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The best kept secret in music


"Interview: TRACK DIRTYAZ"

It was appropriate that I met hip-hop trio Track Dirtyaz at Bloor Street institution Clinton's; like Bill Clinton, the group brings people together; like George Clinton, they are funky and know no boundaries; and like the bar Clinton's, they are based in Toronto, where Fitz Dvyne, Slay Stalkaz and Nytemayr realized that they shared something beyond a love for the letter "y" -- they also loved making music. In the first year of our new century, they picked up guitars and drums, evolving into a full-on band with a sound that fuses raw hip-hop, rock and funk in an organic manner devoid of any rap-metal shoddiness, as showcased on their new Son House EP.

What's in your tape deck these days?

Nytematyr: Percy Sledge.

Slay Stalkaz: The Mars Volta and [Dr. Dre's] Chronic 2001 -- that one hasn't left the tape deck since it came out.

Fitz Dvyne: We also have times we don't listen to anything because we're focusing on our shit. But we listen to a little bit of everything.

From whence did you spring forth?

Fitz Dvyne: We all were family before the music -- actual family: cousins, blood. We're from the east end: Scarborough to East York to Markham to North York.

Slay Stalkaz: Our life was basically like the first half of the movie Juice, except none of us are Bishop. It was basically a block and blunt.

Nytematyr: All of us could rhyme, and it got to the point where it just made sense to do this. We made our first recording in '94, and each year we've been reinventing ourselves. We picked up instruments in early 2000.

You've played a wide variety of shows, with indie rockers and hip-hop acts alike. How's the response been?

Fitz Dvyne: People never know what to expect. They see black dudes coming in with instruments, and it makes them confused because people expect The Roots or something. Then we get up and somewhere down the line they think, 'This is not what we expected.' It either disappoints them or makes them go crazy for it.

Slay Stalkaz: We're not sugar-coating. We're looking at this on a Metallica level, not a quick-fix level.

Why did you name your new EP after a venerable blues man?

Slay Stalkaz: For us to reference a guy like Son House -- this generation isn't doing that. They only care about what's been going on in the last three years. That's the problem. II want some kid 10 years from now to find our album and look into Son House's work. When hip-hop artists do an experimental album, they're rejected by that same hip-hop world. It doesn't have much room to grow. It's the same everywhere -- the industry is on the jock of all these indie-rock bands, but that's a format that is almost the same as rap: the same shitty bands, the same shitty vocalists and the same shitty videos. NICK FLANAGAN
- EYE Weekly

"TRACKDIRTYAZ The Son House (Addictive) Rating: NNN"

Burnt out on mediocre rappers and agitated by the kids who worship them, local crew TrackDirtyaz are giving profuse props to black music's originators, paying particular attention to Mississippi blues legend Son House. The blues actually represents a small tangent among the various experimentations with soul, rock and beats that drummer, vocalist and programmer Slay Stalkaz effectively fuses on most of the EP -- as in Flippin, where a razor-sharp guitar lick leads in pounding live drums, carrying quick mic tradeoffs between LDP, Nitemayr and Fitzdvyne. The genre-mashing can get a little confused, but the excitement of creating something unique overshadows most of the small errors that come from exploring a new direction. TrackDirtyaz launch The Son House at the Silver Dollar Friday (August 4).

- NOW Magazine

"Rock & Race - New faces in T.O.'s rock scene are breaking down the idea that rock is white man's music, and that blacks can only listen to rap and hip-hop"

Oct. 24, 2006. 03:38 AM

Rock is finally changing colour.

A few years ago, a black person walking into the Horseshoe Tavern knew there'd be puzzled looks. But as the independent music scene has exploded in Toronto recently, the crowds are slowly becoming as diverse as the new crop of indie bands.

With bands like Trackdirtyaz and The Carps, black faces are now on the indie rock stage and in the audience. Fading away are the stereotypes that black youth like just commercialized hip-hop and R&B.

"I grew up on psychedelic rock," says Neil White of Toronto's The Carps, who is of Sri Lankan and English descent. He and the band's African Canadian drummer/singer Jahmal Tonge grew up as friends in Scarborough. Now their sound is being compared to the popular (now-defunct) Death From Above 1979. They are making a name for themselves both within Toronto's downtown indie scene and in the United States.

