The Sugar Hill Gang introduced the masses to Rap music by way of Rappers Delight in 1979. It didnt matter that Grandmaster Caz penned Big Bank Hanks lyrics, or that the crew was based out of New Jersey. In time, more certified emcees like Busy Bee and Melle Mel would emerge to let audiences decide for themselves.
Perhaps this is what is happening in the world of Soca music right now. For a couple of years now, Americans have learned about the Trinidadian music style through artists removed from the island and original culture. KMC recently signed a deal with the reputable indie label Sequence Records in the States, and intends to change that pattern.
With his Beenie Man assisted single, Soul on Fire, KMC is already taking New York by storm. He is getting endorsements from tastemaker DJs and booking shows like crazy. If you like Soca, AllHipHop.com Alternatives is giving you a nice glimpse at a purist making his climb.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Youre Trinny, but I know you spend a great deal of time in Brooklyn. How do you tie in that American community into your music?
KMC: The Caribbean people of Brooklyn and New York, they have been following my music for like eight years now. Im all over Brooklyn like six, seven, eight times a year to perform. Brooklyn knows what were doing. So as I get a record deal on the States side, were just trying to take it to that different level. Weve got to market it to the Hip-Hop market, ya know?
AHHA: Are you a Hip-Hop fan yourself, to the point where youre capable of cracking that market?
KMC: Definitely, man. Because we have some Hip-Hop remixes of the songs.
AHHA: Yeah, theres the Gorilla Tek remix of Soul on Fire, plus youre freestyling over Lil Jon too I see.
KMC: Yeah. The Gorilla Tek remix is wicked! We listen to Hip-Hop, ya know.
AHHA: So talk to me about these concerts on the water youre doing in New York.
KMC: Its a Soca boat ride. Its about fun. Well do a trip up the Hudson River. [Then] well do a full boat ride in the upcoming summer.
AHHA: So theres a real cult following up here. Wow.
KMC: People been lovin Soca music real hard right now. All different types of people are comin out to listen to the Soca.
AHHA: What makes your show worth coming to for people who havent heard the music yet or whatever?
KMC: My live show is very high-energy show. Especially when Im performing with my band, which I dont do on my boat ride shows. Those are more chill. We go all out. I can do the slow cruise, and the fast, hype Soca too.
AHHA: How much of your audience is Trinny, looking for that representation?
KMC: I would say about 35% of the crowd. Theres people from all over people from Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua.
AHHA: But youre the first Soca artist were exposed to, that is from the birthplace of the music, in Trinidad. Isnt that a big deal in itself?
KMC: Yeah, definitely. Soca music came from Trinidad and Tobago. It was invented around 1971. It came from Calypso [music]. Theyre very supportive. Im just looking for the song [Soul on Fire], with the remixes, to blow up. Everything will be all right.
AHHA: We as Americans were mainly exposed to Soca by way of Rupee and Kevin Lyttle. How do people in Trinidad feel about that, in your eyes?
KMC: Well, Rupee and Kevin Lyttle, they were the two Soca artists to blow up. As I look at it, thats a good thing for the music. Some people are kinda jealous of that, or think that because theyre not from Trinidad, that [audiences] arent really doing their homework. Its not easy to get signed, ya understand? I understand that. I [study the true pioneers of Soca music]. I accept [whoever is hot], but its up to whoever wants to further Soca in the tradition of its origin.
AHHA: We go through that in Hip-Hop all the time. Some of the highest selling artists arent connected to the roots of the culture. That may be why few last long.
KMC: Definitely. Thats like me. I know to incorporate Dancehall into my music, Hip-Hop into my music, all different types of music because I produce myself.
AHHA: Do you do your production in the States or back home?
KMC: Back home. Sometimes I get the lyrics, sometimes I get the track [first].
AHHA: Youve put out 16 singles in eight years. That has to be a tough way to make a living. At least in Hip-Hop, today thats very implausible.
KMC: At times its very difficult. But for the love of the music, I just keep doing it. I think this single will do very well. When Sequence Records signed me, they came to Trinidad. That means they must really love it. I havent had any negative feedback yet. People really like it. Hip-Hop DJs like Mister Cee called it a smash record. Its a trip.
AHHA: Why do so many new artists, yourself included, come onto the scene with Beenie Man?
KMC: Beenie Man is an artist Ive known for a long time. We were [performing in the same places]. Ive realized that this man is the boss of Dancehall. I wanted to be with the biggest and baddest. In Soca music, I feel like I am the baddest right now.
AHHA: The big question might very well be, is Soul on Fire specifically written about someone?
KMC: Not really. But the song came about when I asked my girl to iron my shirt for me. As a joke, she said no. I was just looking at her, and the idea just came to me.
AHHA: When she heard the final product, what was the reaction?
KMC: She is always very supportive of everything. When Im away, she always calls, writes.
AHHA: Have you been together a long time?
KMC: Six years. She was with me like two years after I became a Soca artist. Long time, for real!
AHHA: Looking ahead, are you trying to go beyond singles and into bigger albums?
KMC: Im working on a four-album deal. Right now, Im working on the first album [in the deal].