BY VASSILY POMERANZ
For almost two decades, the dance and music style called footwork was mostly a local Chicago concern. But in 2011 it blew up worldwide thanks to viral videos of incendiary dance battles, in which Chicago kids move their legs incredibly fast to breakneck rhythms. Rashad Harden, or DJ Rashad, has been part of that scene since the 1990s, starting as a dancer and moving on to become one of the most stellar footwork music producers. His output is not merely functional, but also sonically fascinating, capable to stand on its own without any visuals and outside the dancefloor. DJ Rashad has performed at major trendsetting festivals such as Pitchfork, Decibel, and Unsound. His new album, Double Cup (2013), was released by Hyperdub, the label behind epoch-defining bass music records by Burial and Kode9 + The Spaceape.
His Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi, released in 2012 by Lit City Trax, is truly extreme music that consists only of a few elements, engineered for maximum physical impact. The main ingredients are the proverbial manic rhythms plus nasty sub-bass massage, high-pitched digital pulsations, and endlessly repetitive vocal bits. On Double Cup DJ Rashad has beefed up his productions with signifiers of less ferocious music genres such as acid house, funk, and R&B, to the effect that his tracks have started to sound more like songs and less like superhuman avant-garde workouts. Make no mistake, though—this album still sounds sparse and viscerally powerful, and it will still challenge you to dance every time you hear it. Lyric-wise, Double Cup is an ideal party album, with vocals that mostly refer to good times or anticipate pleasures of the flesh.
Just as his international career was gaining some serious traction, DJ Rashad suffered a car accident and was forced to cancel his European tour. But now he is back on track, performing all over the United States with Chance the Rapper and perpetual collaborator DJ Spinn (who is currently preparing his own album for Hyperdub). Catch them in San Francisco on December 18th at The Regency Ballroom.
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