DJ Rashad’s Double Cup is Juke Music’s Revival

Rashad Harden is another unfortunate case that occurred so suddenly. On April 26, 2014, Chicago-based Juke musician and Footwork Disc Jockey died of a drug overdose at the prime age of 34. Such as the likes of many artists today, Rashad’s posthumous attention led to the immortalization of his figure.

DJ Rashad had been active in the Chicago Footwork scene, or “Ghetto House,” scene as he and his accolades allowed the Juke genre to resurge back into the interest of the listener.

Juke music is one of Chicago’s proud legacies left behind. Born in the early 1990s, Chicago Footwork music involved the use of 808 beat machines and drumming dance instrument pads to revolve around a selected sample, typically music that served as the conventional soundtrack of its time.

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Image from dj-rashad.bandcamp.com

Although the genre was still active in Chicago throughout its lifespan, the likes of DJ Rashad spread the genre throughout the states, allowing the sounds to be played in the major metropolitan nightclubs of New York, L.A, and Houston. Footwork is becoming a stronger force within the dance scene of today, implementing styles of smooth, urban swagger with flying foot-freedom.

Harden was instrumental in the genre’s survival in Chicago, as Double Cup was his demonstrative magnum opus. After his passing, major DJ’s and artists across the globe, including L.A.’s own Flying Lotus, broadened the album exposure, opening every ear to the signature sounds of Chicago’s raw nature.

Double Cup isn’t only a silhouette of Harden’s sound but the sound of Juke music in general. Harden stirred proud Afro-American music of today and yesterday, and swaddled the music with 808 drums, tapping basslines, and other essential dance fibers that made it plausible to groove to.

Chicago was beginning to like dance music again, and to reach the youth, Juke music had to involve the sounds of today with the styles of the 1990s.

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Image from dj-rashad.bandcamp.com

Double Cup exposes much of Harden’s power in the fourteen tracks that it is composed of. The overall feeling the tracks show a good amount of vigor and attitude while representing a dialogue that Chicago wants to reach to listeners around the world. Other spin-artists involved in this project include the likes of DJ Taso, DJ Spinn, and DJ Earl, just to name the major collaborators.

The first track is the beat entitled Feelin, featuring DJ Taso, and DJ Spinn. Harden’s method included his formidable buildups that lead to climactic dance calamities. Feelin builds up with one-two step piano chords, added by a sheath of extra bass layers and sputtering drums.

The essence of the beat occurs around 1:25, where the sounds of the build-up are warped and arranged in a menacing drill.  There is a good break around two minutes in, then it goes back to its methodical frenzy at 2:48.

A track that follows a similar path is Pass That Shit, also featuring DJ Spinn and DJ Taso. The track follows two sample dialogues that state, “Light it up, motherfucker,” and “Light that shit/Pass that shit.” These dialogues make the mean grooves sound as smooth as cream. The pads and chords support the gritty coolness of the beat, which slows down, increases speed,  and reverberates, all without losing its mean attitude.

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Image from stereogum.com

The track Only One, also featuring DJ Spinn and DJ Taso takes more of a nonchalant approach to Footwork. The reverbs and digitized dance rhythms are present but are lead by the chilly chords and an auto-tuned sample.

Double Cup, featuring only DJ Spinn this time, consummates both the punching elements of Pass That Shit and the sweet sounds of Only One into one arrangement. For around a minute and twelve seconds, Harden utilizes the MPCs power for what it could do. The snares, chords, and hi-hats just push and reverberate back and forth. This makes the song pulsate with such energy and strength.

The track later includes airy drums and a sample dialogue to add on top of the impending dance rhythms. Throughout the whole track, it manages to boom and quake throughout the varying twists and turns Harden experiments with.

While Double Cup focuses more on Harden’s MPC freestyling, the track Drank, Kush, Barz, which features DJ Spinn, is much more linear with its formula. The sample dialogue repeating the three title words is enveloped by the hard basslines and loud synths, all pushing and shoving through the shimmering drums pads.

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Image from dj-rashad.bandcamp.com

My personal favorite track is entitled Leavin, featuring a fellow producer by the name of Manny. The track is another fast-paced dance tune that involves cold synths and chopping up the sample dialogue and using it as an instrument as itself. While this is going on, Harden liberally adds drum pads over the essence of the tune, all without going out of synch or awkwardly stubbing onto a painful stone.

In recent years, Double Cup has been acknowledged as one of the highest rated Juke albums of all time. Its sound resonates with the yolk of urban madness, but at the same time, celebrates the feeling of physical freedom. Every bodily contortion along the bounce of rhythm is an expression of freedom in itself.

Dance music is about forgetting societal customs and rigid movement. It focuses on the spirit that is lead by the attempt to break away from the limits of the body.  Footwork is Dance music’s expression of freedom for the underrepresented.

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Image from chicagotribune.com

DJ Rashad, or Rashad Harden, did a service to Chicago and the rest of the world to introduce his style of Footwork to many passionate listeners and dancers. Although his presence is no longer with us, his spirit resides in the works of DJ Earl, DJ Spinn, and DJ Taso. As these two producers continue to carry the torch, Harden’s music will always resonate with those who respect the genre.

Double Cup is a prime representation of a movement powerful enough to reverberate and shake the whole world. For that, Harden deserves a legacy that only a city like Chicago could offer.

 

 

 

 

 

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