Now Things: Exclusive Interview with The Kid Daytona

Words and Interview by Jesse Serwer

The Kid Daytona is one of New York hiphop’s best kept secrets. The dapper Antiguan MC from the Bronx balances style and substance in a fashion that reminds us of Slick Rick and Q-Tip, outerborough MCs of Caribbean heritage. Over the last few years, the Cipha Sounds protege has cultivated a rep through conceptually tight mixtapes like A Tribe Called Fresh, wherein Daytona and friends rhymed exclusively over classic ACTQ beats; and The Daytona 500, a mini-mixtape whose beats were all constructed from samples of Bob James’ “Nautilus.” His latest effort, The Interlude, takes a similar tack, turning musical interludes from classic rap albums like Illmatic and Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s The Main Ingredient into fresh, full-length jams like “NYA” (with Aloe Blacc) and “Fly Lullaby.” (Choice line: Dread in the mesh shirt/Chefing roti with goat meat in the Bahamas) New Yorkers who’ve had their ears to the street, though, might recall ‘Tona from his hiphop flip of the late Bogle’s “All Dem Deh” (featuring Jabba of Hot 97/Massive B) from way back in 2006. LargeUp recently chatted him up about his Antiguan heritage, Bronx backyard bashments and the Caribbean’s influence on hiphop…

LargeUp: The first song I remember hearing from you was your version of Bogle’s “All Dem Deh.” It wasn’t until a few years later that you started dropping your mixtapes..
The Kid Daytona: A lot of people don’t remember that joint. It was way early. I think we put out “All Dem” in ’06 and A Tribe Called Fresh came out in ’08, so there was definitely a huge gap between then.

LU: Was Bogle still alive when you cut your version of “All Dem”? That song kind of started popping up here after he was killed.
TKD:
No, he had passed. It was his first real record, where he had his freestyle over [the beat from] “Drop It Like Its Hot,” and I loved that. I’m Antiguan. I used to go to a lot of spots with Jabba and Cipha was deejaying a lot of those spots early. And I was like, Yo, it would be hot if we could make that a sample and just make it a hiphop record, and pull that off. Ciph loved that idea and we just went with it. When I did that, I was maybe 20, 21. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time. The whole lane, and figuring things out, that took its time. We just continued to get more comfortable in what I wanted to do musically, to where we’re at now.

LU: Were you born in Antigua?
TKD:
I was born in Atlanta, and I lived there for maybe the first month of my life. Then we moved back to Antigua. I was basically born in Atlanta just so I could have my citizenship. And I left Antigua at four and moved to the Bronx, and that’s where I came up at.

LU: Were there a lot of Antiguans in your neighborhood in the Bronx?
TKD: I grew up on 164th and the [Grand] Concourse so you had some Antiguans, but then you also had Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Indians, Africans. It was a whole big melting pot of people, like a New York City. Even though we were all on the same block, there was a little segregation, but we all fucked with each other.

LU: Speaking of Antiguans from the Bronx, do you have any history with Skerrit Bwoy?
TKD:
Skerrit is my dude. He used to do the [Bronx club] Savoy, when he was calling himself Sponge Bob. It’s ill to see Skerrit cross over, doing all his things with Diplo. I seen him last year at SXSW and he’s the same, funny-ass dude.

LU: How did your Caribbean background influence you as an MC?
TKD:
A lot of that came from my uncle, who’s 13 years older than me. I really looked up to him like an older brother. He used to be in the crib spinning mad records, everything from Bob to Dennis Brown to Tribe to Slick Rick, LL. A lot of reggae, hiphop and r&b…I just sat there, soaking all that stuff in and it just stuck with me. With my culture, there was a lot of dancehall. I wasn’t really into dancehall, I more liked the roots stuff, like Beres and stuff like that. That’s what took my ear. Dancehall was cool but I more fell in love with roots stuff like Morgan Heritage. My aunts and cousins used to live on Third Ave. in one of those houses with a backyard, and they’d throw these barbecues where they played old-school reggae until 3, 4 in the morning on the block. That was a heavy influence. I always loved music and, when I first heard Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx when I was in fifth grade, I wrote my first rap to that record, to the whole album. [Laughs]. That’s what started everything.

LU: Your style and demeanor reminds me of Slick Rick. As much as everybody loves him, you don’t hear too many MCs that have a vibe like him…
TKD:
With Rick, it was his style and his voice. Me being a kid, he told a lot of stories. He was probably my first favorite rapper, ever. He used to come through with the furs and the suits and the Gucci and the Bally loafers. All that stuff was ill to me. That was the first thing I looked at, people’s style. Him being from the Bronx and also being Caribbean, even though I didn’t know that as a kid, just a lot of things he said and how he said ’em. Doug E. Fresh, too. You could tell they were Caribbean. It just came out naturally in their slang and their words and different things they said. I definitely related to that.

LU: Their being Caribbean was never a big thing in their music but, if you were paying attention, you picked up little things...
TKD: Mm-hmm. Same thing with Q-Tip and Tribe. Now that I think about it, it seemed like there was a lot of West Indians rapping back in the day, in the Golden Era. I think Q-Tip’s family is from Montserrat.

LU: And Phife is Trini. Have you done any more music with an explicit Caribbean flavor since “All Dem”?
TKD:
I haven’t really touched any reggae since then. I would like to. I spoke to Ricky Blaze, that’s another good dude, about trying some things and Kardinal Offishall is a real good friend of mine. We always have ideas but nothing that’s come to fruition. It’s nothing I would shy away from. If the time and feeling was right, I would definitely go and bless it again.

LU: If you could collaborate with anyone from the Caribbean, who would it be?
TKD:
I always was a fan of Barrington. The shit that he did with Shyne was legendary. Beres has the illest voice to me. And, lyrically, I think Vybz is one of the best dudes in the past 10, 20 years. If you listen to his flows and the words he says and how he puts them together, it’s crazy. Those three people there, I respect like that.

LU: So what do you have in store coming up?
TKD:
What I did with The Interlude is take it back to the essence of beats and rhymes. I felt that’s missing from what’s going on right now. I see the change happening slowly but surely. I want to continue to make music like that but even in a bigger way than The Interlude because a lot of it was minimal. It wasn’t a lot of instruments, it was mainly sample-based. This next stuff I’m doing, I’m going to still keep it in the essence of that but bigger and huger, and for a wider audience.

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