Rashad Harden’s rise to the top of the juke/footwork scene is worthy of a Scarface-style biography: a dancer at 12, he and his friend DJ Spin plugged away, recreating the sounds they were obsessed with (Chicago house, jungle, dubstep, wailing vocal samples) to become princes of the footwork scene.
After a pair of singles on Hyperdub earlier this year DJ Rashad’s fifth album and first physical LP is a well timed, perfectly presented collection of tracks to take footwork to a global audience, and give anyone who can cope with the bright synths and spray of drums a fast-moving, genre-busting party.
Pharmaceuticals play an important role on Double Cup, whose title is slang for an old hip-hop high: Sprite mixed with codeine cough syrup. Tranq and crank references flash up everywhere, accounting for the more madcap rhythms Rashad pieces together on the likes of ‘Everyday of my Life’, a collaboration with DJ Phil whose repeating sample and frantic drums sound like a strip of firecrackers. ’Let U No’ is even more wired, all staccato beats and soulful 808 hooks that Rashad clings to like a handrail, reusing them as guest producers appear to chuck a spanner in. Addison Groove mixes burping 8-bit bass and Josh Wink-like synths on ‘Acid Bit’, while ‘She a Go’ recruits juke star Tasoto to stack splintering drums and a voice that whispers “She carries crystals”.
Not all of Double Cup wants to stick its head in a pile of coke, though. Underneath the jarring keyboards and jerky percussion is a delicacy gives the LP international appeal, one that means it won’t be confined to cars and packed warehouses. Side B tracks rely on electric piano so cool you could transplant it to the stage of a cocktail lounge. On ‘Leavin’ the footwork touches hide a 4/4 rhythm, gentle keys soothing a voice that cries out ”I know you’re leavin’”. ‘Drank, Kush, Barz’ might sound like a homeboy’s shopping bag but weaves slow, jazzy chords around orgasm noises, and a chant of ”We got barz in this bitch/We just trying to have a party/Get retarded in this bitch”, far more relaxed than it sounds written down. Unlike the more percussive tracks it shows you don’t need 200bpm rhythms to get the blood pumping, relying on silky R'n'B and only minor drug references like the ticking spokes and stoner synths of ‘Pass That Shit’.
It’s that balance of wired/wasted that Rashad pulls off so easily. If genre gateway albums have a flaw it’s that they try too hard on both sides and alienate, driving newcomers to hit eject and reach for a comfortable old favourite. Double Cup gets past that; a welcome to footwork that feels like a deep torso massage from a crazed karate champion. When Rashad wants to ambush you he does it with the force of the riot squad: the randomly shouted drug prices of ‘Reggie’, the whipping drums and berserk Morse key synth on ‘I Don’t Give A Fuck’. Like a workout, though, these are broken up with “rest” tracks, R&B ballads that are as sincere as they are original. It can feel like a slog in places, but once Double Cup clicks you’ll get an endorphin high every drug in downtown Chicago couldn’t match. Probably.
8George Bass's Score