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Rakka 'n' Roll

Futurist dancehall from Florida has us skanking

Dancehall reggae is known for its macho posturing and recycled beats. So when you hear a track fusing the funky number song from Sesame Street with heavy bass, beats and ragga chat, you're gonna sit up and take notice. And when you hear elements of Josh Wink's acid techno in the mix, it's really gonna flip your wig.

Of course, this is exactly what South Rakkas Crew have done on their debut album, 'The Mix Up', out now on Diplo's Mad Decent label.

A production outfit based in Orlando, Florida, the varied backgrounds of Dennis 'Dow Jones' Shaw and Alex 'Alex G' Greggs have meant that their musical tastes are Catholic, to say the least.

"I'm actually Jamaican but I moved to Canada when I was six, and growing up there, dancehall and reggae music were very much part of my life," revealed Shaw.

"Alex is American, but he was brought up in Canada as well. In the US it's all about hip-hop, but in Canada dancehall was as important as hip-hop."

Having bust onto the Jamaican dancehall scene with the 'Clappas' rhythm in 2003, their electronic, twisted take on the genre was a breath of fresh air, and they had vocalists like Capleton, Mr. Vegas and Cecile queuing up to 'version' their subsequent run of highly original rhythm tracks, including 'Red Alert!' and 'Chinzuki'.

By now people outside the dancehall heads were listening, and both M.I.A. and Lily Allen snaffled their remix talents to lick versions of 'Galang' and 'LDN'.

Through the M.I.A. connection, they hooked up with Diplo, who signed them to his label Mad Decent for 'The Mix Up', and their association with the eclectic beat fiend has allowed the South Rakkas Crew to really let their ideas to run riot.

Featuring hot Jamaican ragga toasters like New Kidz and Geefus, 'Hotter Than Them' re-jigs the acid line from 'Higher State of Consciousness' on a slow roll to electric effect; 'Mad Again' uses a little of the Inner City 'Big Fun' groove, coming on like Detroit cyber-ragga; and 'Under Mi Sensi' gives the classic digital reggae cut a new lease of funked-up hip-hop life.

"We had to come with something different," Shaw asserted. "When we knew we were gonna put something out on Diplo's label, we knew we had the freedom to do what we wanted to do. The sound that we make is influenced by a lot of the stuff that came out of the UK, the jungle sound, and at one time I was into house music, I was into hip-hop, I was a little B-boy, I was into the whole reggae movement. The Top 40, all the records that are played on the radio, rock music, too."

What's up with the whole Sesame Street connection, though?

"Sesame Street? I used to love that number song when I was a kid!"

South Rakkas Crew are on some next level shit - get rakkin'.