Two years ago, the Urban Nomad opening was quite literally a mind-blowing party with visual artist Danny Perez blasting four screens of trippy graphics and indie darlings Gang Gang Dance providing the soundtrack. Last year’s Urban Nomad upped the ante when Trippple Nippples stripped off their clothes to reveal appendages covered in flesh-colored duct tape.
So how does Urban Nomad entertain the hoi polloi this year? “Taiwan’s scene is ready for the really weird and it can be successful,” said David Frazier, one of the organizers of Urban Nomad. “They trust us to pick good acts that don’t have to be super famous.”
Topping the list of performers — which includes Physical Chemical Brother, Mop of Head, Juicy Juicy Lero, DJ Noodles, Pro Res and (full disclosure) myself — is South Rakkas Crew, led by Dennis “D-Rakkas” Shaw.
D-Rakkas is a Jamaica-born, Canada-raised producer and DJ who plays a mix of rugged dancehall, shameless pop, hipster electro bangers and rudeboy dubstep. He had his first taste of music under his own roof. “I grew up mostly just outside of Toronto in a place called Mississauga,” D-Rakkas said in an e-mail interview with the Taipei Times. “My father was into music so he had his sound system in the house with two turntables and big speakers. When I was about 13, I started hanging out with some people that really introduced me to hip-hop and break dancing, and they used to deejay local parties. It all fascinated me. This is when I started having an appreciation for my father’s love of music.”
After going to college to study audio engineering and artist management, D-Rakkas stopped deejaying altogether and focused mainly on the production and business side of things. “My intention wasn’t for South Rakkas to be a live sound,” D-Rakkas said. “Promoters from all over the world would email and call me to play at events and I would tell them we are producers, not DJs. I only got back into it in 2008 and 2009 after getting so many requests to tour South Rakkas.”
After remixing M.I.A.’s Galang, D-Rakkas met Mad Decent’s head honcho, Diplo. “He kept in touch after that meeting and said he wanted to put something out of ours,” D-Rakkas said. “Diplo said there were a lot of DJs in his market that loved what we were doing, but we weren’t familiar with him or his company at the time because it was still in its infancy. It was a great move linking with him because it enabled us to go further outside the box of riddim albums we were doing that were mostly being marked to the reggae and dancehall community and it really opened us up to a whole new fan base.”
When producing tracks now, D-Rakkas wants to make something he can feel. “I try not to force music,” he said. “I find that when I just make it happen I get the best results. Different things can be the catalyst but usually something inspires me, could be something on TV, a movie, a dream, other music or just a sound or instrument. Then, I start and a lot of the time it feels like the songs writes itself. Usually it’s good for me when I want to dance to it.”
Right now, South Rakkas has a number one song on the Beatport Glitch Hop charts, Bouncy Bouncy, which is odd considering that D-Rakkas rarely plays that style of music. “Stickybuds said he wanted to work on a project with me. I’m always down for trying new things. It’s a straight fusion of what he does and what I do,” said D-Rakkas. “I have a cooking theory that relates to this: Almost any dish you add some Jamaican seasoning to is gonna turn out great.”