Monday, January 24, 2011

Juakali - Interview

Juakali, longtime Dubwar MC & host, has appeared on commercial recordings with Alpha & Omega, Raz Mesani, Pinch, Matty G, Kush Arora and others, impressing both industry and audiences with his ability to innovate across dub, reggae, dubstep, dancehall, bhangra, electronic, and experimental genres. This lead to him being featured as one of the top 5 US Ragga MCs who are, "launching careers as artists and producers...pushing dancehall beyond its boundaries..." ('Chat Bout' XLR8R Magazine - Issue118). 

I know you lived in Brooklyn for a minute and were involved with Dub War NYC, give us a bit of back story and history of your Dub War days. Is that when you were first exposed to dubstep?

Well, I went to College in Brooklyn, New York after immigrating from Trinidad & Tobago. While in College I got into spoken word and hip hop, was rippin and runnin all over New York City with a group known as Second2Last.  After I left college, the group more or less fizzled.  Life happened!  It was no longer about being the hot shit on the block or looking for cred.  It became increasingly clear that a huge sacrifice would have to be made by each person to realize our collective vision.  Sacrifice undertakes a different meaning for every individual.  In short, it became too much.  Meanwhile, I always knew I wanted to get into singing and performing utilizing my talents.  At the time - around 2004 - I was looking into any genre of music that sampled from reggae/ ragga/ Caribbean music/vocals.  A few things in my life at the time ushered me into the life style of an artist and I took the time to honor those moments and make the best of my knowledge of the music industry and performance circuit.  I researched for 2 months, sent emails to over 500 people and got about 25 serious replies.  One of those people was from a guy going by dqxt who invited me to the first Dub War night at Sputnik in Brooklyn. There I met Dave (aka Dave Q, dqxt) and Joe (Joe Nice).  I became a resident after that 1st night on the mic.

I know you did that "Reasons" tune with 12th Planet for the SMOG Scion CD Sampler. I know a "reasoning" is a simple event where the Rastas gather, smoke weed, and discuss, is that tune about that? BTW My brother is DJ Evol and he's been running with those guys for awhile and has been kind enough to introduce me to everyone when I visited with him in LA. How long have you been doing stuff with SMOG? Is that your main crew now? What's the current landscape of the scene in LA?

"Reasons" is about the collective high you achieve when all hearts are grooving to music.  I wrote that tune around 2007 with a scratch track I got from D1.  it was heavily syncopated.  all I was thinking about was back in the day in Trinidad when we would go to concerts, blockos/parties on the street, and just remembering the vibe of a few hundred souls moving to a riddim.  no fuss... no fight. 12th Planet asked me for a vocal around the time I moved to LA in 2008, and I gave him "Reasons" a Capella with no plans or instructions. The following year he was rinsing it around the US.  Joe Nice asked for the original, and cut a dubplate of it.  In 2010 the Doctor P remix hit.  Scion was already in talks with SMOG about a collaboration project and "Reasons" was the vehicle that provided the opportunity.  The tune is signed to SMOG’s label and that is about how far my official affiliation goes. For the most part, folks in Los Angeles know I'm based in their city. There is definitely city pride and all that, like any other major city with a music scene happening.  The recent Red Bull Culture Clash is a testament to that.  There is however, a full spectrum music culture here claiming the depths of the underground to the top of the pops and everything in-between. As far as electronic music goes in LA, there are a lot of artists and crews pushing for their time in the spotlight and it's near impossible to determine who will explode or implode within this construct. 
I like that you don't just have a typical dancehall flow, and you branch out with some pop culture references in your lyrics talking about Coors beers, Gamera, Hendrix and Yoda in "Freak You Back" and so on. Is this a conscious mashing of styles, or something that's just evolved over time? What are some favorite themes to rhyme about? Is there an overall message you are trying to get across?

My style and voice has definitely evolved over time.  I have been a host and feature performer since 2005.  I have learned how to get a crowed moving, jumping, to be still and to listen without loosing sight or pace with the event, promoter, DJ or myself.  My greatest lessons came from performing for an audience whose first language is not English.  If you can rock a crowd that does not understand what you're saying, you can wow any native speaker who has never heard of you!  I've learned to hone my strengths and laugh at my weaknesses on the stage.  As far as lyrics go, I tend to bury a message in the song write.  I started typing out my lyrics to the tunes I've done and didn't really start paying attention to it until reading it back on the computer.  I can write a party song with a message, I can write a dark song with a message... it comes natural to me.  I enjoy telling a story or writing about a particular experience. When I began hosting, I made it a point to not utter any cliché catch phrases to hype the crowd, a bunch of my own phrases have naturally developed from my creative process and I have made choruses from them. At Dub War we have long since called "dark" dubstep "sexy".  
Here are the lyrics to "Freak You Back".

