If neo-soul had a grandchild, its name would be Slakah the Beatchild. I say a grandchild because, while he remembers all the core values, beliefs, and systems of the once-upon-a-time in style genre, he also takes the important elements of neo-soul and elevates it into a sound of his own. While he is compared to the likes of Raphael Saadiq, Dilla, and Q-Tip, Slakah (also an emcee and director when not producing) stays loyal to the craft by forever changing it. Working with no-slouch artists like the current “it” kid, Drake, amongst well respected emcees, Shad and Tona, as well as high profile singers such as Nelly Furtado, Ray Robinson, and Melanie Durant, this Sarnia born, Scarborough raised, multi-talent musical and visual jack-of-all-trades is also one half of duo, Art of Fresh (with MC, D.O). Talking about everything from his hometown, to his worldwide tours, to the big names he’s met in studios, to why we should all give a damn about Slakah the Beatchild, KevinNottingham.com gets this sensational interview with an up-and-coming hip hop gem.
SD: Sup Slakah!? For all those who are unfamiliar with ya, please go ahead and introduce yourself…
STB: Hi name is Slakah the Beatchild born Byram Joseph. Most people call me Slaks or Beatchild. I am what I like to call a “Performing Producer.” Pharell & will.I.am are examples of fellow “performing producers.” I made that term up by the way. Basically I’m a producer first and then an artist second.
SD: Word up. Well, I certainly know where you are from. Tell the leaders where you rep, where you came from, where you’ve lived…
STB: I was born in Sarnia, Ontario. It’s a refinery city. There’s a green cloud that hangs over the city; it gives the sky a nice warm nuclear glow at night. I’ve lived in Windsor for a few years too. I worked for a crazy bunch at their music store (Leones Music). It was torture. I can confidently say that I’ve worked for Satan and his daemons. That experience was a huge motivating factor in getting out of that city and heading for Toronto and getting my career going.
SD: Good thing you got out of there and got to tour the world then, huh?
STB: Being heavy in music scene now, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to travel the world. I was recently in Sweden & Norway working with the creative mastermind Tingsek. I love Sweden man. I may return soon to do some shows and more writing.
SD: What about Canada?
I’ve toured all of Canada, but the west coast of Canada is mind blowing! The mountains and the crystal clear turquoise tinted lakes are so phenomenal! One of my hobbies is photography, so I do it on our down-time when the tour gives me the opportunities to shoot. Still, there’s no place like home, and right now, Scarborough is home. I got a sick little loft style apartment with a vintage studio up in there!
SD: Being a Canadian artist, is the struggle just a tad bit harder to get “known”?
STB: I don’t think it’s harder; the strategic plan is just different. With the amount of communication technology at our disposal, you can be anywhere and become know if you do it right.
SD: Are there any past future or current projects we should be looking out for?
STB: My most recent project is Soul Movement Vol. I. It has been released world wide on BBE records (J-Dilla, Pete Rock, Wil.I.Am…) I plan on doing at least 5 volumes. The Soul Movement albums are like a full course meal of great music. On the album you will find beats, solo joints and guest appearances by talented friends such as Ebrahim, Shad, Tona, Divine Brown, Drake, Melanie Durrant, Ayah, D.O., Ray Robinson & more! I go through a lot to ensure the record is quality from front to end. We have focus groups, followed by, extensive listening and re-evaluating to re-arranging track order & scraping songs that don’t have a strong timeless feel. No fillers are allowed on my albums when the prototype of my album is done.
SD: What about The Art of Fresh?
STB: Yeah, The Soul Movement is not the only project I’m working with right now. I am also in a duo called The Art of Fresh. This is like House Hop/Electro Soul. The other half, my partner of Art of Fresh, is my long time friend and business partner D.O. He is actually the man who set the first ever Guinness World Record for longest freestyle. He went for 8 hours and 45 min [without stopping]. We just got back from a great tour promoting our album Back to the Earth. It’s starting to blow up and we are now going in to the studio to get album # 2 done.
SD: Going back to your past production credits, what other notables should we know about? What other artists have you worked with?