"Jahmal, he had a soul, hip-hop upbringing. And we have been friends for so long, that we have influenced each other's taste in music. A lot of people might come into listening to certain types of music by themselves, but this is music that we didn't necessarily hear growing up in our homes, but through each other," says White.

Toronto-based band Trackdirtyaz plays what its members describe as "grown man's music." Frontman Fitz Dvyne raps over an eclectic mix of rock and experimental metal and the quintet plays primarily at downtown rock clubs like El Mocambo and the Silver Dollar. Because all the band members are black, the audience comes from a multicultural demographic loyal to the emerging underground scene in Toronto, he agrees.

"Hopefully, when people start paying attention to what we are doing, they will feel more comfortable with coming out to shows without us being there," Dvyne laughs. "Go see (Toronto band) controller.controller, or someone who has a dope band. I think with black people a lot of the time is that they start to think that `I'm losing a part of my blackness if I see you' but if you are a music lover, you love music. If there is a bass line you love, like me, I'm going to see that guy play that bass line."

Tonge also feels the pressure of being a black alternative musician.

"In the Toronto music scene, there are not a lot of black musicians (in rock). Toronto is one place where we are lucky to be in general but at the same time, other people might not be so lucky. If you are black and playing this type of music in Toronto, you have to have a strong sense of identity. You can get lost very easily," he says.

"Because here, there are so many ethnicities that your white friends will still look at you as a black guy, devoid of your culture and certain aspects about your individuality. You're just `the black guy' and they're cool with that.

"It's cool that everyone is on the same level, but at the same time if you don't have a strong sense of identity it gets swept up in everyone else's culture and you can get lost, not knowing about yourself."

"There a lot of people who think that there's no place for what we're doing. But what we're trying to do is show them that this very much is music," says Trackdirtyaz drummer/programmer Slay Stalkaz. "I can sit back on the drums and run a break beat that you're going to want to sample ... For someone who's just rapping and has to come around looking for beats and say, `Guitars don't have no place in hip-hop,' you ain't got no jurisdiction because you ain't making no real music right now."

Both bands realize there are a lot of societal implications that deter more black fans from heading downtown and even getting into alternative genres of music. For some, it's out of bounds.

"There definitely is still a stigma about black people who listen to rock. It bothers me because I personally don't see it that way," says Akilah Child, manager of indie band LaL and Toronto-based indie rock artist Stephen Murray. "I think that it's still looked at like, `You listen to that? You know a Black Sabbath song?' They look at me like I'm weird. So I think that it's still there. It hasn't caught on quite yet."

Rock clubber Foxxy has seen an increase in black bands, "finally," but admits they tend to stick together.

"We are more aware that this `alternative' form of music is our music and we need to acknowledge it. Chuck Berry, Etta James, Little Richard and James Brown paved the way (for the popularization of rock n' roll)," she says. "I think hip-hop and R&B has become washed up, so for now, the mainstream can rob us of it until we can take it back on out terms."

But should there be support from people simply because of the artists' ethnicity? "I often wonder why black people(s) — yes, I use the plural on purpose — find it necessary to feel welcome anywhere before they experience things that other (white) people feel is out of their sphere," says artist Kristine Maitland, who used to frequent the Goth club scene. "Wor - The Toronto Star

"Introducing TRACKDIRTYAZ – The Future Sound from the Underground"

By Laina Dawes
Posted Thursday, August 3rd 2006

Edward James House, Jr. also known as Son House, was a blues singer and guitarist, legendary within the blues circuit in Clarksdale Mississippi in the 1940’s. His style of playing, using the neck of a glass bottle and repetitive, strong rhythms to produce an innovative technique, was later to be copied by others. His singing style, likened to the hollers a chain gang made while working in the prison fields, influenced the later recordings of guitarist Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, whom among other blues musicians, brought the first twinkling of what would be later known as Rock n’ Roll to the masses.

“Son House is the guitarist who is most similar to my style,” says FitzDvyne, guitarist and co-vocalist for TRACKDIRTYAZ, “So I went in (to the recording process) with the mind state that all popular music came from him and we used him as a starting point. We said, ‘if we’re starting rap music all over again, right now whose going to take from this and what’s it going to sound like?’ He just became a metaphor for what we were doing.”