This one here smoothie groovy

Pour the loosey goosey tonic

Grab this young gyal me choose she

Caribbean Sea flex

From Trinidad to Haiti
Cuba to Bahamas like them cruise be

Wanna sip something fruity

Rum Punch and Margarita the Samba

Barista come pour a Daiquiri

Fit n Sharp this yout' be

When me walk about

Sweeter juice akin to black berry

We gonna Freak You Back
Hands-on in the club
All wall occupied in the club
We gonna Freak You Back
Come dance in da club
Right cha now lights off in da club (x2)

Move 'bout as a loner

Show up paparazzi smile

Flashy without camera

Sound check, green room, toast it up

Take stage, rock 'bout like Hendrix ask Nona

“Voulez vous…” Juakali see you

Hypnotize by the sound 

Speak backward like Yoda

Shock out to the rhythm you must

Ok, UK in the vibe we trust

I guess that brings us to most important question really, which is what is Juakali all about? Is just about pushing different sounds, about Rastafarism, something more personal, or a little bit of everything? If there's one thing you wanted people to know about Juakali what would it be?

Juakali is about a voice.  It is personal.  

There's seems to be a trend of a lot of sounds melting together all at around the same BPM 135-145 or so. Production-wise for yourself what would like to see happen in the future, more cross-pollination of the sounds of dancehall, grime, dubstep, dub, glitch-hop, and jungle... or a final distillation into one or two really strong styles? Do like the direction where dubstep is headed currently? Has it lost sight of it's "dub" influences?

This world is fast moving toward a global community.  The style will become, 'who is not connected' ... 'who's off the radar'.  The cross-pollination of styles, as you call it, is inevitable. However, there will be room for the root music or style of any genre, look at Classical, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock & Roll, Country, Hip Hop for instance.  As we move forward, time will call the genre into being and it will be taught and cherished. Currently, dancehall, grime, dubstep, dub, glitch-hop, and jungle...  fit within the electronic realm, however, participants of our time have given them a name - it's a human thang. Dubstep has moved from 20 - 50 people in a 150sq.ft. dark room with decent sound to festivals.  It didn't get there from a lack of understanding how music and sound influences people.

Who's hot right now and who are some of the up and coming MC's and producers to look out for?

I'm afraid I can't talk about who's hot right now cause I mostly listen to what isn't "hot" or what's the verge, but let me run down what I've been listening to of late and who I've been checking out.  
Producers = Cardopusher, Pacheko, Knight Riderz, Kush Arora, Nate Mars, Sub Swara, Plastician, Distance, Tunnidge, Silkie, Cyrus, Ramadanman, Kuedo, Flaty DL, DJG, Matty G, Modeseletor, Porier, Marcus Visionary, Yellowtail, Subatomic Soundsystem, Ikonika, Breed, XI, DLX, Tes La Rok, Moldy, BunZer0, Spektrums, Wrexile, Uproot Andy, Magnetic Man, King Cannibal, Memory 9, Addison Groove, Pinch, Ras G, D1, Terror Danjah

MC's/Vocals/Bands = Jah Dan, Nneka, Little Dragon, Zuzuka Ponderosa, MC Zulu, Spoek Mathambo, Ms Dynamite, Collie Buds, Sade, Gorillaz, Distant Relatives...

Would care to share any story road stories with us? What's been the sickest parties? What's the craziest things you seen and experience through your journeys as an MC and host?

Oi, I guess folks could check my blog on myspace or my notes on facebook... lots of stuff has happened... will happen.  Best party from last year was opening for Chemical Brothers with Freq Nasty at the Fox Theater in Oakland. I lost my voice from excitement at the top of the set for about 30 seconds.  Craziest experience was getting a 'presidential' on stage behind one for the side curtains, wont say which show that was...

Anything else to add or any shouts?

Shouts to 25 serious replies I got back in 2005 when introducing myself as a recording artist. Lic-a-shot for the Dub War fam, syncro in Czech Republic, Kush Arora, Sasha Dees in Amsterdam, Sub Swara, DMZ crew, Pinch and Maryanne Hobbs who got me and what I was doing from jump! Out to all area crew who know, are brave and noble. STAMINA CREW!!! I SEE YOU

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