On April 26th, 2014, music lost a legend. The 34-year-old footwork pioneer DJ Rashad passed away in his Chicago home, and with his death, the music world was shaken. Rashad Harden’s influence on footwork was unparalleled – beginning as a dancer in Chicago clubs, Rashad was influenced by house and juke sounds that shaped Chicago’s music scene, as well as jungle beats and 70s soul tracks. This amalgamation of genres helped DJ Rashad to create a sound that would leave an unparalleled legacy for future generations of producers and musicians. With his TEKLIFE collective, Rashad began releasing music in 2004 (such as the single “Girl Bust Down”), finally seeing major recognition in 2010 with the release of Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works Vol. 1, a footwork compliation that introduced Rashad’s musical genius to a wider audience. His final album, Double Cup, was released on Hyperdub in late 2013, and received widespread critical acclaim. His melodic take on footwork’s jittery rhythms made his sound incomparable to any artist, and he was a true pioneer for the footwork genre.
DJ Rashad died as a result of complications arising from a blood clot in his leg. Initial reports repeated Chicago police’s suspicion that a drug overdose caused Rashad’s death. However, his cousin has informed Hyperdub that the coroner has determined that it was blood clot that started in his leg that led to the premature death.
Artists across the country were devastated by DJ Rashad’s passing, with everyone from 2 Chainz to A-Trak posting their messages of sympathy. Native Chicagoan Chance the Rapper, whom DJ Rashad toured with last year, wrote, “Music lost a legend today. And he was my friend. Love you DJ Rashad. RIP.” Other Chicago artists expressed their lament, such as the trap duo Flosstradamus, tweeting “RIP DJ RASHAD. YOU WERE THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SO MANY OF OUR PRODUCTIONS… YOU WILL BE MISSED IN THE CHI & WORLDWIDE.” Close friends of Rashad, such as DJ J-Cush and Nadus, expressed the devastation of Rashad’s untimely passing, mourning the loss of a talented musician and caring friend.
Willing to take risks and follow the beat of his own drum, Rashad Harden developed a creative identity that was progressive and uncompromising. DJ Rashad was a revolutionary, and will forever have an impact on the landscape of electronic music.
Words: Staley Sharples