While you may have read about Friday night’s NY Tropical at Glasslands in Williamsburg featuring some of the Dutty Artz crew, we actually went out and walked in to Matt Shadetek playing office (and UK) favorite, Kyla’s “Do You Mind?” before 77Klash got up on stage in white pants and blazer and ripped it. If you weren’t there, you should download Shadetek’s NY Tropical mix to get an inkling of what you missed. To fill in the info gaps, check Julianne Shepherd’s feature on Dutty Artz from FADER 61 after the jump.
Encyclopedic, scholarly and wielding deep faith in riddim and vibes—the alchemy of the Brooklyn-based Dutty Artz crew is completely mystical and slightly awe-inspiring. Its main proprietors, the power trio of DJ/producers Jace Clayton aka DJ/Rupture, Matt Schell aka Matt Shadetek, and Roberto Fernandez aka Geko Jones, are dudes preeminently known for soliciting and disseminating the globe’s bangingest dancehall, dubstep, and cumbia beats. They have explored metropolises, townships and favelas to seek out music in its indigenous state and found likeminded friends in Brazil’s Maga Bo, Montreal’s Ghislain Poirier, and Cape Town’s African Dope Records crew, and when they can’t get to the most outward of dance music’s niches themselves, they have a gang of colleagues to carry the load. When a friend recently traveled to Distrito Federal in Mexico City, Jones begged him to bring back whatever wild music he could find. Thus, when you Google “tribal guarachero,” duttyartz.com is the only non-Spanish blog that results. They are archaeologists scouring the globe’s nooks and crannies with the curiosity of scientists, not conquistadors. They are so passionate about the beat, and generous with their knowledge of it, you almost don’t know where to begin the discussion.
That is, until you realize Dutty Artz is essentially a story about Brooklyn. One windy evening in February, Rupture and Shadetek converge in a warm living room on a red corduroy couch in the heart of Sunset Park. It’s a neighborhood of around 120,000 where Latinos number over half and many are foreign-born—from Mexico, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Honduras. Rupture’s apartment sits just up the block from a music store advertising cumbia CDs with a neon “Musica y Sonido” sign gleaming in its window. Clearly, he didn’t move here by accident—apart from releasing an excellent mixtape of spry blends entitled K-K-Kumbia and starting a blog called La Congona New Cumbia, he has written extensively about the genre for this magazine and elsewhere. I tease him about the proximity of the cumbia mixtape shop and he nods and says, “There are a bunch more down the street.” Judging by the amount of cumbia I saw in his apartment, he might be their supplier.
Dutty Artz began in theory a few years ago as a friend venture—a loose idea of a collective and label that was the result of Rupture and Shadetek sending each other lengthy email diatribes about music after meeting on the global DJ circuit. When each returned to New York after living in Berlin and Barcelona, they settled in Brooklyn and set about turning Dutty Artz into a real venture. “We’d been living and working in Europe and made music like grime and dubstep, but we thought, Well, let’s make it happen here,” says Rupture. The pair met Jones in 2007 at Dub War, his “abstract digital ragga vibes” DJ night, and began absorbing the Latin tropical sounds he played in his sets. But it was only after the bazonkers “Brooklyn Anthem,” Shadetek’s grime-y ragga track for Jahdan Blakkamoore and 77Klash, blew up in the borough that they realized the music they’d been playing around the world resonated just as well within Brooklyn’s diasporic immigrant communities. “I always think about Kool Herc coming from Jamaica,” says Shadetek. “Nobody liked reggae in the Bronx, so he started playing soul and disco and having local people rap over his set. For me it’s kinda like that. Nobody really wants to hear exactly what I was playing in Europe here, but if I’m bending in reggae and other [genres], it makes a new idea.”
Shadetek’s vision of a new type of Euro-reggae utopia is realized on Dutty Artz’s latest release, Buzzrock Warrior, by their close friend Jahdan Blakkamoore. Buzzrock is a wobbly, world-cognizant take on Caribbean-rooted dance music and clacky digital cumbia that possesses all of dubstep’s buzzy bass lines but none of its conventions, with a cosmopolitan elegance provided by Blakkamoore’s gorgeous tenor and meticulous rapidfire chatting skills. It was recorded on a laptop in Jones’ makeshift basement studio in Sunset Park with pieces of foam hung from the ceiling for the booth. The process was collaborative—Rupture, Shadetek, Jones and Blakkamore chose the tracks that made the album Secret Santa-style, writing the names of their favorites on pieces of paper and eliminating them one by one through healthy debate. “[Our philosophy] is that we do it ourselves,” says Jones. “We try and spend very little, and get as much done as possible. Everybody has their strengths. It’s a cool little Voltron unit.”
The red couch nerd-out we’re having in Rupture’s living room ends when Shadetek and Rupture leave to join Jones in Bed-Stuy for their NY Tropical party. When I arrive, Jones’s two decks are set up on cardtables and the place is popping off. Technically we’re in a venue, but it is indisputably a dank basement. And though it’s freezing outside, the leafy drums of the Latin sounds Jones is playing (and the fact that my glasses fog up when I walk in) is utterly transportive. The crowd is a cross-section of locals, Latinos, Jamaicans and everything in between. It’s dimly lit and it feels like the only place in the world.