Kreyol-Rap crew make impressive debut on Wyclef’s label

Barikad Crew
Jisko Bou (Til the end)

Haiti’s Rap-Kreyol community has a lot to celebrate with the release of Barikad Crew’s (BC) “Jisko Bou”. The talented young MCs 'repping Port-au-Prince’s downtrodden working class hoods now boast a mainstream album backed by Wyclef Jean’s Sak-Pase Records.
Like most of Haiti’s Hip-Hop influenced groups, Barikad’s rise was long and difficult. The crew’s members gained popularity by releasing music once a year, during carnival season, the only time where most Haitians are willing to listen to a wall of words from any artist in order to select the few catchy phrases that will represent the spirit of the season. The violence that hovers over much of the American Hip-Hop industry does not make it easy for Haiti’s usually tame Rap-Kreyol scene to gain mainstream acceptance.
It is often said that night is darkest before dawn and Barikad’s members can attest to this first hand. At time when BC was on the cusp of mainstream popularity and actually supporting itself with performances, three of its leading members were killed in a freak auto accident while criss-crossing Port-au-Prince to perform various shows. News of the deaths of performers — Papa Katafal, Dade and Déjà Vu — shook up not just the Rap Kreyol community but the nation as dignitaries and a host of well wishers flocked to the funerals of the deceased.
Wyclef was among the group’s early supporters and cast them in alongside American artist Akon in 2007 at a Haiti based showcase that further propelled the group’s popularity in Haiti.
Barikad’s “Jusko Bou” is uplifting and drenched in positive messages. The album’s notable tracks include “Ayiti Pi Red”, a great track further embellished by what sounds like a native “chansonnet Francaise” that strikes the heart of Haiti’s love affair with this French art form. The song is a well-phrased love note to their long-suffering motherland. The energy of the composition “Pi cho” is undeniable and ranks among the album’s finer moments. Speaking of fine moments, “Ou gen foli” presents a fine blend of the Haiti’s native melodic energy with Hip-Hop’s aggressive force. Other memorable tracks include, “Pa sispan”, and the crew’s classic carnival hit “TPTP”.
The Crew’s first release is laced with promise! Sak-Pase has definitely made a great decision by deciding to back these fine young MCs whose first mainstream performance at Manhattan’s SoB’s club was well-received by Haitian-Americans. These guys are blessed with fine voices, great writing and techniques that are very much rooted in Wyclef’s mythical Carnival release and the best of today’s array of American rap artists.
Unfortunately, the album is weighed down by music tracks that can’t impact a dance floor on their own merit. Wyclef’s team at Platinum Studios have to be involved in making sure the music that backs these musicians meets the hallmark of the best Fugees tracks if he wants to guarantee their success among Haitian-Americans. The crew’s first release is a fine intro for anyone who is curious about the message of Haiti’s Kreyol Rap movement.

Carnival 2009 Vol.1 & 2
Various Artists

Haiti’s Carnival season is now over and fans returning from festivities in Haiti or who’ve partied along on-line can now rush for compilations of the season’s best tunes at any of Boston’s local stores. I’ve found a two-volume series that features some of this season’s best work at Patrick St. Germain’s music store on 860 Morton Street.
I’m always amazed by the sheer number of meringues released by artists known an unknown to celebrate Haiti’s carnival season. There seems to be a large underground culture of musicians whose strict specialty is arranging a good carnival song to compete for top spot on Haiti’s airwaves every year. My favorite carnival tune this year is from Haiti’s brightest underground star, a talented young man named “Fefe” and his sparse but passionate composition, “Ane a” (This year). Fefe’s recording is not in this compilation but you might find it by scouring any of the industry’s websites for tunes.
Let’s get to the big dawgs! Carimi shocked its competitors this year by being among the first to release their meringue, “Zandolit” and although they got caught out there with their “Ti Moto” (small engine) slogan, the strategy worked; by the time they hit the pavement in Haiti, radio stations had been playing their song long enough for fans to familiarize themselves to the tune, guaranteeing the success of their 3-day long schedule of street performances. As expected, T-Vice came out strong against their traditional rivals Djakout Mizik with “Kimbe Pantalon’w”. The meringue itself is another triumph for T-Vice, but it was reported that the crew was not in top form this year. Djakout also released a winner in their provoking “T-vice sou manniguet” release. Unfortunately, Djakout’s float could not move until the last day of carnival festivities, and surely this will be fodder for T-Vice’s strategy against Djakout next year.
Great meringues were also released by Krezi Mizik, Vwadezil, Azor and Barikad Crew. However, veterans Boukman Experience, although no longer among the leaders of Haitian carnival, released the year’s most striking musical arrangement in their meringue, “Repiblik Banana”.
Be sure to get your hands on this two volume compilation. You won’t be sorry.
The Reporter Thanks: Patrick St. Germain of International Perfumes and Discount for availing the CDs for review. The releases are available at 860 Morton Street Dorchester, MA (617) 825-6151.