Fall isn’t my favorite season (SUMMER is!) but I’ll be damned if Fall didn’t win for best colors.
Upcoming Summer Album, Double-Disc “El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo,” Coming Later This Summer
“The illusion of effortlessness is part of what makes them so cool, and they generate inspiring mega-wattage the way most people barely wake up. There was no need for the comic aggression, transparently defensive displays of wealth, or an authenticity that sounds a lot like sociopathy. They perform from a meaningful place and make it look good. Los Rakas is skill, just skill on a pocket of sunshine.” – Pop Matters
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24th, 2013: Coming out strong in advance of their two-disc summer album “El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo,” the first video off Raka Dun’s (“El Negrito Dun Dun”) side of the project, “No Tan Listo” drops on the eve of a nationwide tour with internationally renowned reggae group SOJA (dates here). The album will be released on Los Rakas’ label, Soy Raka.
“Standing strong like a lion,” Raka Dun (pronounced “Doon”) calls out to a world that “ain’t ready” for the duo’s fresh take on hip-hop, dancehall, pop and experimental music in both English and Spanish. The video features Los Rakas in their native Oakland, California with Raka Dun – alongside Raka Rich and the Raka family – giving us raw Raka lyricism, ushering a new era of American rap and introducing the #SoyRaka movement worldwide!
Los Rakas have been busy since their homegrown label Soy Raka released “Chancletas y Camisetas Bordada” hitting #1 on iTunes Reggaeton/Latin Hip-Hop chart in 2011. The Los Rakas logo – Raka Smiley – is now on a special-edition Puma sneaker available at West Coast chain “Shoe Palace.” The brand collaborated with Modelo Especial and Complex Magazine for a fan-driven contest called the “Blank Canvas Project.” Up & coming artists (including Joel Ortiz) designed special edition Puma’s and fans voted on their favorite designs, with Los Rakas winning the competition due to overwhelming fan support.
Besides being the first independent group to have their group logo on a major brand sneaker, the group has continued to put out a healthy dose of singles & videos to their rapidly growing network of international fans – called the “Raka Nation” – while building notoriety for their wildly energetic live shows. Making their Mexico debut in 2011 at Festival NRML and consequently at 2012’s Corona Capital Festival in Mexico City, Los Rakas have been expanding their movement to South America. The group has also played on national tours like Collie Buddz’s “Dark & Stormy Tour” in Fall 2012, while debut headlining in cities like Miami, Austin, DC, Boston and continuing to sell-out shows in Los Angeles and their native Bay Area.
The group’s most recent video, the “sexy and blunted” (Village Voice) “Bien Ribetiao,” garnered homepage placement on VEVO in Summer 2012. The song was off Raka Rich’s mixtape “El Flow Californiano: Mixtape Vol. 1.” Rich told AOL Spinner: “The style has never been done in Spanish, so we wanted to do it really well and visually have it rep all our styles being born in Panama and raised in The Bay.” A few months later, SPIN Magazine premiered the “evocative and immediate” collaboration with Caribbean clothing line RepJA – “Hablemos Del Amor” – a call to peace and ode to the young lives lost too soon like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Panamanian artist El Kid and others. Los Rakas cam be seen making a cameo in just released video “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, shot on a pirate ship in the Bay Area – the video premiered on MTV last week.
Los Rakas music has been featured recently in two episodes of FX’s ‘Sons of Anarchy‘ and HBO Latino’s ‘Sr. Ávila, 1ª Temporada.’
With “El Negrito Dun Dun & Ricardo,” the group presents a cohesive album in two discs exploring the sounds and textures of their bi-cultural twist on the globally urban Raka-sound. During a recent interview with MTV Iggy, when asked about the album’s was two discs, Raka Dun explained, “It was organic, we didn’t really plan it like that. We were each working on releasing solo projects. So we sat down and were like, ‘Let’s just release them at the same time.’‘”
On what to expect from the release, Raka Rich continued, “Dun’s side of the album is like a documentary. It’s a little more personal. The sound of the album is like dancehall reggae with hip-hop, experimental, with a little bit of jazz and soul. My side is called ‘Ricardo’ – it’s more about partying and nightlife. The sound of the CD is like Michael Jackson, ‘90s, uptempo music, feel-good stuff.”
