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- Posted on Jul 30th 2010 1:30PM by David Dacks
Now, the South Rakkas hurricane will be blowing across their northern homeland, including a stop in Toronto for an unofficial Caribana party this weekend, as 2010 upgrades to a Category 5 year for the Mississauga, Ontario-raised party-starters -- who began their career a decade ago crafting boy-band beats and have now teamed up with the taste-making likes of Diplo.
"I'm blessed that the world is vibing to what we're doing," Rakkas crew-chief Dennis Shaw tells Spinner, "but I always wanted to tour Canada, and we've only done bits and pieces. This is the biggest tour yet!"
The Crew -- otherwise known as production duo Alex Greggs and Dennis Shaw -- kicked off the new year with a free, 16-track download called 'The Stimulus Package,' released via Philly DJ/producer Diplo's Mad Decent label. The album is an intense collection of Jamaican-informed rhythms getting into bed with techno, Brazilian beats, hip-hop, rave and even indie pop.
"I have musical ideas, but [Greggs] really puts the polishing touches on all our productions," Shaw says graciously. "He's like the Mozart of technical stuff. We've done so many different types of productions, but he's recognized worldwide for his clean, crisp production."
Indeed, the high-gloss production is less self-consciously dirty than a lot of the Mad Decent posse's output, but its combination of hooks, production and earth-shakingly fresh riddims garnered praise and attention. For the moment, they're still riding that 'Stimulus Package.' "We're just rocking the product 'til it's time to rock new product," he says. "With every release we've had, we reached further."
South Rakkas Crew didn't exactly build their career on underground cred: Shaw and Greggs first worked in production together for mega-platinum pop group 'N Sync in Orlando, Florida (after Greggs had crafted beats for Barenaked Ladies). But they then created some of Jamaica's biggest "riddims" (backing tracks for singers and DJs) during the middle years of the past decade, before attracting attention from the likes of Diplo, Thom Yorke and especially Tricky, whose last album they remixed in its entirety.
'The Stimulus Package' has indeed reached further for them than any previous release, even receiving a surprise nod from the Polaris Music Prize when they were chosen for the long list. With both Crew members having fled the Canadian music industry some 10 years ago, Shaw had never even heard of the Polaris Prize until he was contacted by them.
"Honestly I didn't even know what it was until I received an email from somebody at Polaris congratulating me," he says. "I thought it was one of one of those fraudulent emails like 'You've won $20,000 to promote your band.' It was only when people started congratulating me with other emails that I looked into it.
"But it's really cool, nowhere else [but Canada] would you see stuff like that happen. We didn't submit our album. People who know good music sought out what they think is cool and worthy. Now that I know what [the prize] is, it's just fantastic".
Following their first cross-Canada tour, which goes from Calgary to Montreal and includes UK reggae vocalist Serocee, the crew will play shows in the US, Australia and hopefully Asia. Though they have plans for some "new product," don't look for another full-length album just yet, as the Crew sticks to the time-honoured practice of producing riddims for Jamaican vocalists to work with. "But come fall, we're at least going to drop a single or an EP," Shaw says.
Having destroyed dancefloors all over the world, perhaps the next release should be titled 'The Reconstruction Package.'