By Don Babwin and Ru Johnson
UPDATE MAY 1: Though it was previously reported that DJ Rashad died of an apparent drug overdose, the family’s coroner says that the cause of death was a blood clot in the artist’s leg.
CHICAGO (AP) — Rashad Harden, a house music and footwork pioneer who performed as DJ Rashad, was found dead this weekend of an apparent drug overdose, authorities said Sunday. He was 34.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Janel Sedevic said a friend found Harden’s body Saturday afternoon in an apartment on the city’s West Side. There was no sign of injury but narcotics and drug paraphernalia were found near his body, she said. An autopsy was conducted Sunday but the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said it is waiting for the results of toxicology tests to determine a cause of death.
Days before his death the musician played his last show at Denver’s Club Vinyl on April 24.
“He put on an awesome show on Thursday night at Vinyl,” said Colorado promoter and talent buyer Jonny Shuman, who brought DJ Rashad to Vinyl. “It was an honor to have brought him out to Denver. He was a pioneer who really pushed the Chicago house music sound into something special with the footwork and juke tunes he was at the forefront of. He was just starting to get that sound heard all over the world. It’s so sad that he’s gone.”
Harden, a resident of Calumet City, was poised for a breakout year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. His fifth album received his best reviews, he was scheduled to play clubs all over the world and his latest EP, “We On 1,” was scheduled to be released Monday.
“It’s just a tragic loss of a great musical genius,” said longtime friend and collaborator Morris Harper, who performs as DJ Spinn and who was scheduled to appear with Rashad in Detroit on Saturday night.
Rashad was considered a pioneer of footwork — an electronic-oriented music genre that originated in Chicago. Once known as juke, footwork is named for its quick dance moves and is known for what Rolling Stone calls a “frenzied and hypnotic style of dance music that features heart-racing BPMs and, often, chopped-up loops of popular rap, R&B and pop vocals.”
The Sun-Times reported Rashad’s fifth LP, “Double Cup,” which came out last year, is credited with attracting a wider audience to footwork music.
“He shared his music with everyone that would listen,” Harden’s father, Anthony Harden, told the Sun-Times. “He’s been all over the world, taking footwork all over the world.”
Ru Johnson is an arts and culture music writer living in Denver. You can follow her on Twitter here.