The Rascalz’s Red1, Fit, and DJ Kemo have been the stuff of legend since their 1993 debut Really Livin. Over the past thirteen years and five albums, the critically acclaimed Van City crew has helped pioneer Canadian hip-hop. In the process, they have garnered numerous MuchMusic Video Awards, Urban Music Awards, certified Gold records, No. 1 singles on MuchMusic, and Juno Awards (they famously declined a Juno in 1998 to protest the show’s policy, which excluded urban music from the televised broadcast). With their “Northern Touch” anthem, the group united the country’s top talent—including Kardinal, Choclair, Thrust, and Checkmate— propelling hip-hop to the forefront of mainstream culture.
The Rascalz’s community building initiatives are not just limited to music. In 2000, the group became involved with War Child (http://www.warchild.ca/)—a non-profit organization that assists children affected by war—and traveled to Sierra Leone to bear witness to the conditions there.
Known for innovative beats (courtesy of resident producer DJ Kemo), fresh styles, varied subject matter, and a strong presence in Canadian hip-hop, The Rascalz’s name has become synonymous with ground-breaking music.
And now Rascalz member Red 1 is breaking some ground of his own. The Van City MC is poised to drop his much-anticipated solo debut on his own recently founded Killawatt Records, to be distributed by Sony/BMG. He hopes that his Vancouver-based label will expose emerging talent of all genres, from across the country and abroad.
“This project is giving me a new hunger,” the rapper explains.
“It’s a new focus, and a new vision.”
Killawatt’s premier release is Red1’s solo debut, titled Beg For Nothing. The disc gets its name from the emcee-turned-CEO’s motto for dealing with the Canadian music industry.
“The hip-hop community in Canada has always had to beg,” he points out. “We’ve had to fight to get on, to get record deals, to get radio play. I don’t think we are really taken seriously. But we have been putting in work and making songs as good any artist. We tour around the world, and we represent hard for Canada. We’re not begging for anything, we are out here grinding and working our asses off.”
This sense of determination infuses the entire project, burning the tracks with intensity. And while Beg For Nothing channels Red’s rebellious drive, it also highlights his many other sides. At turns playful, serene, and melancholic, the album’s emotional depth is striking.
Stylistically, Red1’s smooth flow is at its best, riding the beats with ease. The soundscapes—crafted by Red himself, along with DJ Kemo—are rich and dynamic, drawing on a wide-range of influences, including rock, funk, reggae, and R&B. Balancing scorching club tracks, car bangers, and soulful crib tunes, Beg For Nothing serves up something for everyone.
“No Fuss, No Fight,” featuring dancehall legend Barrington Levy, is an upbeat club anthem that urges peace. “No one goes to a party looking for war,” Red1 explains. “Chill with the violence, let’s get on with the good vibes.”
“A Moment in Time” is a stirring Red1-produced joint that sees the rapper pause for contemplation. “It’s a song where you just stop for a moment and reflect on what’s going on in your life and in the world,” he says.
No hip-hop album would be complete without a flirty shout-out to the ladies, and “Miss Rudey” is that track. “I like a sassy girl,” Red1 admits, with a laugh. “This song is dedicated to all the girls with the screw-face who act extra prissy. It’s annoying, but it’s sexy.”
Changing gears yet again, “Shanty” is born of Red’s extensive travels. “I’ve been a lot of places in the world where there’s destruction and conflict,” he explains. “The one thing I’ve noticed is that the children are always the ones who suffer most. Things like that really hit me in the heart. You go to places like Africa and you see kids running around and they could be your little cousins.”
“I’m a man who feels things a lot—the suffering, the injustice of the world,” Red1 adds. “I’m here to speak the truth. You can tell when something is coming from the heart and that’s what I strive to achieve.”