There are far too many DJs in this world, but DJ Rashad’s Double Cup is worth sharing, doubly much. The Chicago-based producer has just released his second album on London’s Hyperdub, the dubstep label responsible for artists Burial, Kode9, and The Bug. In the niche music genre world, Rashad is known as the ambassador for the footwork genre.
Footwork is essentially a subculture that underwent a symbiotic evolution with a style of fast-paced dance in Chicago. It builds on a previously existing genre known as juke or ghetto house, and is marked by fast rhythms (150-160 bpm), Roland 808-synthesized drums and claps, and nonstop repetitions of explicit vocal samples. To fully understand that last point, listen to DJ Rock’s “Fuck Dat,” which repeats its title 100 times in 2 minutes and 14 seconds.
At first listen, the entirety of footwork sounds like indiscriminately chopped-up vocal samples atop speedy percussion and hip hop samples. After a few spins, its originality begins to emanate.
DJ Rashad’s trademark production revolves around the Teklife crew–a growing circle of collaborating producers, including DJ Spin, Taso, and Reggie, all of whom, like Rashad, are veterans to the footwork sound.
However, after years of pursuing a purist’s footwork aesthetic, DJ Rashad and the Teklife crew now present something entirely new and emergent. DJ Rashad’s latest album, Double Cup, is definitely his best work to date, melding the classic sound of footwork with smoother and more deliberate production technique.
On some songs, Rashad replaces Footwork’s vulgar, sometimes-misogynistic samplings with more tasteful clips. In an interview with FACT magazine this year, Rashad called his new approach “a lady pleaser.” That said, you’ll still find some unrefined nods to classic footwork anthems on songs like “Drank, Kush, Barz,” which boasts “we got drank/we got kush/we got bars in this bitch.”
Overall, Double Cup is like a fancy new take on your favorite mixed drink. It sees footwork’s integral fast-paced percussion and raises it one with mesmerizing vocal samples.
The album’s opener is the perfect example of a calculated new take on something old: “Feelin’ ft. Spin and Taso” is literally a remake of the opener off his previous album, Teklife, Volume 1: Welcome to the Chi. A powerful bass line, with seamlessly interwoven hip hop-style horns and snares eases the listener in. By the 45 second mark, Rashad introduces the sample (a soulful woman crying, “Feel, feel, feel, feeling.”) Within the next measure, Rashad and Spinn inject a simple pitch modulation on the first chopping of the sample; this is a common production trick in their trade. By this point you’re hooked and dancing, but to top it off he syncopates the high hats and claps.
While the drink comparison is trite, Rashad’s style of composition is exactly that of an experienced bartender. The bartender uses the same ingredients as the brothers on frat row, yet his drink is smooth and well-balanced; whereas the bros’ concoction more closely resembles a blackout smoothie.
On Double Cup, Rashad is using the same (in many cases, overused) production tricks as any current disc jockey: hi-hats, drum machines, bass breaks and drops, phasing synthesizers, and R&B vocal samples galore. What makes DJ Rashad unique is how he dynamically splices, chops and combines his compositions to create something both powerful and new.
Two noteworthy tracks on the album are produced entirely by DJ Rashad: “Reggie” and “I Don’t Give a Fuck,” the latter of which basically redefines what any layman recognizes as a “drop” in electronic music. On the track, snares elevate to deliver the spitting declaration “I don’t give a fuck.” Then, the beat anti-climatically dissolves into a blur of high frequency noise and submerged sound textures. Here, Rashad traps you in a sudden vacuum, sucking out all the pressure from the bass. If anything, he’s accomplished the anti-drop.
With experiments like this, Rashad shatters the traditional confines of footwork and electronic music. To both the longstanding footwork fan and the new initiate, Double Cup is smooth, soulful, and charmingly mismatched. DJ Rashad is currently gathering attention on fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper‘s Social Experiment tour. The two visit San Fransisco’s Regency Ballroom on December 18th.