Since Harden's death in 2014, posthumous collaborations, EPs and tributes have trickled out, but nothing as comprehensive as Afterlife. Its 14 tracks span the footwork timeline, from starker, early experiments to the smooth soul of the Double Cup days. Tracks like "Roll Up That Loud" and "Let's Roll Out" are banner Teklife belters—slick funk sharpened into a 160 BPM attack, augmenting footwork's forward thrust with trap-style drum programming.
There are also tunes that sound much older. "Get Fuk'd Up" and "Tony Montana" are dead simple and based around looped vocal samples. The former is especially nasty, with a queasy bassline that sounds like it was meant to blow subwoofers. It hearkens back to the Ghettoteknitianz days, when Harden and his partner DJ Spinn sounded raw and dangerous. On the melancholic Spinn collab "Oh God," Teklife's laid-back weed obsession turns insular and paranoid. But then there's "Get You Burnt," which starts out gruff and threatening before it turns into a horn-led outro. You can hear the musicality of Harden's compositions begin to blossom in moments like these.
Teklife's community is as important to Afterlife as Harden himself. DJ Earl's touch is unmistakable on "Wear Her Pussy Out," where a vulgar sample is padded by pillowy synths. "Pass That" gets a trippy half-time switch courtesy of Tripletrain, one of the more dextrous drum programmers in Teklife. DJ Phil brings out jungle influences on "Come Close," and Gant-Man adds some old-school bounce to "Ratchet City." DJ Paypal, Teklife's most promising young gun, strikes a brilliant chord on "Do U Wanna Be Mine," which takes on the beautiful and lush qualities of his work for Brainfeeder and LuckyMe.
Before Afterlife's release, Teklife shared a bonus track that doesn't feature Harden. Machinedrum and Microglobe's "High On Hope" is bright and synthetic, like nylon compared to the album's more rustic textures. It's also layered and dense, with the kind of fleet-footed drum work we expect from Machinedrum. While it comes from a place that has grown beyond the Rashad school of footwork, it couldn't exist without his music and his efforts, and its inclusion is another example of how prismatic Harden's legacy has been.
Afterlife is a rare bit of nostalgia from a group that prefers to drive forward. By starting their label with a DJ Rashad retrospective, Teklife underline their continued debt to Harden's work while also showcasing the artists that are carrying his torch. It proves that no matter how far they go, everything Teklife does is indelibly marked by their departed leader, whose genius endures years after we last heard from him.
Wed / 20 Apr 2016
01. Roll Up That Loud feat. DJ Spinn & Taso
02. Get Fuk'd Up feat. Gant-Man
03. Lets Roll Out feat. DJ Manny & DJ Spinn
04. Come Close feat. DJ Phil
05. Wear Her Pussy Out feat. DJ Earl
06. Oh God feat. DJ Spinn
07. Ratchet City feat. Gant-Man & DJ Manny
08. Get You Burnt feat. DJ Taye
09. Pass That feat. Tripletrain & DJ Spinn
10. Tony Montana feat. Boylan & DJ Manny
11. Yeah We Do This feat. DJ Tre
12. Lost Worlds feat. Traxman
13. Do U Wanna B Mine feat. DJ Spinn & DJ Paypal
14. Roll A Tree feat. DJ Manny