DJ Rashad DJ RashadGrace
Thanks, DJ Rashad, for this Christmas present. I can’t say that your new title, “Grace”, is the most beautiful one in the world, but it does have the energy and nerve that one requires for a collection of dance songs. They aim right at the feet, the same way that a sharpshooter’s telescopic lens aims at one’s head, and this is almost always enough: it is material that is young, useful, with clear ideas. It transmits life. I have to confess something to you: I admit that I’ve tried to learn a few basic movements of footwork, but I’m incapable of learning, so I’m not going to be able to take advantage of this album the way that I would really like to. I almost fell on the floor and split my head open on the edge of a table when I was doing a demo for my nephew, so I’ve decided not to try it any more—or at least not at home, or where there are any sharp edges in sight. But I’m not going to be able to really stick with this decision come hell or high water, because—you know something, Rashad? Your album only makes me feel like dancing the way that beer only makes me feel like taking a long piss. I have nothing to complain to you about, practically. Maybe that there isn’t an album, because it would be brilliant to have these eight juke pearls on plastic. “Grace” isn’t on CD either, at least not for now, but that’s a minor problem. It can be acquired by digital download for a little less than six pounds, and that’s enough.
“Grace” is the first longer album that DJ Rashad has put out, and unlike the 12” “Itz Not Rite”, it’s not out on Planet Mu. It was released by Ghettophiles, the Chicago label that is keeping up the more crude, street-level line of juke. I have absolutely nothing against the releases from Planet Mu —on the contrary, I can’t seem to stop recommending them— but one does have to recognise that their way of presenting juke to a public that doesn’t live in Chicago, which isn’t mainly black, and which doesn’t live in highly depressed urban spaces, has a polite, aseptic touch, without showing the true anti-commercial intention that is implicit in the style. I conceive of juke as even dirtier than what “The Crack Capone” (DJ Roc) shows me. When I say “dirty” I’m referring to a raw quality in the production that is greater than that of DJ Nate’s album. I don’t think that many labels would dare to invest money in putting out a cut like “The Letter S”: it seems like a demo, the sound is dry, the structure is anarchic and capricious, and it’s sort of like a blend of minimalist funk, juke with the high frequencies trimmed a bit, and a cosmic soul background that isn’t entirely in tune with the formula that has been released in other places. The question might be whether “Grace” projects more strongly the influence of classic Chicago house on the footwork scene, while the albums that we have heard so far are more heavily influenced by hip hop, electro, and grime.
When we say house, we have to take it to the extreme of garage and soul. In “Send Me”, for example, after the piano intro and the bass played with an almost sexual passion, you’re expecting a smooth voice to appear and—voila, that voice does appear, male, velvety, in the best Teddy Pendergrass tradition. All of “Grace” projects the reflections, like a prism, of the many faces of Chicago sound (and the surrounding area), and it is this wild variety that in the end gives coherence to the eight last pieces and the half an hour when DJ Rashad is trying to twist our ankles. The start, with “Grace” and “Ghetto Tek Muzik”, takes us to the origins of the Dancemania label, to the pounding sound attack with filtered sounds, in the line of Paul Johnson and DJ Funk –I wonder if Dave Clarke will be spinning this type of material; ten years ago I wouldn’t have doubted it for a minute– while “Just Don’t Know” is closer to bacchanals of disco music loops accelerated until they become the drilling whistle of DJ Sneak. There is really more experimental ghetto-house than juke here: for every “Petrone in My Cup” that we find, there is a “From the Start” –with harmonica samples!– or a “Beamin”, close to the emotional rap of Kid Cudi, opening our eyes to new possibilities.
And that’s why I want to thank you, DJ Rashad, for this album. Not only because you have improved my first days of winter, but because you have opened the door to what the majority of new juke followers have been waiting for: new ways of choosing samples, of deciding the order of the productions, of connecting juke to the long tradition of black music. An album like this helps us to believe that there will be a long way for juke to go if you know how to read the fine print of its history, that its influence will rejuvenate old soul, carnal funk and insolent hip hop. I think that you have shown us the way to go.
Claude T. Hill
Dj Rashad - Just Don't Know