The music video for “I Don’t Give A Fuck,” the title track from Chicago footwork producer DJ Rashad’s latest EP, follows him and his Teklife crew as they roam around the streets of London with such confidence that it seems like they’re exploring their native city rather than a foreign country. As such, the video serves as a fairly acute visual manifestation of the impressive musical development that Rashad displayed on his remarkable Rollin’ EP from earlier this year; as Reed Scott Reid wrote in the TMT review of that record, “footwork now goes to nightclubs in Europe, smokes kush with design students, represents the street in magazines they only sell in the shop in art galleries” — after signing with Hyperdub, Rashad and his crew had successfully brought their brand of Chicago footwork to London and beyond.
Inevitably, the follow-up to such a forward-thinking set of songs was going to be difficult for DJ Rashad. But with I Don’t Give A Fuck, the producer truly lives up to the EP’s title, side-stepping expectations and unleashing another batch of immensely enjoyable tracks. Sure, the incredible urgency of Rollin’ is somewhat absent on the four songs here, but they replace the dark energy of Rollin’ with a sense of breezy lightness perfectly suited for the EP’s summertime release; certain moments on I Don’t Give A Fuck feel much more playful than anything on its immediate predecessor. If this seems like a veiled criticism, it really isn’t — Rashad is definitely still pushing aspects of his sound forward in some exciting ways.
For one, these songs see Rashad refining his manipulation of vocal samples. To be fair, he’s always been skilled at chopping up the human voice in unexpected ways in order to yield stunning results (see: “Kush Ain’t Loud”). But the songs here — specifically the EP’s middle two tracks — take this pursuit to a whole new level. “Brighter Dayz” is built around a hypnotic, swirling chant of pitch-shifted vocals, occasionally punctuated by staccato bursts of even higher frequency wails. “Everybody” is even more remarkable: Rashad somehow succeeds at flipping a YouTube rip-quality sample of that ridiculous “I still love you” Intervention clip, turning it into a gloriously convoluted earworm. It’s an undeniably fun track, and it’s probably my favorite song on here, but its carefree, whimsical tone would have seemed completely out of place on Rollin’.
This isn’t to say that the EP feels as though it’s engaged in a completely different project than its predecessor; the percussion breaks that crop up in the beginning of “Brighter Dayz” and near the end of “Everybody” are certainly akin to the same sort of wide-eyed sonic exploration that marked the internationalization of the Teklife sound. But there’s definitely a grittiness to much of this EP’s production that seems more in line with the DJ’s earlier work. The title track, for instance, is built from a select few ingredients: a sample of the titular phrase from the movie Juice, shuddering percussion and bass, and a synth that recalls Welcome to the Chi’s “Don’t Drop It” in its high-pitched relentlessness. The effect is that, in a certain way, I Don’t Give A Fuck sounds like an amalgamation of several distinct episodes in the producer’s career — Rashad’s pioneering earlier work in his native Chicago seems here to meet up with the creative discoveries of Rollin’.
But maybe I’m over-analyzing this. Rashad himself claims that the tracks here were all recorded in a couple hours or less. And while the nearly flawless way that the synths, vocal samples, and percussion coalesce in the climax of “Everybody” might have me questioning that claim, it’s undeniable that these songs do feel informal in a way that markedly contrasts with the razor-sharp exactness of Rollin’. In all likelihood, I Don’t Give A Fuck will live in the shadow of its predecessor; this record feels like a much less high-stakes affair, with nothing coming close to the unshakeable peaks of Rollin’. But there are moments here that certainly rank among my favorites in Rashad’s entire catalog, offering a plethora of sonic riches that are a pleasure to behold.