Sled Island: Dragon Fli duo offers slice of Canadian life
Homegrown hip hop duo the Dragon Fli Empire is returning to Calgary to perform at the Sled Island Festival, and with all the success they’ve had lately, they probably won’t have to take the C-Train.
“Mount Pleasant,” the song that propelled DFE onto the local and national scenes in 2002, chronicled an average ride on the LRT, while 2008’s “CGY,” off the EP Intermission, is an anthem for their hometown (and its airport). DFE’s meteoric rise in the hip-hop world has seen Tarik Robinson, AKA Teekay, and Adam Hicks, AKA DJ Cosm, collaborate with such hot commodities as Moka Only, Cadence Weapon, Josh Martinez and others on their latest album with Makebelieve Records, Redefine.
Despite their international success — including an inexplicable popularity in Japan — DFE has kept the Canadian content in their upbeat, jazzy sound. They even team up with Raashan Ahmad in “Ride On,” a song about touring from Calgary to Vancouver along the Trans-Canada — think Ahmad has ever been to Revelstoke?
The Reflector recently caught up with MC and producer Teekay at his home in Calgary, and rapped about hip hop in the Heart of the New West.
Reflector: How have you been able to grow so popular, while still writing lyrics about the C-Train, Calgary and Canada?
Teekay: It’s part of our success, in terms of people getting excited about us, people from all different demographics are drawn in by it. Our lyrics are just about things from everyday life, it’s two guys living and growing up in Calgary and Western Canada, and traveling around, playing shows and partying. We talk about life topics, it’s very honest music — we’re not trying to pretend we’re from some dangerous ghetto. All our music is slice of life, we’re basically just regular guys.
Sled Island Spotlight
Dragon Fli Empire
Shows: Wed. June 24 at 10p.m. at Bamboo
Fri. June 26 2t llp.m. at Local 522
Click here for band website
Reflector: What was it like being one of the few hip hop groups coming out of Calgary?
Teekay: A city the size of Calgary was waiting for some kind of different sound to come on the scene — lots of rock and country bands have come up through Calgary, but in a way the lack of any real hip-hop scene helped us build our base.
The fact that we were one of the only hip hop groups around, and what our songs are about, really helped us to appeal outside that small group of hip-hop fans — all sorts of musical preferences enjoy us, and people who wouldn’t normally listen to the music are exposed to us when they’re looking for a group from Calgary to represent the urban, hip hop scene.
Reflector: DFE received a lot of exposure in Canadian media, from CBC TV and Radio 3 to MuchMusic, CKUA radio and even University of Calgary radio station CJSW. How has that helped your career?
Teekay: Getting played on CKUA and CBC was great, a lot of people heard us — it’s the same kind of thing, it helped us appeal to a broad audience outside the hip-hop scene and reach more diverse groups. A lot of parents, too, are diggin’ what we do because of that, and that’s kind of unexpected. You know, we’re not gangsta, we’re not shootin’ guns everywhere and all that, so the hardcore rappers and hip-hop fans might not like us, but your dad might, and that’s cool.
Reflector: DFE’s third album, Redefine, hit number one on the !earshot and Chart Attack hip hop charts, and features collaborations with Raashan Ahmad, Moka Only, Cadence Weapon, Masta Ace, Omega Watts and other big-name artists. What is it like working with some of the best in the business right now?
Teekay: It’s pretty humbling to see we’ve gotten to the point where guys of this stature see us as their contemporaries and want to lay down tracks with us. When we saw that some of those guys wanted to work with us, we just jumped on the opportunity, it was amazing to have them recognize us and put us up on that level.
Reflector: Your last two albums have been released in Japan, and DFE has achieved almost us much success there are as in Canada. To what do you attribute the Japanese fascination with your unique hip hop?
Teekay: Both DJ Cosm and myself grew up in the Golden Age of hip hop, with vintage vinyl breaks and dusty jazz loops, and we try and go beyond that style, but for us that’s really the meat and potatoes of our vibe — and that sound happens to be something people in Japan are really feelin’ these days.
Reflector: After playing two shows at Sled Island, the second opening up for talented MC Gift of Gab, and a gig at the Parkland Solstice Festival, DFE heads (far) north to Yellowkife, Northwest Territories for two shows at the Folk on the Rocks Festival. Have you ever been to the land of the midnight sun?
Teekay: Never, and I’m really excited about it. It’s another testament to how our reputation is growing, and I can’t wait. Plus it’s summer up there now, so there’s daylight 24-hours, which will be interesting. We just got contacted by the festival promoters and they asked us to come up. We’re actually doing a 45-minute set that’s a collaboration with local musicians and Inuit traditional music, and a storyteller, so I’m not sure how it’ll turn out — but I’m sure it’ll be memorable!