The indie route is no joke. You have to be able to work not only hard, but smart.
This is what MC Krazy Drayzy tells me. And he should know: Dray and his Das EFX rapping partner Skoob came up in the major label system, but since parting ways with Elektra Records in 1998 they’ve been carefully plying their own route through the rap world.
The split from Elektra came on the back of declining record sales and artistic differences with the label. It was a long way from the high flying early ‘90s, when Das EFX were one of the most influential crews going around after their debut LP, ‘Dead Serious’, eventually went platinum. Asked if he regrets his time with the majors, Dray is philosophical.
“No, not really,” he says. “I do wish I took it more seriously all around. I could have used my time more wisely. But when you’re in your 20s and on top of the world, you think you know it all. The indie route is no joke, though … you need a team. [But] if done properly, the payoff can be great.”
These days Das EFX are more a touring act than a recording project, Dray and Skoob realising earlier than most the kind of money that could be made by regularly crossing the Atlantic. It’s something Dray attributes to their kinship with fellow New York duo, EPMD.
“I think the first time we went was with them. We love our fans across the pond because they still have that burning passion for hip hop. I can't tell you how many times kids have travelled over ten hours to come see us perform in Europe. That doesn't really occur in the States.”
Berlin’s the hot place at the moment. Would Skoob and Dray ever consider moving? Even for a medium-term stay?
“Living in Europe: yeah I could do six months at a time, maybe, if it made sense. I'm Jamaican so I need my stewed chicken and rice and peas and I don't know if I'd be able to get what I need,” he laughs.
The visits to Europe may be frequent, but later this month will mark the first time Das EFX make it to local shores when they tour with fellow New Yorkers (and Native Tongues alumni) Black Sheep, as well as iconic break dancer, rapper, DJ and producer, Tony Touch. Dray’s almost apologetic about it taking so long for he and Skoob to make it to Australia.
“This is our very first time coming to the down under, unfortunately. But we are gonna kill every show – that's a promise! Why now? No clue. No promoter has ever contacted us. Better late than never, I guess.”
It will be a nice opportunity for local audiences to receive their first ever live taste of the Das EFX sound, but also an opportunity for Dray to roll out some fresh material from his forthcoming solo LP, ‘ShowTime’ – he promises EFX fans will love it.
“I do like touring but not always doing the old songs,” Dray explains. “It's like wearing the same clothes for ten years. I like them, but damn! Hence, ‘ShowTime’: to me this will make touring more exciting – doing new, fresh material. We go back with Black Sheep. We've done several shows together. It works for us.”
The fact that Das EFX are touring with Black Sheep in particular is noteworthy: both groups are arguably part of a first generation of rap artists – along with names such as De La Soul, Q-Tip, Masta Ace and Lord Finesse – that refuses to be wearied by age. Mention this to Dray and he despairs at the genre’s traditional habit of trying to sweep away older performers.
“I hate when we label an artist with an expiration age. If that's the case then all DJs, videographers, choreographers, writers and anyone else connected to hip hop should retire at 40,” Dray argues.
“To me, this is the dumbest thing in hip hop. They don't say that to Mick Jagger or Dolly Parton, and they’re like 100 years old! It's the stupid mind state we are in that really, really, really bothers me.
“I'm constantly hearing about the ‘90s sound coming back and I'm doing my part. I don't think it will totally be the same ... There are just too many different styles now. From Drake to Nicki [Minaj] to me to all these other new rappers like Yelawolf and so on. The game is wide open now.”Das EFX play The Surfers Paradise Beergarden Wednesday September 26
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