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DJ Rashad’s EPs ‘I Don’t Give a F—k’ and ‘Rollin” Prove the Footwork King Can Do Almost Anything

DJ Rashad does not give a fuck / Photo by Ellie Pritts
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Label: Hyperdub

Despite a 15-year reign as what Ghettophiles label owner Neema Nazem calls the “gum underneath the shoes of Chicago house music,” juke and footwork (a more spartan, bass-drum-heavy offshoot of juke) have just recently garnered acclaim outside their hometown. Thanks to profile-raising comps like Planet Mu’s Bangs & Works series, such genre pioneers as DJ Boo and DJ Rashad have since hopped the Atlantic, to where “knees up” can now mean busting a “Tom & Jerry” or another of footwork’s dizzying, vertically inclined dance moves. Whereas house and acid (yet another Chicago offshoot) emphasize dancing in lateral space in the 120- to 130-BPM range, juke often works up to the dizzying speed of 160 BPM, to where the bass drums turn into hummingbird hearts.

On last year’s essential Teklife Vol. 1, DJ Rashad (in conjunction with partner DJ Spinn) proved he could whip his rhythmic programming into meringues that were pointed, gravity-defying, almost airy with negative space. Now signed to Hyperdub, with two EPs now released this year — Rollin’ in March, and now this week’s I Don’t Give a F—k — Rashad shows that he’s like gum, in that any genre he steps into sticks fast: snap, dubstep, diced black noise, modern soul harmonies, avant-garde laptop fuckery, and even the weepy-R&B domain of Mary J. Blige herself.

Rollin’ is the more kinetic of the two by just a few ticks, as befits the recreational drug use hinted at on the title track. “Drums Please” lives up to its title even as Rashad inverts all expectations: Snares blur first into helicopter blades, then into bubbles behind an adenoidal synth line, then into a Primatene mist. “Broken Hearted” takes “Between the Sheets”-type elegance and twists its satin textures into a noose, just revealing the desperation in the line “gets down on my knees and starts to pray.”

I Don’t Give a F—k, by contrast, is a furious four-tracker with the likes of DJ Manny, DJ Spinn, and Freshmoon on board that just clears 13 minutes, emphasizing Rashad at his most brusque, unsentimental, and punk. The vocal sample with the most emphasis, of course, goes, “I don’t give a fuck about you / (Snare roll) / I don’t give a f—k about myself.” The second-most malicious is the voice that Rashad tweaks into a strangulated, stuttering admission: “I still l-l-love you.” When he takes Blige’s admission, “I cannot hide the way I feel” and lashes a snare against it, there’s the reveal: These sticky, skeletal tracks hold together so well because of a deep sentiment coursing beneath the surface.