Panama-By-Way-of-Oakland Hip-Hop Duo Los Rakas Talk to the Amoeblog

Posted by Billyjam, November 25, 2011 02:30pm | Post a Comment

If ever there was a Bay Area hip-hop act ready to go big time it is Los Rakas, who tonight (Friday, 11/25) play the New Parish in Oakland along with Nima Fadavi. Truly a most unique East Bay hip-hop group, they have an instantly identifiable sound and image, a great logo, and their own philosophy ("the Raka Rules" they say are simple but sound; "Be yourself"). 

Comprised of the two cousins Raka Dun and Raka Rich (both now in their mid twenties) they grew up in Panama where they soaked up reggae, dancehall, samba, soca, and salsa before immigrating to the US a decade or so ago. Upon arrival in the Bay Area they each fell in love with the then burgeoning homegrown hyphy sound whose quirky production values  influenced the talented duo's music - a unique blend of traditional Panama sounds, reggae dancehall, reggaeton & Bay Area beats plus some other musical flavors too, all rapped & sung in Spanish that has been labelled "Panabay." While so far they've been rapping pretty much exclusively En Espanol they've recently done a series of collaborations with English speaking (American rapping/singing) artists including E40 and Goapele - all of which, no doubt, will assist in the pair gaining their deserved mass appeal.

A few months ago Los Rakas released their first official CD release (the recommended, independently released eight song EP Chancletas y Camisetas Bordada which is available at Amoeba Music) but the talented duo have been busy recording & releasing a steady stream of songs for several years now - most of which they gave away as free song or mixtape downloads. These have included 2006's Panabay Twist and 2009's Panabay Twist Vol 2.: La Tanda Del Bus. Together with a series of popular music videos posted online, most notably the viral video for "Soy Raka" that showcased Oakland's turfin' dance craze, Los Rakas have been grabbing the attention of music fans near and far. Still unsigned they've been creating the kind of buzz typical for an act with a major label push.

Last year Los Rakas won a prestigious Discovery Artist award from the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC). They've gotten airplay on such influential commercial radio stations as KMEL San Francisco, Latino 96.3 Los Angeles, and La Mega 97.9 New York and shared concert bills with such national stars as Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, ?uestlove, Outkast, and Nas & Damien Marley. In fact over the past year and a half they've been gigging non-stop. Last Saturday night they headlined a packed show at S.O.B.s in New York City.

Before they went onstage at the Lower Manhattan club I had an opportunity to sit down with the pair to talk with them for the Amoeblog on topics ranging from their migration from Panama to the Bay Area, how East Oakland non-profit, youth empowerment, community organization Youth Uprising helped launch their career, and the wonderful art that graces their EP cover by Mexico City-based artist, Alejandro Núñez Ferrara.  That Amoeblog video interview is below. Tonight, Friday Nov. 25th, Los Rakas play New Parish at 579 18th Street @ San Pablo in Oakland. 9pm show. 18+ $10 - $15. More direct info  (510) 444-7474

Los Rakas Amoeblog Interview (Nov, 2011)

Los Rakas "Soy Raka" (2011)

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Panama (2), Los Rakas Interview (1)