Words by Eddie STATS Houghton
One of the (tiny) upsides to the earthquake in Haiti early this year has been an increased awareness of Haitian art and culture and doubly so in the Francophone world. It makes sense then, that when they decided to launch their own label, the DJs and bloggers behind the Poirier-affiliated Masalacism radio show and website went with Mr. OK, a kreyol rapper recently transplanted from Port-au-Prince to their native Montreal. Largeup got an exclusive interview with Mr. OK who linked with his producer and collaborator Freeworm at a Masala Sono fundraiser for the quake. The EP drops digitally June 8 but you can check a preview (and more interview with Guillaume Decouflet about the label’s vision) over at Ghetto Palms.
LU: How different is your process making music in Montreal from Haiti? Creatively? Technically?
OK: The difference is that in Haiti, everything depended on me, but now arriving in Montreal I met the guys from Masalacism and Freeworm, I have a staff that works with me. Now I have more time to (focus on) creativity, therefore I am more productive than before.
Q: What was the process of recording or putting music out in Haiti like?
R: The first step was Benkele and I worked on the beat and lyrics at home; then (we booked time) at a professional studio for recording voice, mixing, mastering, and after that, burning the CD to distribute to radio stations and DJs in Port-au-Prince, as in other cities.
Q: Talk a little about the collaboration with Freeworm—do you write together, write to his beats, vibe in the studio?
R: that was my biggest concern coming to Montreal; to find someone who can understand my musical vision, but my encounter with Freeworm is the perfect alchemy. The atmosphere is very cool, it seems we think the same things at the same time. Freeworm is a complete musician with a lot of experience and a great idea about the music world.
Q: How connected do you stay with what’s coming out of haiti or the diaspora? Are you making music for that audience or trying to reach a different one?
R: I still connect with Haiti and the Diaspora while trying to reach the international market because I want the Haitian music to be heard around the world like any other style of music–because our culture is very rich, that’s my goal.
Q: can you offer some insight into your lyrical content for non-French speakers?
Haiti will not die
I am of this earth
And I in the blood
Look at me as if she were my color faded over me
And you too, what we do to regain the lost pearl
We are a people who look and sing sulfur
Crying and laughing
A people who dance and sing to resign
Haitian wake you, Haiti will not die
I had a condition, must change our mentality
Think positively, act without disguise
We are all brothers, a single mother one country
Pearl of the Caribbean we will die at your feet
Because this our blood, our lord, which has been running
To break the chains of slavery
Forms a nation without discrimination
That’s your dream.