Rascalz have returned - ready and refocused. Reloaded.
Van City veterans (which now features MCs Red1, Fit, and DJ Kemo offer up their latest full length release "Reloaded", comprised of solid tracks that take Rascalz to a new level.
Rascalz, first broke ground in 1993, with their debut album "Really Livin". The title track won Best Rap Video at The MuchMusic Video Awards, and put them on the map as major players in the world of Canadian hip hop. Their sophomore effort, Cash Crop, was released in 1997. The album won a Juno award for Best Rap Recording, and the track "Dreaded Fist", garnered the group another MuchMusic video award (Best Rap video). During the release of Cash Crop, Rascalz united fellow Hip Hop artists from across Canada, to participate in the groundbreaking track and video for Northern Touch, The all-star performance was a preview of what was about to blow. It included the likes of Kardinal, Checkmate, Thrust and Choclair.
THE ROAD TO MASTERY
Rascalz would break ground in Urban music again in 1998, when they publicly refused their Juno Award (Best Rap Recording for Cash Crop), in protest to the Juno award system, which had not yet acknowledged the Urban music categories in their televised broadcasts. The protest was heard loud and clear - the following year, Rascalz performed Northern Touch, with all the aforementioned guest appearances, on the live, televised broadcast of the Juno awards. They won the 1999 Juno Award that year for Best Rap Recording, Northern Touch.
"Weíve reloaded, but weíre still on our mission," says Red1. "Weíve still got work to do. Weíre real MCs and weíre back. This is what we know. This is what we do."
"ITíS REALITY MUSIC"
Kemo has broadened the scope of his sounds as seen on feel good club tracks like "Crazy World" and "Warrior" but has not lost his touch with the trademark sound of the Rascalz.
"Itís reality music," says Red1.
"Honest, but still with a way of keeping a sense of imagination to it."
Rascalz most enduring trait is their ability to experience life first hand. Never content to imitate or watch from a distance, they get right to the heart of the matter.
And Rascalzí fingers do the walking when they want to add a powerful voice or two to their recordings. Reloaded includes guest appearances by Kardinal Offishall (Fiyah! Hit Em Up), Solitair (Hit Em Up), Checkmate (Filthy), Mag-T of Grimmi Grimmi (Respect It) K-OS (One Shot), and Toronto crew IRS (Dun Dit It).
Rascalz welcomed Born Jamericanís vocalist Notch, who adds his unique styling to Warrior and Crazy World.
"I always liked Notch, heís one of the best, if not the best, vocalists in the world," says Red1. "I canít give him enough respect. Itís like when you suddenly wake up and thereís something right in front of you that sends shivers. Thatís what Notch brings."
Also lending their considerable vocal talents to the record are: young Toronto vocalist Sugar Prince (Clash), Vancouverís Jah-Fus (Murderah), Antiguan reggae and calypso masters East Juvi, aka J.R. Face, Ganja Kid and Ijahba (Fiyah!), Vancouverís Concise (from Defenders Of The Faith), with Checkmate (Filthy) and Torontoís leading new female MC Tara Chase (Dun Did It).
Reloaded also features the production debut of Red1, who joins Kemo on five tracks (Jungle, Respect It, Send Fi Dem, Fiyah! and Warrior). Solitair also joins in behind the big board (Hit Em Up).
"Yeah, it was something I just wanted to try," says Red1, "Producing takes an artist a step further, he says, out of the role of performer and into the realm of conductor.""Itís like youíve gotta know more about the song than just whatís on the surface. You have to feel it in your bones, make it part of you; make it organic and let it rip from your soul.""But you also need to see it all from above, watch where every little part fits, make sure itís appropriate, not just sounds but feels right."So thatís something new for me, I really got into it. You see the songs from a different angle; it changes the way you feel a vibe. Makes you see it better, how a song should be."
Rascalz have a longstanding policy of exploration and involvement, not just in music. Their involvement with the charity War Child (www.warchild.ca) took Red1 and Fit to Ghana and war-torn Sierra Leone in 2000 to witness first hand the truths of the world. Their eyes were opened to a harsh reality far outside the North American norm.
Rascalz are smarter, edgier, harder on target for having opened their eyes to everything around them and it shows in the sharply observant rhymes of Reloaded.
"I put what I know in life into my record," adds Fit. "We come together to make music. It covers a lot of ground. Itís not necessarily for everybody, but it has that ability to go for everybody."
"Number one on the charts," drawls master-DJ Kemo with a defiant grin. Appropriate, as the first single Crazy World heads up the radio charts. Kemo has a lot to be cocky about: aside from laying down the beats for Rascalz heís one of the countryís most sought-after producers, (Swollen Members, Checkmate, K-OS, Kardinal Offishall, Concise).
SMARTER, EDGIER, HARDER ON TARGET
"Music is supposed to be uplifting," says Red1. "Give you vibes and feeling. For me, the greatest thing music can accomplish is to put a safety blanket around me that vibes. Sometimes you want to speak to the heart, the soul for a minute."
Reloaded features the chart topping club singles Crazy World and Movie Star alongside aggressive, intelligent tunes like Jungle and Warrior.
Reloaded crosses boundaries of sound Rascalz have only just begun to explore. With a huge range of beats and an expansive emotional territory to cover, itís difficult to say where this CD belongs in the hip hop pantheon...
Reloaded is a treat for hardcore fans and the perfect introduction for the uninitiated to the revived, realigned. Therenegade rap attack that is Rascalz.
Summing up their philosophy for the 21st Century, Red1 repeats Rascalz vision of a group that is focused like a laser on their goal of making great music.
"The world is a cold place and it just keeps getting colder," Red1 says.
"Thatís my view of the world. Youíve got your little squad, youíve got people bombing, trying to take you down. The tighter knit the crew, the better the chance of survival. We make sure that we come with the ammunition as far as the music and lyrics to get us as far as we can."