Deceased DJ Rashad’s legacy continued in joyful juking music

Jake Aquino, staff writer

Chicago juke and footwork pioneer DJ Rashad passed away on April 27. He was found dead in his home in the neighborhood of Pilsen, and the cause of death is still unknown. He was 34 years old.

Rashad came up with the rise of Chicago-born Ghetto House music in the early ‘90s. This was instrumental in its evolution from a style only known in Chicago’s South and West neighborhoods to becoming a world famous genre. With the development of the style of dance called “juking,” which employs fast footwork techniques, Ghetto House gradually developed into the footwork genre it is today, and DJ Rashad was at the forefront of the movement.

After Rashad signed to Hyperdub, a London-based record label known for promoting the best new electronic artists, the popularity of juke music was boosted. The label helped him to release several singles and also his critically acclaimed and final album, Double Cup (released 2013), which Pitchfork Critic Larry Fitzmaurice described as “a defining statement 20-plus-years in the making, a brilliant document that puts him in the position any veteran would kill to occupy.”

Additionally, the collections of various juke music he released through different labels, featuring his and other footwork artists’ music, helped carve out a unique niche for the genre.

Ghetto House, Juke, Footwork music, whatever you’d like to label it, is a genre defined by its skittering drums and abstract melodies. Though it is considered a genre less accessible than most due to its repetitiveness, on Double Cup DJ Rashad managed to create a unique combination of melody and rhythm that was more aesthetically appealing than its peers, without straying from the origins of the genre.

His live shows were also extremely solid; I saw him twice, once at Pitchfork Music Festival 2013, and the other at Chance The Rapper’s show, where he closed with an incredible DJ set. In his live sets, he enlists footwork experts to dance alongside his captivating live music, showing the full culture of the genre.

Two days prior to his passing, DJ Rashad had scheduled for a new EP to be released on vinyl on April 28, 2014. Featuring his frequent partner, DJ Spinn, on two tracks, Rashad shows off more material of the sound that he has perfected. On the first side of the EP, titled “We On 1,” his sound is not as melodic as his previous album, returning to the hard, repetitive bass lines that he has grown accustomed to. On the other side, the second half of the short, four song EP, Rashad adds in his dreamy melodies, coming back to full form for an impressive ending.

He is most impressive on the third track, “Do It Again,” where he takes the song genre hopping, moving from sample to sample flawlessly. Utilizing a sample of an unknown songstress, a Mac Miller sample and a Juicy J sample, the track shows off the thought and delicate craft Rashad put into each song. It is Rashad at his most triumphant, showing off his seamless blending of sounds and intricate skill for all to behold.

Rashad made music that brightened the lives of those within Chicago who knew nothing but violence. Footwork is the antithesis of the drill music coming out of Chicago right now. Where drill music delves into gang-banging and gun violence, footwork’s sound is eternally uplifting and perfect for dancing, synonymous with good times. It is the sound of being young and alive, and it is this legacy that will help DJ Rashad live on.