The quintet, whose members all reside in Toronto have certainly created a back to-the-basics rap album with rock instrumentation, infused with an infectious funk groove, blues philosophy, screeching guitars and the unique vocal stylings from all members, who confess that their numerous live shows (they boast that they have played more live shows in the past three years than several of the well-known Canadian Indie bands) can be compared to an improvisational event. They play to the rhythm, to how they feel at the moment, creating not only an impressive live show, but giving their passion for what they do to over to the audience.

“Lyrically what we do is we zone out and get together, it’s a spiritual thing for us all because we connect at a level where, we unconsciously stick along the same guidelines. It’s very hardcore. Does it have political aspects? Yes it does. Does it have religious aspects? Yes it does,” says Stalkaz. “It kind of breaches everything and it is what I would call ‘grown man’s music’. I don’t really need to go out there and talk about me growing up drug selling. I don’t really need to be going out and talking about holding anything like that because we’re at the point of our lives where we are trying to make quality music for the masses.”

In preparation for the recording of The Son House (Addictive Records / Universal) the band, whose core members have been close friends and recording for over ten years, decided to eschew themselves of their cell phones, other material items and brought only their instruments to retreat to an undisclosed location. Closing themselves off from the world was not only an opportunity to write the seven tracks for The Sons House, but garnered enough material for a full-length album The Incarnate, which will be released later in early 2007.

As we sat in a bar on a hot sunny afternoon to discuss what other acts could be likened to their unique instrumentation, vocals and rap lyrics set to a grimy rock sound, FitzDvyne, drummer, programmer and vocalist Slay Stalkaz and vocalist Nitemayr couldn’t - and really shouldn’t have to – compare themselves to a any mainstream Hip-Hop act, as that is not what their agenda is. “We’re trying to make this whole new blueprint for what black music should be at this point,” says Stalkaz. “What about Earth, Wind and Fire? What about all these big bands that gave us all this quality music that we want to sample from? Kids got so happy to make a ten-minute beat and make a million dollars they forgot about where they got their samples from. It’s our arts and our roots. It’s our arts and our roots that let us say, ‘we have the talent to do this guitar solo and our soul that lives within us.’”

“It’s more like electric energy. It’s more stripped down, it’s very raw,” adds Dvyne. “We’re not going for a polished sound. It’s like the blues; it’s like Son House, very raw, like it was recorded in a corner store, or like a prison. People feel it. I think from us they get the emotion more so than a lot of other rap acts that are bringing the live instrumentation. Everyone’s worried about making it very polished, very tight.”

The EP is a collection of a variance of sounds, expressions and moods. The sultry vocals on “Lookin At Me Bluez” is reminiscent to H.R of Bad Brains, but stays true to the Rap game as it transcends into a freestyle. “Born2rip” is a straight rap/metal attack and “Buffer Levelz” starts off with an atmospheric feel, layered with overlapping vocals and ends with a nod to the British alternative sound, programming a string section overlapped with a hypnotic drum beat.

Unlike many Canadian Hip-Hop artists, TRACKDIRTYAZ are not trying to be a cookie-cutter group to blend into the mainstream and the careful choosing of programming, mixed with a gritty rock guitar, rhythmic bass and drums says more about what is to come, -

"Track Dirtyaz"

By: Adam Grant

"At first, our mission was titled 'hip hop is dead,'" boldly states Trackdirtyaz's guitarist and vocalist Fitz Dvyne when describing the circumstances in which The Sun House EP was made under. "Hip hop is dead to us, but we're old enough to know that and say that and for that to be our truth.

With such a theory in hand, this 5-piece Toronto act isn't your typical hip-hop/rock collective. Yes, their roots have been heavily influenced by the genre of music in which they proclaim as "dead," but they tend to look elsewhere for their real inspiration. Comprised of Nitemayr (vocals), LDP (vocals), Mobster (bass), Slay Stalkaz (drums, vocals, programming), and Dvyne, Trackdirtyaz's first recordings date back to 1994, but it wasn't until 2000 that they had decided to pick up instruments typically found within a rock show or album.

Unfortunately, that was about the same time that the modern day rap/rock trend had hit the mainstream with the force of a speeding Mustang colliding with a light pole. Bands like Limp Bizkit, Korn and several other imitators were all the rage, and started making a relatively credible format arguably started by Run DMC and Aerosmith or The Beastie Boys look and sound like a laughing stock.

In order to turn the tide a little, Trackdirtyaz have decided to roll the records back a bit and give this musical generation an important history lesson as to where black music, not just hip-hop or rock came from - the blues.

