Here's Blacklight Riddim, a new instrumental from producer, Mixpak Records boss, and Popcaan co-conspirator Dre Skull. In four new versions, it's vocalized by dancehall A-team QQ, Spice, Konshens, and Tifa.
Below the stream, Dre Skull opens up about the creative hotbed he's nurturing in Greenpoint, and the music FADER cover star Popcaan has on the way (thank god). For more Mixpak Sound, catch Dre and Tifa live this weekend—for free!—in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park as part of New York's RBMA.
Will there be new Popcaan music this year? In February, Mixpak went down to Kingston and started recording the next Popcaan album. It was great to link up with Popcaan and get back in the studio. Hopefully we'll have a new single to share later this year.
Will he be able to play shows in the US? Popcaan travels outside of Jamaica for gigs regularly but unfortunately, so far, he hasn't been able to come to the US. We definitely hope that will change.
What was your goal for Blacklight? I built Blacklight riddim a number of years back and recorded Tifa's "Rock My Body" on it, thinking it would be a Mixpak single. Before I released it, RCA heard the track and wanted to use it for Shakira, with their idea being to keep the hook and rework the verses. So for about a year or so it was on hold with them. They got a number of different writers, from Angela Hunte to Verse Simmonds, to write verses with Shakira in mind. In the end, Shakira went in a very different direction and it wasn't used. Once [RCA] passed on it, I started playing with the track and reworking the instrumental a bit and decided to release it as a proper riddim, so I took it to Kingston this past February and got some new voicings.
How'd you choose the vocalists? It always starts with who I'm inspired by and who I think will bring something to the riddim. From there it's a question of logistics and making sure the recording happens, which is often the hardest part. I recorded with Konshens in 2010 on my first trip to Kingston. We never released that song, but I have been a fan for a long time and thought he could do something strong with this dembow vibe. Tifa was the person who really jumped out as a good fit originally. I love Spice as well, and thought she would bring the right energy. With QQ it was a bit more of the circumstances of working in Kingston and being fortunate. I'm a big fan of his, but it was the engineer at Big Yard, Kamal, who recommended we bring him in on this project. QQ walked into the studio and started writing and recording in nearly one motion. And since then, he's come through the Mixpak Studios.
You opened Mixpak Studios this year, in Brooklyn. How are things going? We decided to build Mixpak Studios to have our own HQ where we can work on music day and night. The music business is always changing and it's a strange time for both artists and labels. Our response to the weirdness is to double down on the music.
Though it's only been open for a few months, we've already had an amazing amount of people in the dancehall scene come through. Jabba from Massive B/Hot 97, Ward 21's Suku, QQ, and Creep Chromatic, among others. It's been amazing to be able to host international artists in New York and give them a space to work. We had Palmistry in for two weeks in January, working on his next Mixpak release, and currently Murlo is in New York working on his next project. On any given night, you can find me or Jubilee, or someone else in the Mixpak family, working. We do rent out the rooms selectively—L-Vis 1990 has locked out the B Room for the month of May. Overall, just to have all these artists working here is keeping us excited and inspired, and it's already facilitating unexpected collaborations. That alone feels like the vision is beginning to blossom, and I'm really excited to see it keep growing.
What should I queue up for summer? I'd recommend starting with Dexta Daps "7Eleven," Vybz Kartel "Credit Alone Done," and then checking Happy Hour Riddim.