala Lounge this Saturday (1/10/15)! RUN, Juke Bounce Work and dirtRAID are pitching in to throw the event and will be accompanied by residents from Phuture Perfect and States of Being. The meeting of Night Slugs and Teklife has come together before in London and New York and it’s a pleasure to bring it to Los Angeles. Come Saturday, Helix’s raw analogue workouts should pair perfectly will Manny’s percussive 160 blasts, cold-as-hell footwork, Atlanta rap and the finest in Dance Mania, Trax and Strictly Rhythm 12”. The dirtRAID folks have blessed us with a pair of tickets for Saturday’s happenings and all you have to do is enter your favorite Dance Mania 12”. Whether you prefer early 90s Robert Armani streakers or Rashad’s Double Cup, we hope to see you out on the dance floor this Saturday.
As a recent inductee into the vaunted Teklife crew, Brooklyn-resident Alexander Shaw aka LiL JaBBA has been receiving quite a bit of shine in recent months, shine that was solidified with the brilliant Scales EP on Tom Lea’s Local Action imprint. As both a producer and visual artist, Shaw maintains an impeccable ear for texture, working highly emotive concepts into his often hyper-speed dance concoctions. Self-described as an “iced over cave Riddim”, JaBBA’s latest effort goes by the name of “Skate” and is a molasses slow slumper that retains the indignantly pretty sound he has become known for. At some point in the coming months, Shaw will release an EP on the True Panther imprint, an EP that will hopefully see the Australian born producer exploring more icy terrains.
The collaborative spirit is strong in Chicago these days (as witnessed at this Boiler Room x Pitchfork Fest affair) and some of the young guns in the Teklife crew, including the unstoppable DJ Earl, recently got together to put together the serrated blade that is “Niterave”. Earl, Heavee, Taye & Sirr Tmo bring fucked up synths (I don’t use that lightly) and the huge, rapid-fire toms that have come to define the footwork sound on one of the more aggressive, unremitting 160 tunes I’ve heard in some time. Mid-range synths are much maligned in this post-post world of ours, but “Niterave” proves that when utilized correctly, they can add to the breadth of a genre.
In 2013, it finally looks like Chicago’s footwork pioneers are being given their due. Of course, footwork has been established as a global phenomenon for three or four years now, but the focus has always been on appropriation/mis-appropriation or on a handful of artists who have managed to transcend the scene’s insular facade. Teklife and its accompanying label/party Lit City Trax are seemingly on the tip everyone’s tongue these days and the crew is one of the hottest commodities in contemporary dance music. DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and more recently and much belatedly, RP Boo often receive the majority of praise, but young DJ Earl is getting his much deserved due as well. With the exception of Spinn, there isn’t anyone who manages to weave perplexingly dreamy melodies into footwork’s dissonant rubric as well as Earl. On “SomeBodyySayYeahhh”, Earl works a noodling 8 bit melody into a jungle of muted toms, hi hats and snares, giving the song a certain ear worm quality without surrendering any of the confounding sonic effects that pervade so much of the Teklife catalogue. It’s Teklife or no life after all.
Earlier today, I was listening to the new Migos tape (again) and it struck me that I enjoy it for almost the exact same reason that I enjoy the footwork coming out of the Teklife camp as of late. They both rely on vocal cadence and timbre, intense repetition, expertly crafted beat work and forceful emotion (the unrestrained anger on “I Don’t Like”, the triumphant nature of “Versace”). In a way, Migos, Chief Keef and Rick Ross have more in common with RP Boo, DJ Rashad and DJ Earl than they with Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt and Chance The Rapper (although the latter does perform some truly amazing vocal tricks). Take DJ Earl’s update on DJ Roc’s “Ain’t No Coming Down” for example. Earl takes a few simple, seemingly innocuous Juicy J lines and lays them over a ruthlessly syncopated beat that makes Jordan Houston’s original seem pallid in comparison. In its stripped down simplicity, “Ain’t No Coming Down” is far more affecting than the original.