Check It Deeply: Caribbean Music’s New Dark Side

September 20, 2012

Words by Jesse Serwerโ€”

LargeUp Haleek Maul

Haleek Maul is a 16-year-old kid making some of the grimmest rap we’ve ever heard from a yute. Notably, he’s from sunny Barbados, home of Alison Hinds, Ri-Ri and Cropover. Maul was born in New York, and spends his summers here in the States, which perhaps helps explain his inclination towards dark imagery and woozy, creepy beats a little more. Witness his latest video for “M00N,” off of his recent collaborative LP, Chrome Lips, with Chicago producers Supreme Cuts. Directed by the editor of Vice, the visuals are bathed in horror-movie reds. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but the sort of thing we haven’t really seen from the Caribbean, with one notable, recent exception

It may be something of a stretch, musically, to connect Haleek’s goth-y raps with Tommy Lee’s Gothic Dancehall (Haleek’s audience is almost entirely international and Internet-based, while Tommy Lee is a street-level phenomenon, primarily at home in JA) but both acts have emerged quickly and suddenly, grabbing attention with notably dark music, and an inclination towards inward-looking, introspective lyrics not particularly common among Caribbean artists.

Fascination with horror movie imagery and the darkest aspects of life, a staple of rock music for decades and a reoccurring trend in hip-hop dating back to the Geto Boys, is now starting to be a factor in the Caribbean, a region that has been dominated by, and identified with, the feelgood music styles of reggae and soca/calypso for as long as anyone can remember. Whether we’re witnessing a momentary anomaly or a sea change is not quite clear yet, though it is pretty clear that some major Caribbean acts are feeling uneasy about the new direction.

On that note, look out for our upcoming interview with Haleek as part of our Now Things series.

SEE ALSO: You Rate It: Tommy Lee’s “Goathead”