With his psychedelic soul project The Slakadeliqs, the relentlessly creative Slakah the Beatchild has produced a timeless piece of essential listening.
Who: Despite the plural moniker, The Slakadeliqs is, in fact, the alter ego of one incredibly skilled, soulful musician and producer: Byram Joseph a.k.a. Slakah the Beatchild.
The Sarnia native, who absorbed his parents’ record collection and took drum, piano, and vocal lessons, grew to make music that transcends genres and time periods. He’s produced for the likes of Drake, Glenn Lewis, Nelly Furtado, Melanie Durrant and Divine Brown—even winning a Juno Award in 2009 for his work on Brown’s album Love Chronicles—and also records as half of soul-pop dance duo The Art of Fresh.
Slakah is smooth, no matter how you slice it. He’s perhaps best known for Slakah the Beatchild’s hip-hop informed releases on England’s BBE Records, including 2008 album Soul Movement Vol. 1 and 2010’s Something Forever. Both showcased his strong skills as a songwriter and singer, and were accompanied by videos that highlight Joseph’s relentless charm.
What: Joseph has long bridged worlds, appealing to underground heads with his infamous Beat Tapes series, but with The Slakadeliqs project, he set out to create fresh, psychedelic soul that connects past to present and future.
“Psychedelic and classic rock naturally tend to have soul influences,” says Joseph of his starting point. “I just wanted more soul up in it, and the result is The Slakadeliqs.”
“How The Slakadeliqs sound actually came about was by experimentation, and just letting go of certain expectations within my own mind. I was just letting it all out creatively speaking and I really liked what was happening to my sound.
“I found hip-hop and new soul music was getting too boring, with the computer-based production, lack of life, and pathetic lyrical content. I’ve stopped listening to the radio, which tends to be a vessel for horrible music trends, and this has empowered me to surround myself with real music that I have to dig for. This had a positive influence of my outlook on what I create.”
Influenced by artists ranging from The Beatles, The Free Design and Neil Young to Jimmy Cliff, UB40 and Lenny Kravitz, Joseph spent four years creating The Slakadeliqs’ debut album, The Other Side of Tomorrow. It’s a sweeping, sensational whole that finds Joseph playing most of the instruments—think vintage synths, acoustic guitars and glockenspiel—while musicians including Michael Olsen contribute strings, flute, and horns. Guest vocals come courtesy of Tingsek, Ebrahim, King Reign and Shad, Sandie Black, Tanika Charles, and Justin Nozuka, who shines on lead single “Love Controls the Sun.”
Why: Initially released as a digital indie in January, The Other Side of Tomorrow has received over 100,000 total plays and downloads. Strong immediate response made it the top-selling album on Bandcamp on its first day. Positive reviews followed, as well as radio play from the likes of UK DJ and radio host Gilles Peterson, and praise from legends like DJ Jazzy Jeff, who called The Other Side of Tomorrow “one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.”
Adored by a wide swath of Canadian music critics, the album was also long-listed for this year’s Polaris Music Prize.
Last month, The Other Side of Tomorrow was given worldwide release, both on CD and as a double-vinyl set on DJ John Kong’s Do Right! label.
What’s Next: Joseph is no slacker. In addition to rehearsing with a four-member band in advance of a series of Slakadeliqs tour dates, the producer is also at work on Beat Tape Vol. 6 and Soul Movement Vo. 2, which will feature Glenn Lewis. The Slakadeliqs’ sophomore album is already underway as well.
In addition, Joseph is producing much of vocalist Tanika Charles’ upcoming album (“She is a blast to work with, and so fresh!”) and has recently recorded songs with Toronto vocalist Ayah and emcee Junia-T. And if that’s not enough, keep an eye on the man’s Soundcloud for extra beats, pieces and remixes.
“Variety is the spice of life,” says Joseph. “An artist should always be morphing and experimenting at their own will. A true artist does not let a corporation or label define them. Recording The Other Side of Tomorrow has been like music therapy for me—it’s reignited my love for what I do.”
When & Where: The Slakadeliqs perform a 9 p.m. live set at the Do Right! 10-Year celebration this Friday (October 26) at The Great Hall (1087 Queen St. W.). Maylee Todd also performs, DJ Catalist spins, and Gilles Peterson makes his only Canadian tour stop in support of Do Right! Music. As a big bonus, Kong and the full Movement DJ crew—also featuring DJs A Man Called Warwick, Aki, Jason Palma, and Nav—will reunite for the first time in more than a decade. $25 advance tickets are available at Rotate This, Soundscapes, Play De Record, Cosmos Records, and online. $30 at the door.
Fun fact: “I have an obsession with aviation. And I ate 20 Cadbury Creme Eggs for breakfast.”