Published Aug 23, 2011Good hip-hop will relax your posture and get your head nodding. Los Rakas start there and go south. It must be good because it's more than just your head shaking once the beats drop on their new EP, Chancletas Y Camisetas Bordada ("Flip Flops and Fly Tank Tops"). The title of the album nods to their Panamanian heritage, in terms of sartorial splendour, but the steady rolling tempos of the tracks is pure California. Raka Rich and Raka Dun present eight hybrid, yet tough, rhythms that would be the ideal accompaniment to bringing the ball up-court. Their tag-team flow on matters both serious and light-hearted brings unity to the work of four producers. World Music 2.0 maven Chief Boima checks in most often and lays down pan-Caribbean hand percussion grooves on top of deep hip-hop and dancehall-inspired backbeats. Upfront, the duo rap, sing and joke together in loose, spontaneous ways throughout. While the forward thinking beats are musically captivating, tracks like "Panty Wanty" and "Ta Lista" are just plain fun to listen to. They're celebratory without being goofy, topical and tropical, riding the kind of ping-pong chemistry that only a well-matched duo can achieve.
Can you elaborate on the title of the album?
Raka Rich: We decided to name the EP of something traditional from Panama: tank tops and flip-flops. The tank tops that we wear, they got some designs on them, so that's an old school, OG Panamanian thing. Our grandparents used to wear it in their time. But even during that time and right up to today, people who were wearing that were the "Rakas": the gangsters. If the police see you with that on they're gonna try to interrogate you and lock you up. To us, we don't look at it like that; it's fashion, it's cool. We wanna rep the whole country; we're proud of where we came from.
Musically, it sounds like the beats are getting more hi-tech and more rootsy at the same time. What was your intention with the production?
It wasn't like we sat down and said, "we want these kinds of beats." The producers gave us what they had and we gave them what we had and it all kind of fit. In the middle of the project, we said, "this is what we're going to call it" and everything just came together. We have good chemistry with the producers we work with and that's why the collaborations come along so well. (Soy Raka LLC)