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Roses Growing From Concrete: DJ Rashad & The Tek Life Movement

I have always been a fan of Juke, like anyone else in Chicago. Like anyone else here, I always saw it as something unique to the area. There was this feeling that people elsewhere just didn’t get it. In recent years, however, things started to change. In Europe, a Juke/Footwork craze began that has been sweeping back towards our city. Groundbreaking producers find themselves able to quit mundane jobs to go on tour. Innovators of the art form are finally being recognized and appreciated on distant shores.

Recently it was reported that DJ Rashad, a key member of the monumental “Tek Life” crew was found dead in his apartment. He was 34. Rashad was, as much as anyone, the face of Juke music. With his partner DJ Spinn, they have been the “brand name” for several years. They put in the work, carried the torch, and became ambassadors of the Juke aesthetic on a worldwide scale. My introduction to DJ Rashad was by way of an early, virtual collaboration with Chrissy Murderbot (Planet Mu Records). In the years since, every time I had heard the names Spinn & Rashad, they had pushed the sound even further.

“Tek Life” was once the moniker of a Jamaican gunman by the name of Earl Wadley. A supporter of the left-wing People’s National Party (PNP), his reputation grew from what he did best, “take life” during one of the most turbulent times (c. 1970s-1980s) of modern Jamaican history. By contrast, Jamaica, namely Kingston (Marley’s “concrete jungle”) has produced some of the world’s most vibrant music, which captured the interest of people everywhere, becoming a unifying element. 

These days in equally turbulent Chicago, Rashad’s crew by the same name “Tek Life” is part of a movement that also lifts the spirits of people worldwide. Juke and Footwork (like Reggae music) is LIFE itself, created in direct contrast to the difficulties that people face. As Tupac would say “A broken rose giving bloom through the cracks of the concrete.” Although Drill music in Chicago is currently the story of the scene, Footwork is the quickened pace, trying to keep us one step ahead of the madness, railing against adversity. 

Overall, Chicago life is a tempest right now. The area is filled with artistic innovation but has very few conduits through which to channel it. Perhaps that’s why the music hits so hard. The proverbial suffering an artist goes through can be felt in what they are doing. Police are reporting (even before an autopsy?) that drugs were the culprit in the death of DJ Rashad. It would not be fair for me to speculate on what demons plagued him. This is not that kind of a piece anyway. Regardless of what happened, the world of Dance music has lost a giant, someone who was right on the cusp of super stardom.

Written by MC Zulu

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