SOUTH RAKKAS CREW with BONJAY and NASTY NAV at Wrongbar (1279 Queen West), Friday (May 9), 10 pm. $10. 416-516-8677. Rating: NNNNN
When Toronto-bred, Orlando-based production duo South Rakkas Crew get booked to play a gig, one of the first things they need to find out is how the promoters know them.
“We have such a wide fan base, different promoters expect different things,” explains Dennis “Dow Jones” Shaw. “If a sound crew brings us out, they’re expecting the dancehall thing. If it’s at someplace like Fabric, they want us to mix it up with electro. It just depends on why they’re calling you.”
Not many other producers are making waves equally in hardcore dancehall reggae circles and the hipster dance scene. One minute they’re putting out riddim records featuring some of the biggest names in reggae (Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Bounty Killer, Capleton and Lady Saw, among many more
) and the next they’re dropping futuristic dancehall electro on Diplo’s Mad Decent label.
It’s good for business to be so flexible, but it has led some to wonder if they’re turning their backs on their reggae roots.
“We did a show in France where the promoter told us when we came off the plane that the dancehall guys were boycotting our gig because we were playing an electro party. I like the electro scene – they’re very hype, and you get a lot of freedom as a DJ – but I don’t want to dis the dancehall crowd, because it’s not really about that. I love dancehall, and that’s my thing, but I have more creative freedom with the hipster crowd.
“My goal with South Rakkas Crew is to bring reggae music to a wider audience. Dancehall has been in a certain place for a long time and hasn’t truly crossed over and gotten out the way I think it should. To be part of that transition, you need to fuse it with different things and make it more palatable to different markets. We’re trying to help build those bridges.”
Even though they made their name after leaving Toronto for Orlando
, South Rakkas Crew still make a point of giving credit to their hometown for their sound. The newest, hottest flavours in dance music always come from cross-pollination, and Toronto is one of the few places in the world where that attitude flourishes.
“People ask us about our influences, but it just comes naturally for us coming from Toronto. We both went through all those phases that most people in Toronto go through; I was into house at one point, I was into hip-hop at one point, I was a little raggamuffin for a while and only listened to dancehall. The music we make is a reflection of that. We’re not trying to do crossover music – it’s just what feels good to us.
“People who come from Toronto and other urban areas in Canada have an advantage right now. The U.S. is so much more segregated, on every level.”