DJ Rashad was one of those rare artists who earned labels like “pioneer”, “revolutionary”, “master”, and “legend” before his death. As a 34 year old DJ in the prime of his career, he had already earned these titles. Rashad did not invent the Chicago footwork sound, just as Daft Punk did not invent the French house sound. Like Daft Punk, Rashad earned his legendary status by redefining his local tradition of dance music entirely, by breaking every rule, by developing emotional tension and resonance that elevated his music beyond bootyshaking, and by simply doing it better than anyone else ever had.
On his last full length album, 2013’s Double Cup (a title which will now always remind us of what killed him), DJ Rashad earned critical praise for once again raising the bar. Through connections he had made on international tours, Rashad wove elements of genres like jungle, acid house (originally a Chicago invention that has since been embraced in the UK), and drum n bass into his own Chicago framework of footwork, juke, and ghetto house, exposing his audience to new dimensions of dance music. In the process, he continued to develop a sound that was more accessible, introducing thousands of new fans to footwork, while somehow doing nothing to dilute the rich, decade-old tradition.
This is what DJ Rashad was still building at the time of his death. His death is tragic because he was young, yes, and because he was the greatest, sure. But it is even more tragic because Rashad was only getting started.
I had the opportunity to see Rashad perform live at Pitchfork Fest last summer, and it was one of the most euphoric, transcendent live music experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Rashad fundamentally changed me as a listener. He is principally responsible for a personal evolution in how I connect with music. I am struggling with his loss, and my heart goes out to all those close to him. RIP Rashad.[youtube http://youtu.be/5wwQc2pFass]
[youtube http://youtu.be/qPecFEVst_c] [youtube http://youtu.be/SO1ntFh5VuE]