Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Sep 28th 2009 3:00PM by David Dacks
In addition to the smooth execution of its laid-back feel and concept, this album is blowing up on the strength of an old friend who's a new sensation: Drake, who guests on 'Enjoy Yourself Part 2.' Slakah's known him for a while and isn't surprised at his success.
"The first time I heard him I was blown away, this was about six years ago," Slakah tells Spinner. "He found one of my instrumentals and recorded something on it. We worked together for several years and I knew he was going to blow up. He's ridiculously talented. Now that he's big I haven't heard from him in months!"
It's never been easy for Canadians to break into the inward-looking culture of the American hip-hop mainstream, but Slakah says, "It's definitely changing. We've had Maestro, Kardinal Offishall and now Drake. They're making that path easier. With technology these days, it's easier to get out on an international scale."
Best known as half of the underrated rap duo Art of Fresh, Slakah is also chuffed about signing to true-school British hip-hop label BBE. "[It] was one of my favourite labels growing up," he says. "I used to buy records simply 'cause it had BBE on the back because I knew what I was going to hear. When I made the record I had that in mind. Hopefully this could end up on BBE."
The label is well known for its excursions to the outer limits of soul, funk and breakbeat music -- and that pretty much describes Slakah's soul movement. It's wrapped in a hip-hop aesthetic but achieves a timeless sound for a multigenerational audience, like classic Pete Rock or A Tribe Called Quest mixes. "Hip hop isn't my only style of music" he says. "I love music in general so much that it translates into the music I make."
His subtly accomplished musicianship and keen sense of dynamics are a refreshing change from so much loud and tiring radio fare. He's not just plinking out notes on a keyboard, he's a full-fledged songwriter. "I studied piano then drums, then vocals," he says. "It gave me a good foundation for theory, but I'm a big fan of instruments, changes, progressions, things that are lacking in a lot of music you hear today."
Slakah is getting the word out by touring discerning record stores like Dusty Groove in Chicago. "That's where a lot of the potential is with me, people will come into a record shop and hear some cool, slow hip-hop. I've done really well that way," he says.
And the album's subtitle, 'Volume One,' should be taken literally. "My goal is to make 'Volume 2' 10 times better, with flugelhorn arrangements, Rhodes solos, a lot more changes and progressions, but it will still have continuity with Volume 1. I plan on making at least five volumes."