To kick off the release of brand new music, Los Rakas will tour with SOJA across the US beginning in San Diego on Wednesday, April, 24th, traveling up through California to the Pacific Northwest. The tour continues midwest towards Chicago, with a pit-stops in Miami for the Latin Billboards and Austin for the Pachanga Latino Music Festival alongside Latin American greats like Intocable and the young electronic group out of Mexico, 3BallMTY – then back up to New York to play Webster Hall and ending in Boston on May 19th. This summer, the group will return to the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) where they won the “Discovery Artist” prize in 2010 – taking the stage at NYC’s most famous outdoor stage, Summerstage – alongside Tego Calderon.
TOUR DATES: www.losrakas.com/events
San Diego, Ca – Wed, April 24th – House of Blues – http://bit.ly/15nn688
Los Angeles, Ca – Fri, April 26th – Club Nokia – http://bit.ly/XlKBw2
San Francisco, Ca – Sat, April 27th – Warfield Theatre – http://bit.ly/17yL8cX
Eugene, OR – Sun, April 28th – McDonald Theater – http://bit.ly/10oF897
Seattle, WA – Tues, April 30th – Showbox SODO – http://bit.ly/ZahI4K
Boise, ID – Wed, May 1st – Knitting Factory Concert House – http://tktwb.tw/15pE0Tn
Salt Lake City, UT – Thurs, May 2nd – The Depot – http://bit.ly/10oFsoo
Fort Collins, CO – Fri, May 3rd – Hodi’s Halfnote – http://bit.ly/Z7Csem
Denver, CO – Sat, May 4th – Ogden Theatre – http://bit.ly/ZairD3
Omaha, NE – Tues, May 7th -The Waiting Room Lounge – http://bit.ly/13n85z8
Minneapolis, MN – Wed, May 8th – First Avenue – http://bit.ly/179lA7Q
Madison, WI – Thurs, May 9th – Capitol Theater – http://bit.ly/XdjBLZ
Chicago, IL – Fri, May 10th – House of Blues Chicago – http://bit.ly/ZEX0FF
Austin, TX – Sat, May 11th – Pachanga Latino Music Festival – http://bit.ly/ZjZF9c
New York, NY – Fri, May 17th – Webster Hall – http://bit.ly/YAL9Jo
Philadelphia, PA – Sat, May 18th – Electric Factory – http://bit.ly/ZyGhrz
Boston, MA – Sun, May 19th – House of Blues – http://bit.ly/WNMFcd
Petaluma, CA – Fri, May 31st – Mystic Theatre – http://ticketf.ly/105bjDj
To book Los Rakas: Thomas@IneffableMusic.com
ABOUT LOS RAKAS:
Los Rakas is comprised of cousins Raka Rich & Raka Dun, pioneering Panamanians by way of the Bay Area on the frontier of a new Latin urban sound. Known for their fresh mix of Hip-Hop, Plena, Reggae and Dancehall music with both Spanish and English lyricism, Los Rakas represent the cutting edge of Pan-American flows. Taking their name from the Panamanian word “Rakataka” – a negative slur used to describe someone from the ghetto – Los Rakas have set out to both inspire fellow “Rakas” by empowering them, and to become successful despite their circumstances, turning the current Latin hip-hop world on its head. Los Rakas make music born of migration and tradition, critique and celebration, joy and pain. They make New World music. American music. Panamanian Jamaican Californian music. Music for b-boys and rude girls, dancers and romancers, mainlanders and islanders and isthmus folk alike, which continues to bubble one “Raka” at a time.
By Mark Naison
Professor of History, Fordham University
Jan. 30, 2013
It’s the mid 1950’s. Howie Evans, a 15 yearold up-and-coming basketball and track star, is shooting hoops in the night center at Public School #99 in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, which like most elementary school gymnasiums in New York City, was kept open five nights a week from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
Howie’s friends rush into the gym. Their mostly Puerto Rican gang, of which Howie is a member, is having a rumble with a much feared Black gang called the “Slicksters.” The head of the night center,Vincent Tibbs, a powerfully built African American teacher who was a friend to many young people in the neighborhood, overheard what was going on and walked slowly over to the door of the gym. When Howie tried to rush out, Mr Tibbs stood in front of the door and said “I’m not letting you leave here. You have a future. You’re not going to die in the street.”
Howie, who told me this story during an oral history interview I did with him, screamed and cried. But Mr. Tibbs, who had the strength and appearance of a weightlifter, wouldn’t move. Howie ended up missing the rumble. It is well he did because two young men died that night, not something that often happened in a time before guns were common weapons on the streets of New York. And Mr Tibbs was right., Howie did have a great future. He went on to become a teacher, a young center director, a college basketball coach (which is how I met him) and the sports writer for the Amsterdam News, a position he holds to this day.
