DJ Rashad, who passed away this weekend at the age of 34, was largely responsible for the enormous growth in popularity that Chicago footwork has seen worldwide in the last few years, carrying his culture on his back and into clubs all around the globe. The origins of the relentless music and dance culture remain an argument among Chicago DJs and dancers - nobody seems to be able to agree on what side of town it came from, or who first laid the foundation for the frenetic feet movements that thousands of kids pit against each other on a weekly basis. But one thing is certain: DJ Rashad was one of the most innovative and important pioneers the art form has ever seen.
Born Rashad Harden in Hammond, Indiana, and raised in the Chicago suburb of Calumet City, he cut his teeth playing drums and keyboards and dancing with the infamous dance crew House-O-Matics in middle school. Saving up his allowance, he eventually purchased a cheap sampler and a drum machine to try his hand at creating his own homegrown beats. He was first featured on the B-side to DJ Thadz and DJ Chip's monster hit "Bang Ski," released on legendary Chicago label Dance Mania in 1998. Deciding to commit to DJing full time, he would put out dozens of mixtapes and CDs alongside colleagues such as DJ Spinn, DJ Clent, RP Boo and Traxman, eventually cementing himself as one of the community's most important figures.