An Introduction to Chicago Footwork & A Tribute To The Late DJ Rashad

A little over a week ago, one of my favorite artists died on the South side of Chicago. DJ Rashad was one of the most innovating producers in a genre of music you may not be familiar with. Here’s one of my favorite tracks by him, one that FACT Mag labeled as the #2 track of 2013, right behind Get Lucky. And you’ve probably never heard of it.

Chicago Footwork, or Footwork, spawned from the booty/ghetto sub-genre of house that eventually sped up and became “Juke” in the early 2000s. The focus on syncopation, irregular beat structures and fast mixing through dozens of beats led to dance battles the likes of which we’d not seen since the b-boy era. This evolved, largely because of the work of famed ghetto house producer RP Boo, was the only genre that could keep up with the footwork of Chicago warehouse kids. This dancing style (named footwork of course) combined aspects of tap, break dance and “traditional” house dance styles. Yes, house dance is a real style, and if you don’t know what it is, you should probably do some homework, as those girls wearing Indian headdresses drunkenly jumping around to Calvin Harris are not “house dancing.” To get a good idea of what this looks like, check out these moves from Chicago Footwork performers King Charles & Pause Eddie.

This has become the new style of dance battles in Chicago, but has actually gone worldwide. From the humble beginnings in Chicago, Paris & Brussels have become hotbeds of footwork & juke music, with nights devoted to this style of music, and DJs that drop it getting gigs everywhere. Hyperdub and a few other labels have been instrumental in making this happen. Interestingly, the genre hasn’t been restricted to house. About a month ago, We Buy Gold, the first Footwork crew in the UK, dropped compilation of 19 tracks that could only be described as “Trancework.” That’s right, they took some of the most storied anthems from the classic/Ibiza Trance era and pushed out a bunch of sick Footwork remixes. Check out the project below, and make sure to hit the System F, ATB, Binary Finary & Age Of Love remixes. Quality coming at you just as fast as the feet, and “We Buy Gold” is the best name for a record label I’ve ever heard.

In a somewhat calming turn of events, while it was widely reported DJ Rashad died of a drug overdose, but that was later declared false, as the coroner declared his death to be because of a blood clot that started in his leg, as reported by The Guardian. In the wake of his death, there’s been an outpouring of love and support from not only the footwork community, but the wider dance music world as a whole. The label that supported him the most, Hyperdub, released this statement regarding his passing. Boiler Room, the DJ institution that you should be checking out as often as possible, spent almost 4hrs last week dropping back to back live sets in his honor that you can check out here. FACT Mag also hooked us up with Benji B’s Radio 1 show dedicated to DJ Rashad, that was streamed on April 30th & Rinse FM which you can check out here.

When NPR reports on the tragic death, you know I’m talking about someone who made an impact in a genre of music the vast majority of listeners have never even heard about. What’s even more sad is that his new EP “We On One” was set to be released last week as well, and it has survived him. Check it out below and if you find yourself in Paris, Brussels or Chicago, hit up a Footwork party. You’ll thank me, after you catch your breath of course.