But the story is not just about Howie, it’s about the incredible after school and night centers that were a fixture of every single public school in New York City until they were closed down during the NYC fiscal crisis of the 1970’s. These centers ( I attended one religiously in Brooklyn) had basketball and Nok-hockey, arts and crafts and music programs, and held tournaments and dances.
Some of them, like the P.S. 99 Center, held talent shows which spawned some of New York City’s great doo-wop and Latin music acts. But all of them had teachers like Mr. Tibbs who provided supervision, skill instruction, mentoring, and sometimes life saving advice to two generations of young men and women who attended the city’s public schools, a good many of whom lived in tough working class neighborhoods like Morrisania.
Now let’s segue to Chicago, where young people are killing one another at an alarming rate. The Schools in that city are in upheaval; many have been closed, some are faced with closing, teachers and students are being told that the fate of the schools they are at depend on how well students score on standardized tests; some of which have been installed at the expense of arts and music and sports programs in the schools. Those in charge of education, locally and nationally, think these strategies will improve educational achievement.
But what happens in these schools after regular school hours finish? Do they offer safe zones for young people in Chicago’s working class and poor neighborhoods? Do they have arts and sports programs that will attract young people off the streets? Do they have teacher mentors like Mr. Tibbs who will take a personal interest in tough young men and women and place their own bodies between them and the prospect of death through gang violence?
If the answer is no, that these schools are largely empty once classes end, and they do little or anything to attract young people in, maybe it’s time to start rethinking current school programs. Wouldn’t it be better to have a moratorium on all policies- like school closings- which destabilize neighborhoods- and invest in turning schools into round the clock community centers the way they were in NYC when Howie Evans was growing up?
And if the problem is money, how about taking the money currently spent on testing and assessment, and using it to create after school programs where caring adults offer activities that build on young people’s talents and creativity?
But to do this, we have to rethink the roles school play in neighborhoods like the Bronx’s Morrisania and Chicago’s Humbolt Park, and view them, not primarily as places to train and discipline a future labor force, but as places which strengthen communities and nurture young people into become community minded citizens. But to do that, we have to also treat teachers differently, respecting those who have made teaching a lifetime profession and who are committed to nurturing and mentoring young people even in the most challenging circumstances.
If we don’t do that kind of reconfiguration of our thinking, and ultimately, our policies, we are likely to mourning a lot more young people killed by their peers, and not just in Chicago.
My first time at the Latin Alternative Music Conference was enlightening.
I’ve always liked music that falls into this category, and it’s interesting to see it evolve. Where years ago this conference would have filled with Rock en español, this year’s artists encompass a variety of genres: electronic, indie pop and so on. NYC-based writer Marlon Bishop explains more about that here.
And, as the Associated Press’ Laura Wides Munoz explains in this piece, “alternative Latin musicians, some of whom have fan bases back home, are finding new audiences in the United States thanks in part to that online scene and the growth of second generation Latino audiences.” This only points to more growth in this area.
The panel discussions were enlightening. Calle 13’s Residente and Visitante discussed politics, religion and how Latin America on a whole inspires their music. They weren’t shy about throwing digs at tropical, urban radio stations, who play “music with botox” and the same artists, over and over again.
The LAMC press room was a flurry of activity on day one, with artists from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama via Oakland and more chatted with journalists from all over. It was nice to see so many Latin American focused outlets in one place, especially since many of them no longer limit their interviews to Spanish-language only, something I find to be challenging when pitching Outernational.
The radio panel, featuring my Fordham colleague Rita Houston from WFUV, was informative and I loved that during the audience Q & A, artists from the States, Costa Rica, and Colombia asked how to overcome the radio hurdle. Most of the experts agreed: find your niche, send your music to college radio and just get your music out there to the people any which way you can.
(Above: Residente & Visitante of Calle 13, Tego Calderon, Raka Dun and Raka Rich of Los Rakas and Miles Solay & Leo Mintek of Outernational. All pics by me.)
The four-day conference continued today with panel discussions on how to make that number one hit and a free concert by Calle 13 and Ana Tijoux for Celebrate Brooklyn! this evening at the Prospect Park bandshell.
I’ll have a couple of posts about LAMC coming out soon in Sounds and Colours so stay tuned.