A generation and a continent apart, England’s Ras Kwame and ATL-via-JA’s KickRaux both have a deep resume of progressive projects blending dancehall with dance music and global sounds. This year, the duo connected for a handful of Trans-Atlantic creations, including a brand-new single featuring Busta Rhymes and dancehall deejay Masicka, and are now planning a joint LP for release this coming summer. With dancehall fusions taking center stage in the music world this year, Kwame and KickRaux got together to offer their 2016 Year in Review — a collaborative mix featuring the year’s biggest bashment anthems, dancehall-inspired pop hits, and a few of their own remixes and original productions.
Stream and download right here, and scroll down for the Q+A and tracklist.
LargeUp: How did you decide on tracks to include for this mix?
KickRaux: 2016 will go down as the year of dancehall, so there were many songs to choose from. This presented many challenges with selecting some of our favorites and squeezing it into an hour format. Fortunately, Ras and myself are wrapping up our joint album Forward and working on our sets for our European summer tour which we are booking now. We tried to focus on the big moments of the year, like Vybz Kartel reasserting himself as the undisputed king of dancehall, Sean Paul continuing his dominance as one of the greatest artists of all time with his string of number ones, Usain Bolt captivating us with his record-breaking success at the Olympics, the emergence of a new generation of stars like Masicka, Konshens and Charly Black… Of course, the inescapable success of Major Lazer and Justin Bieber. There was a lot of ground to cover, so we definitely couldn’t fit it all.
LU: For you personally and, as a consumer of dancehall and Caribbean music, what were the major highlights of 2016?
KR: So hard to just pick a few in a year when everybody from abroad found their Caribbean roots, but some of my favorite moments were the lyrical battles between Mavado, Demarco, Vybz Kartel, Popcaan and others. I also loved watching the ladies do their thing. Spice put her stamp all over 2016 with big songs in dancehall, and also the feature on “Nasty” by Kid Ink. Can’t ignore Drake, Rihanna, Tory Lanez and PartyNextDoor’s take on dancehall which, although controversial, contributed highly to dancehall stepping into the mainstream. Machel Montano’s great album and big performances on the Drake tour and with Lauryn Hill, watching Afrobeats and dancehall come closer together with more collaborations. Sean Paul was everywhere, Kranium had a great year, too. “We Can” with Tory Lanez is my favorite song at the moment, it was also great getting new music from Shaggy, Sean Kingston, Mr Vegas, and the sounds of producers like TJ Records, Dunwell Productions, RVSSIAN, Chimney Records, Supa Dups and more being on the airwaves everywhere. It was a proud year for the Caribbean and Africa, full of good music and entertainment.
LU: Being that this mix is a collaboration between Ras Kwame and KickRaux, and you’ve just released a pair of tracks together, what is the nature of your partnership? Is there more joint projects to come?
KR: Definitely. The first single, “Feelin U” featuring Tyga, Ayo Jay, Demarco & Doctor has already taken off with millions of views on YouTube and Spotify, plus radio success worldwide. We just released our new single, “BUSS” featuring Masicka and Busta Rhymes, which was named one of the best songs of 2016 by Apple/iTunes, on my label FOREIGN XCHG. In January, we are releasing the Forward EP. Then the Forward album will be out in time for the summer tour.
LU: Future Dancehall has been your concept. I remember Kwame did a similar thing with Orange Hill what he was calling Electro Bashy. Both, basically trying to breathe new life into dancehall. What did you realize about your respective visions that led you to start working together?
Ras Kwame has been a staple in the U.K. Dancehall scene for over 20 years now. When I was a kid, I used to spend my summers in London and listen to him on BBC Radio, and now on his show on Capital XTRA. It makes sense, because you’ve got two guys on the opposite side of the world who are really passionate about the music, the culture and love all forms of dancehall, soca and afrobeats. The kind of unique collaborations that we are putting together are very difficult to do. It’s impossible to get everyone in the studio with me at the same time, but thankfully all of the artists have been great, and the success of the first two singles have caused even more artists to reach out to be apart of the album. So look out for a strong project with the Forward album.