From hip-hop to tropical bass, Los Rakas reconfigures the soundsystem
Unsurprisingly, Los Rakas garnered attention from an emerging scene of enthusiasts, producers, DJs, writers, and musicians concerned with the musical diaspora of the Afro-Caribbean, or more acutely, what British sociologist Paul Gilroy has called the Black Atlantic. The term denotes the webbed network of the African diaspora culture that is not so much organized by a clear conception of roots but by a rhizomatic set of exchanges and networks: migrations, ships, trade, Creole, European miscegenation, flights, origin myths, stories of repatriation, and now the most diffusive cross-cultural exchange device of them all, the Internet.
Keep in mind that 2010 was the year that Diplo and Switch's over-the-top dancehall project, Major Lazer, took clubs by storm, and even Rihanna finally started reppin' roots, rhythm, and wires with "Rude Boy" and multicolored neon booty shorts. Even if MIA's third full-length was lackluster, something of her world-town swagger has penetrated our times, while her "Bird Flu" call to arms has circulated through our quickly multiplying musical economies. Check the formula: add world genre to rap and uptempo dancehall/Bmore/house/techno; reconfigure percussion patterns in a drum machine; loop melodic fragments of a regional instrument; add inner-city noise, gunshots, chants, or field recordings of aggressive animal life; manipulate with a swill of static, fuzz, and a heavy dose of low end. Bump loud. Call it third world democracy.
Los Rakas, without even asking for it, has popped up in countless mixes and blog posts loosely labeled under the category of tropical bass. Rich and Dun contributed the steady banger "Afro Latino" to the recent Banana Clipz EP, produced by tropical harbingers Chief Boima and Ora 11 of Bersa Discos, and released on their Ghetto Bassquake blog and upstart. Speaking of Bersa, it hosts the crazy monthly Tormenta Tropical, which spotlights new sounds of electro-cumbia and related frontiers arising from the Black Atlantic. "That movement, I'm not sure what to call it, embraced us," says Dun. It only makes sense that Los Rakas — navigating Oakland and Panama, turfin' and plena, hiphop and digital polyrhythms, the new and the old — has returned the favor.
AUDYSSEY PRESENTS THE NEIGHBORHOOD: LOS RAKAS
with Roach Gigz
Wed/2, 9 p.m.–-2 a.m.; free
111 Minna Gallery
111 Minna, SF