Friday, September 5, 2008

Exterminate. Exterminate.

Human nature tends to dictate the need to constantly label and pigeon-hole, well, everything. Is it some sub-conscious desire for complete order? Fear of anarchy? Maybe we just want total control? (I think the last one is pretty accurate actually). Music suffers from this compulsion more than most, more often than not to give the listeners some kind of identity. “Breaking music apart into genres makes sense if you're in high school, but I'm a grown ass man” says MC Dälek (pronounced ‘dy-a-lek’), “I listen to what I like and I don't care what people call it.”

 Ten years ago, Dälek (comprising of MC Dälek and DJ Oktopus) released their debut album 'Negro Necro Nekros' and have been pushing the boundaries of Hip Hop ever since. By embracing many musical genres and incorporating them into their sound, the New Jersey two-piece have become as well known for playing with experimental metal acts, such as Isis and The Melvins, as much as they have touring with Hip Hop legends Prince Paul and De La Soul. “I definitely like playing to people that wouldn't necessarily come to our shows” says Dälek on a phone line from NJ, “there's definitely an appeal to walking into enemy territory and converting some people.” Surely such involvement with the 'Rock' crowd has sparked criticism from those who consider themselves Hip Hop purists? “It's funny man, a lot of old school heads that I grew up admiring, that I've been lucky enough to play shows with or to tour with, have completely supported what we do. Some have said to me in conversation that they're proud of the fact that we're pushing the envelope and doing this 'out there' stuff.” So you get no criticism then? “Nah” he laughs, “We get criticised by everyone.”

 One fact that will usually come up in a conversation regarding Dälek is their label; Mike Patton's Ipecac records. Never one to shy away from inter-genre incest, it seems the two are a perfect match. “Regardless of what genre of music they release they are an artist-friendly label; we were just concerned about finding a place where we wouldn't be stifled artistically. We've been there for six years now and it's our home, we have no plans on going anywhere.”

It does seem strange to me that a Hip Hop act so reknowned for a truly individual spirit and willingness to create “out-there stuff”, whether embraced by the Hip Hop community or not, are celebrated more for their actions outside of Hip Hop circles, than for their actions within. It seems Dälek himself is equally baffled by the skewed focus on the 'band' -

“Honestly, I think that although our sounds may be different to what people are used to, the ideology behind it all is very Hip Hop. If you look at when Hip Hop started, it started with that DJ mentality of digging through crates and listening to all types of music, picking bits of pieces from everything and making it your own. I think because of that our music has influences from all different types of genres. I mean if you listen to Hip Hop in its early stages it was the same thing. If you listen to Afrika Bambaata, he has Kraftwerk samples; If you listen to KRS-One he used a 'Smoke On The Water' sample. Rock and Hip Hop isn't a new thing, you know what I mean?”

Photo: Herve Baudat

'Rock' fans aren't always the most open-minded of people either, in fact, there are many people who use the music they’re into to define themselves as people, and are totally unaccepting of other genres. Admittedly it seems people's music taste in general is becoming more eclectic; Watching Dizzee Rascal make a field full of young 'Rock' kids very happy at this year’s Reading Festival, I couldn’t help but think that ten years ago he would have been bottled off stage. Dälek seems to relish the destruction when these barriers between genres fall down – “There’s always the people that swear they hate Hip Hop and then after we play they're into what we do. I always tell them “I'm sorry but now you actually like a Hip Hop group. I don't know how to break it to you – I know we sound different but don't get it twisted, it’s still Hip Hop” 

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