Who were they:
Remembered as Toronto’s top contribution to the mid-’90s rap-metal crossover, Raggadeath distinguished themselves from Rage Against the Machine clones by enlisting Jamaican-born MC Michie Mee
. Utilizing her already proven dancehall and hip-hop skills, producer Walter Sobczak and British DJ/drummer Stephen Kendall fashioned a massive debut single aimed at the then-dominant alternative club scene. Guitarists Steve Major and Darren Quinn (of Monster Voodoo Machine) also signed on, and Raggadeath
enjoyed a brief international buzz following the release of 1997′s self-titled sophomore disc.
Career peak: Raggadeath’s first single, 1995′s “One Life,” set the tone for all subsequent output. The track (featuring a bass line by the late Paul Raven of Ministry and Killing Joke) initially broke in downtown clubs before a successful beer ad campaign nudged it onto alternative radio—all sans video support. Younger MuchMusic viewers’ main exposure to the band was via “Dance With The Devil,” shot at such lost locations as Shanghai Restaurant in Chinatown and Kendall’s superb Planet X record store at Queen and Ossington (which closed long before the condo-dwelling charcuterie set moved in).
“Stephen’s a DJ so that was definitely his angle in terms of hitting the market with something new,” Mee says. “As an artist, ‘One Life’ was my peak with the band, because everything else came from it. We didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know what we wanted, and we didn’t care. But it’s debatable—’Dance With the Devil’ has such a good video by [director] George Vale. The other peak was traveling through Europe—Limp Bizkit were opening for Raggadeath and everyone was watching us. We’d come home and tour with Bif Naked and SNFU. Those concerts were surreal—a whole other audience. I could do my hip-hop tracks, but the energy was just on the next level.”
Wha’ Happened?: Inevitably, Raggadeath became a victim of its own disparate parts. As well, clubgoers’ tastes were veering from alternative fare towards the all-encompassing “electronica” of the late-’90s. “Hard music” had morphed into the likes of Korn, and many purists had never grasped Raggadeath’s crossover sound in the first place.
“We couldn’t get the hip-hop generation to understand,” reflects Mee, who’d cut teeth as a teen in the late-’80s with KRS-ONE and future Dream Warriors DJ L.A. Luv. “Creatively, everybody wanted to vent in their own field. What happens to bands, happened to us. Music changed, people changed, band members changed. I think Stephen just had a lot on his plate and had to return to England. I wanted to do more hip-hop and dancehall.”
What’s Happening?: Raggadeath have remained predominantly dormant since the late-’90s. Kendall resumed his DJ career in Britain, while Sobczak and Major returned to studio work at Wellesley Sound. Mee recorded more Juno-nominated hip-hop and has acted in numerous TV and film roles. In 2001, she founded The Day After with Quinn (who also recently played with Bastard Child Death Cult and ran Hard Luck Bar on Dundas West from 2010 to 2013).
“We got a lot of rotation on Much Loud,” Mee says. “It’s Raggadeath meeting death metal. It was odd, but we just kept doing it. Darren and I also collaborate on hip-hop tracks and we’re doing something with guitar and dubstep. Two singles are already in the can but the third one will have that big Raggadeath sound.”—Chris Rolfe