#festivalseason - Ragslandia: Rifflandia gets groovier than ever.

Every year in Victoria, Rifflandia is the highlight of the music calendar. Bringing hundreds of artists from different genres and aesthetics, Rifflandia has established itself as a celebration of music like nothing else in the area. This year's Rifflandia had me excited like past years haven't. I'm all about groove and this year the pool was deep, overflowing with hip-hop and electronic tastiness I'm constantly on the lookout for. Here are just a few of the highlights I was lucky enough to get into my ears this year.

Jurassic 5, De La Soul and the importance of world-class Djs.

Part of the delay on the release of this piece has been the need to let things lay fallow in my mind for a bit, to see how they stick with me when I’m no longer a prisoner of the moment. Since some of the Rifflandia smoke has cleared from my mind, I can still say that Jurassic 5’s Rifflandia set was one of the finest sets of music I’ve ever seen. I assume this is the standard festival set they’ve been playing since their reunion a couple of summers ago, and why would it be anything different? Everything the group did was so well-done, so on point. “Concrete Schoolyard” (Complete with kazoo interlude), “Freedom,” “Jurass Finish First,” “Quality Control,” the whole set was hit after hit. Their Four-MCs-As-One, synchronized rap thing was as fresh as ever – as lively and crisp as any of the songs’ recorded counterparts.

Even more impressive than the four MCs and their interchangeable raps were the beats, the music, delivered with the utmost imagination and dexterity by two of the great DJs in hip-hop, DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist. DJ desk, turntable-guitar, vest of music (I don’t know a better way to describe this)...This wasn’t just two DJs laying beats for rappers. The show wouldn’t have worked the same without them.

A similar thing happened a couple of nights before when De La Soul took the stage at the Phillips Backyard stage. Pos and Dave could get an crowd amped on their own, for sure, but the amount of attention Maseo commands behind the decks while his cohorts are doing their thing out front is kind of staggering. Throughout the trio’s stellar set, Maseo proved once again that he’s a real director of the party, the man all the energy flows through. Dude can rap something nice too. I was more than thrilled when he stepped out from behind the wheels to take Redman’s place during “Oooh,” a personal favourite of mine. It’s just further proof as to how important the DJ is the landscape of hip-hop, even when you have world class MCs there rock the party.

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5 Questions with Rags #31 - DJ Roast Beatz

Ghetto Funk was my way into the vast world of electronic music. A few years in and I’m still sold on the easy grooving sounds that the label/genre has spawned. You can imagine my giddiness when the Ghetto Funk Podcast started showing up on their soundcloud page early last year. In this case, a podcast worked like it was supposed to and I sought out the maker of the ‘cast. Well, the man behind that wonderful funky document is DJ Roast Beatz and man, this guy knows what’s up. Steeped in hip-hop goodness, Roast Beatz’ mixes and tracks reside in that lovely middle-ground that all party-goers can agree on. It’s taken nearly a year for this little chat to see the light of day, but now, I present to you dear friends, DJ ROAST BEATZ.

“The only thing I’d say about any music is just keep it funky, with meaning. That’s what makes us dance, nod our heads, learn things about life, come to terms with things and sing the tune the next day. Whether your using a drum kit or a drum machine, synth or trumpet, if it’s funky people will get down to it.”

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Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money? Fav track? Does it still hold up?

With my own money? Either a Jacko album or 3 Feet High and Rising. They were both on tape. My first vinyl was Fugees’ The Score. Favourite track is a tough one. I haven’t bumped much Jacko lately, would either be “Smooth Criminal” or “Bille Jean.” These days I’m more of a Jackson 5 kind of guy! 3 Feet High and Rising, is too hard to pick. De La had a massive impact on my life, especially De La Soul is Dead. That album got me through some really hard times as a kid. I’ve only just started to grasp the albums importance in my life as I’ve got older and faced a lot of shit from the past. 

Favourite from 3 Feet though? Either “Buddy,” “Change in Speak,” “Eye know” or “Say No Go.” “Buddy” is more for the remix, “Change in Speak” for the Cymande sample. “Eye Know” always reminds me of Daewon songs skate section in World Industries New World order. And “Say No Go” is just an absolute banger! I still play all the De La songs regularly in my sets.

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I come out of a long slumber.

Hey friends.  It's been too long since I've been posting all my real talk and dope-ass interviews here. But really, I've been quite busy. So this is just a quick little update to let you know what I've been up to.

Last weekend was the Phillip's Backyard Weekender here in Victoria and I was there doing coverage for Exclaim!. If you weren't there you should read up on the shows there, highlighted by De La Soul completely destroying. But I shouldn't be surprised, it's how they do.

Night 1 with Cat Empire, the Dirty Heads and the Expendables

Night 2 with De La Soul, Buck 65 and SonReal 

The week before that was the Victoria Ska Festival  , which remains, hands down, the best week of music here in Victoria each year. It's just a ton of fun, which is always great because I don't really like ska music. Well, ska revival music. But the lineup is always diverse and lots of fun. The organizers are also great people who just love music. Sure, there's money involved, but it's a whole lot more love. I've worked pretty closely with the Ska Society over the last couple of years doing interviews in the run-up to the festival and reviews during the festival. This year was no different. Here is a roundup of ALL my Ska Fest-related pieces that have kept me away from you lovely people.

Interview piece with Logan Bell from Katchafire. 

Interview piece with Dub FX. 

Interview piece with Kris Wood of Blackberry Wood. 

My Ska-Fest listening primer. 

Days 1 and 2 of Ska Fest with Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, Blackberry Wood and the Revivers. 

Days 2 and 3 of Ska Fest with Blitz the Ambassador, Tanya Stephens, Dope Soda and David Hillyard's Rocksteady 7.
Much respect to Yasiin Bey. Headliner at the 14th annual Victoria Ska Fest. Photo by me.

Much respect to Yasiin Bey. Headliner at the 14th annual Victoria Ska Fest. Photo by me.

The final day of Ska Fest with Yasiin Bey (Formerly Mos Def) and Dub FX. Also, why I love Ska Fest so much.

And just a couple of weeks before that was the Victoria Jazz Fest, always a stellar time. I only did one interview leading up to it, but it was a real doozy. I also did media coverage for my home publication, the Martlet.

Interview piece with soulman Lee Fields. 

Review of Five Alarm Funk's set at Centennial Square. 

Review of Vieux Farka Touré at Sugar Nightclub. 

Review of David Gray Infinity Quartet feat. Macy Gray.  

I've also done up a couple of reviews for LyfStyl Music. Big ups to them for giving me another place to talk music. There's never enough space.

My review of Kanye West's Yeezus .  (In retrospect I would like to re-rate this record at like a 6.5 or maybe 7.)

Review of the Uncluded's Hokey Fright .

Same props and respect for the Coastal Spectator. The place I got my first paid article published. I've been doing some reviews around town for them as well. Much respect, Andrea and Lynne. 

 Review of Eddie Spaghetti's sweet new record, The Value of Nothing .

 Review of Victoria all-girl rock band White Hot Jet's debut performance.

Review of Blackberry Wood at Logan's Pub.  

So there it is. When it's all laid out in front of me it's actually kind of amazing how much I've been doing lately. But it's not enough. I love writing and I love being forced to do it.  There's more on the way, as always, so stay tuned. And as always, if you know of some awesome music that needs my attention, please leave a comment or drop me a line.  

Much respect,

Rags

Lee Fields at Victoria Jazz Fest. Taken by  Kim Jay  with my camera.  

Lee Fields at Victoria Jazz Fest. Taken by Kim Jay with my camera.