"Kids are coming up now and they're looking at the guy that blew up two years ago - the quickest reference. So being that we're educated musically and we're intelligent people, why not do this for the kids?" Asks Dvyne. "Why not do something that people might look at as obscure, but at the same time is really bringing back the element of, 'okay, yeah, you can DJ, you can get an SP 1200 and make two beats, but how about picking up some drumsticks?'

"There's this whole stigma with black music and the black generation that's getting into music and thinking, 'oh, that's white boy shit,'" he adds. "But it is like, 'where did it come from?' You've got to keep (looking) back - Eminem got it from somewhere, Elvis Presley got it from somewhere - why do we have to create something then leave it alone?"

The study tool for this lesson is the previously mentioned Son House EP. No, this particular house isn't a place of inspiration for the band; it is in fact a historical blues rock figure named Son House - a musician that some say influenced the influential black artists of the early 1900's like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson.

House being such a motivational factor for Dvyne, thus led him toward a whole new style of music that he felt a duty to take in and enjoy. As a result, this EP - which could expand itself into a full-length release by 2007, features great hip-hop staples like beats and rhymes, but also pivotal moments of blues rock guitar showcasing. This combination can be perceived as risky business, but for 5 guys looking to expand upon their roots, this type of a move is indicative of their need of having to set themselves apart from everyone else.

"Canadian rap artists should have a better view of how they're going to present themselves, what they have to say for themselves and how they're going to look," contends Dvyne. "Everyone's being way too safe right now, and the Dirtyz, we don't play it safe - we never have. We take the challenges - up front, it might not look like it's going to pay off, but for us, we know there's a pay off."
- The Toronto


And Then They Remembered (2002)
*singles include:
"Fallin' Out"

NNN (2004)
*singles include:

The Son House (2006)
*singles include:
"Flippin" (currently spinning on Edge 102.1)
"Shakra Bust" (see website for video)


Feeling a bit camera shy


“We thought we’d pay homage to an important era for black music,” says Slay Stalkaz, the band’s drummer and vocalist. “We got sick and tired of kids praising these new school artists, when really they should be checking for guys like Son House and Muddy Waters, the originators.” The band’s guitarist and co-vocalist, FitzDvyne, concurs readily with his long-time band mate. “People ought to realize that rap music, the blues, jazz, all of black music, should be deeply respected. I’m not seeing that kind of respect these days, so we’re working hard on changing that,”

For those who’ve come to admire and respect TrackDirtyaz for their solid commitment to the regeneration of back-to-basics hard rap music, The Son House EP will be a welcome extension of that commitment, broadened delightfully by the duo’s decision to introduce deft instrumentation and a new roster of band members. However, hackneyed comparisons need not be applied here. Thankfully, the new EP will not present the TrackDirtyaz as a transformed copy-cat rendition of The Roots or any other easy-to-digest rap band ensemble. TrackDirtyaz are more willing than ever to push the boundaries, to take the music where other bands simply won’t dare to go. In other words, the Dirtyaz still function in a very, very dirty place.

The Son House EP is exactly what one might expect from the Dirtyaz on the one hand, but it’s also what one might not expect on the other. In this, their third effort, the high quality of the production courtesy of Rob Sanzo (controller.controller, Bedouin Soundclash) and in-house producers, LordMayerZ, the razor-sharp lyricism and the pleasure of spontaneity is still present. The EP offers seven new tracks that have been carefully crafted in a cauldron of heated reverence for an era when musicians did what they did for love, not glory.

Listeners may find it hard to believe that so many styles of music are so successfully fused into a singular musical output on this new EP. “That’s exactly the point,” says NiteMayr. “Everything from Zeppelin to Portishead gets back to black music and the blues. So a guy like Son House becomes the starting point for us, not the end.” It’s hard not to believe him when he says this.

I can’t help but think of Eddie James House Jr., the late scion of the Delta blues. I’m certain that if he were alive he’d be proud of the TrackDirtyaz and their attempt to find a new medium through which to interpret black music. He’d most likely praise their long and hard-fought journey to push rap music back to its rightful and essential origin, back to its integral function in the minds and hearts of black music lovers.

TrackDirtyaz is FitzDvyne, Slay Stalkaz, LDP, NiteMayr and Mobster. Their EP, The Son House will be released July 18, 2006 on Addictive Records. Their follow-up LP, The Incarnate, will be released in early 2007.