It’s pretty common knowledge that the Teklife crew and Hyperdub have lost two monumental figures this year. DJ Rashad, the main architect of the Chicago collective and arguably the finest exponent of the footwork sound passed away in April, and Stephen Samuel Gordon AKA The Spaceape, long time friend and collaborator of Kode9, in October. That both were such unique talents and still relatively young is immensely saddening, and that it should happen in the year that Hyperdub celebrates its 10th birthday even more so. But it is obviously important that their contributions are celebrated, and an event featuring so many of their friends and peers seems an ideal way to do so.
Special mention has to go to the promoters. ‘Exceptional music, presented expertly…’ is the manifesto of The Hydra, and they delivered on this and then some. With a lineup this stacked, having to pick between any of the 6 stellar b2b sets would have been a little bit Sophie’s Choice, so it was good to see on arriving that only one room was open, the other having been relegated to a bar/chill out area. With Cooly G a no-show, it was a little strange watching Kode9 playing on his own to a crowd of about 5 people with all the lights on, although it was pretty clear even at this point that tonight was going to be pretty relentless.
The first proper set of the night was Jam City b2b Nightwave, and they carried on in a similar vein with beats that wouldn’t give the audience a second of rest, TNGHT’s ‘Goooo’ being my own highlight. Last minute announcements Addison Groove and Plastician were next up, and as much as it seemed that the energy levels of the night couldn’t really go any higher, playing Julio Bashmore’s ‘Battle For Middle You’ at about 190bpm is apparently a surefire way to make a crowd go berserk. Following this up with ‘Footcrab’, the two DJs guided the crowd through until Ikonika and Scratcha DVA stepped up at 1AM. Hudson Mohawke’s ‘Cbat’ among others ensured that things stayed pretty frenetic, and in all honesty by 2AM a break felt necessary.
Fortunately, the strength of the artist list was such that going outside for any length of time ensured that you would miss something special. When DJ Earl and Taye took to the stage with DJ Spinn on the mic, the atmosphere changed; although things were still moving at 100 miles at minute, it was at this point that that the idea of Teklife as a family became clear. ‘If it weren’t for DJ Rashad, none of us would be here,’ Spinn declared between tracks, and from all the things that have been said both before and since his passing it would appear that it was the truth. As a producer Rashad was at the top of the footwork game (his own ‘Let It Go’ played during this set being testament to that) and through his music and his influence on the rest of Teklife he surely did more than anyone else to bring what was otherwise a niche Chicago dance scene to the rest of the world.
For the second half of the Teklife showcase, DJ Spinn moved from the mic to the decks alongside DJ Taso, and while the whole night had been superb up to this point, this was on a whole other level. Every track, from DJ Taye’s ‘Get Em Up’ to the Rashad and Gant-Man collaboration ‘Acid Life’ seemed to notch things higher and higher, and by the time Spinn’s own ‘All My Teklife’ had finished, it was clear to see just how exciting this group of young producers were. Admittedly, it was almost five in the morning by this point and a good number of people had been forced to take refuge from the onslaught in the unused second room, but for those who managed to stay throughout it was about as rewarding an experience as it’s possible to imagine in a club.
Although it had been rumoured so often that it was hardly a surprise, Oneman’s appearance alongside the Hyperdub boss Kode9 was only confirmed upon entering the venue. The final set of the night was probably the most hotly anticipated, with many of those in attendance who had been noticeably flagging during the constant battery of the previous 3 hours finding a new lease of life. There wasn’t to be any respite though; it’s not hard to believe that Steve Goodman has had a book published on the use of sound as warfare. Obviously this isn’t suggesting that there was anything unpleasant about the Hyperdub boss’ closing set, but 7 hours into a night this intense it’s easy to imagine how you could weaponise DJ Earl’s ‘I’m Gonna Get You’ or Darq E Freaker’s ‘Minger’.
The last track of the night was a fitting one, ‘The Devil is a Liar’, a collaborative effort between Kode9 and The Spaceape to be released on the final EP that the pair were able to work on together. As with DJ Rashad and Teklife, the death of the MC and poet Stephen Samuel Gordon is one that will affect the Hyperdub label for as long as it continues to exist. One of the most distinctive voices in the entire dubstep scene, his lyrics had always made reference to mortality in a way that is even more keenly felt now. Both men’s lives had an enormous influence on all those present, and it felt like a perfect send off to have both fans and colleagues gather together for something this special in their absence.
RIP Rashad. RIP Spaceape.
11th October, Studio Spaces E1, London