STB: I couldn’t name em all, but I have done production for Drake , Ayah (“Believe,” “Do it All Again,” etc…), I produced several joints on Arabesques’ first album, I did 4 joints on Divine Brown’s album & that includes her single “Sunglasses” ft. Nelly Furtado, I just recently did some writing on Tingsek’s album.. But, recently I have been focusing a lot on my personal development as a performer & artist, so this takes away a lot of my time to dedicate to other artists at the moment.
SD: You’ve taken on many titles. Producer, rapper, engineer, video director, etc. How do you deal with that? What do you prefer?
STB: The tricky part about being a producer, artist, engineer & video director is that you have to manage multiple careers. I came up in the game as a producer, but I enjoyed writing songs & performing so much that I slowly made my voice heard on recordings, I then developed a strong interest in audio engineering. I’m a big audio geek, I love talking studio talk. I spent many years learning the ropes working at Phase One Studios. While there I had the privilege of meeting so many great artists & engineers such as Bono (U2), Sting, Mos Def, Randy Bachman (The Guess Who) & so many more. That period of my quest in all of this was essential to knowledge of the music industry.
SD: And what about performing/emceeing?
STB: Eventually I had to develop my live set, I enjoy performing, but I truly love the studio environment a lot more than the live scene. But touring is so much fun, you really get to see the world and take in different cultures and ways of life. I’ve opened for Blu, Foreign Exchange, Naughty by Nature, Bedouin Sound Clash.
SD: If you had to pick one song that defines your career to date, what song would that be?
STB: DJ Jazzy Jeff ft. Baby Blak & Pauly Yamz – “For the Love of da Game.”
SD: Why should the readers and fans give you a shot and listen to your music from here on out? Do you have a particular influences?
STB: Well I am not begging any one to listen to my music. Intelligent, sophisticated, individuals eventually find & enjoy my music. But to give you an idea, my modern day influences are J-Dilla, Raphael Saadiq, Pete Rock and some older influences are Marvin Gaye, Neil Young, The Guess Who, Minnie Riperton, Bob Marley & The Zombies. My career goals are not to become “famous” per say, rather I want to be respected and known as a reliable music creator.
I want my songs to give a warm nostalgic feeling when played 20 + years from now. You know that feeling you get when you hear the flugel horns in Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do for Love” come in? That’s an example of the feeling. When I go in the studio to create music I don’t approach it like most greedy morons in the music industry and say “What’s HOT right now? We need to make a HIT single that will make us rich! What bandwagon can we hop on?” To me, all that produces is Junk food. It may taste, well… sound… great for the moment, but the long term benefits are none existent.
Instead I approach the writing and production process with the goal in mind to pay respect to great musicians of the past. Individuals who sang to songs with their own voice over music with thought provoking melodies, chords, progressions, changes, REAL instruments & great recording and mixing techniques.
SD: If that isn’t enough reason for cats to check you, then damn. That may be one of the best answers to that question we’ve ever received. So, yeah, what’s next for you?
STB: Well, I just bought a bunch of vintage gear, some reel to reel tape machines and vintage analog mixing consol and what not. I am working on a solo folk/Alternative sou/Indie Rock record that is set to come out next year. I am also working on Soul Movement Vol.2. I am also shooting & directing a few new videos. I recently shot & directed the video to my first U.S. single “Enjoy ya Self.” It premiered on BETJ. I can’t wait to shoot the next one, it’s for a song on Soul Movement called “B-Boy Beef” and I got some of the sickest break-dancers who are going to throw down hard.
SD: Great. Last question Slakah: Desert Island Hip Hop: If you could only take one record on a deserted island with you, what album would that be?
STB: Lauryn Hill – Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
If I am going to listen to something over and over again, it better have variety so that it don’t make me go crazy before the salt water do! Lauryn Hill’s album evokes so many different vibes and emotions in every song. And each track is brilliant. I miss her…
SD: Any shout outs or last words?
STB: A good place to check out my music and my latest journeys is on youtube, just type in Slakah the Beatchild and you should be able to find my group beatchildproductions
If you love yourself, go cop Soul Movement Vol.1 and the Art of Fresh record. Thanks guy!