Remembering their roots while bringing the beats
Calgary hip-hop crew the A-Squad Boyz are touching on their African roots and both their experiences and backgrounds by introducing distinctly Angolan kuduro beats into the city’s underground music scene.
Once known as the Angolan Squad, due to their shared heritage, the crew’s name recently changed to African Squad because of new member Orphee “MC Budidi” Landa, 25, who comes from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
MC Budidi joined the ranks of A-Squad producer Arlindo “AC Alves” Alves, Edivaldo “Eddy Mayor” Dasilva and Joa “Black Mamba” Miranda. Their combined passion and approach to the music was the bond that brought the four members together.
A-Squad Boyz formed when Eddy Mayor met AC Alves in Calgary and he heard what he called “appealing beats.”
“He was telling me that he was making music but I didn’t take him serious at first,” says Eddy Mayor. “One day, I decided to go to his house and he was putting beats together. We made a couple of songs for the fun of it, but people were liking it.”
After the success of their first mix tape, Swagganomiks 101, the group has found they can use their hip-hop musical influence to introduce the kuduro sounds of the Angolan streets to Calgary audiences. Kuduro music takes hip-hop beats and merges them with electronic music, as well as the styles of Africa.
Black Mamba, who grew up in Lunda Norte, Angola, and South Africa, says kuduro was once a form of music for poor Angolans who couldn’t afford the instruments needed to perform hip-hop.
“When you look at the lower class, you’ve got kuduro,” he says. “Those are the ones who don’t have the opportunities to go to the higher schools or private schools and learn. They are the ones doing the kuduro where the language is somewhat broken with a lot of slang. Back then, people used to laugh at kuduro.”
Since that time, Black Mamba says the music has evolved greatly in his country and now has its own television channel dedicated to the street music. Eddy Mayor, who comes from Luanda, Angola, says Angolan kuduro artist Tur Bantes had the fastest selling album in the country in 2007. In one day, Angolan musical history was made when the entire album’s first run was sold out.
“You can’t judge the genre of music,” Eddy Mayor says. “There’s only good and bad music. You can’t say that kuduro is bad.”
The A-Squad Boyz never forget their African backgrounds and use kuduro tracks for some of their songs.
“It’s like being a chef,” says Black Mamba. “You do something that people are so used to and they become comfortable with that. Let me throw something else in there and see how the response is. You throw something else in there and people are still loving it.”
MC Budidi says it is very important to be versatile in the craft because so many artists are doing the same thing in Calgary’s scene: “[Black Mamba] is hardcore and can also sit down and write something for the ladies and they’d be bouncing. I can go gangsta on the beat for the ladies at the same time. Everything that everyone is bringing [to] the table is like cooking the best meal ever. We are the right spices and the chefs at the same time. We cook good food. Come eat in our restaurant. You’ll enjoy!”
“A-Squad doesn’t just do hip-hop,” MC Budidi adds. “In music, there is pop, hip-hop and everything else. I consider what we do as a skeleton with many bones attached. Hip-hop is one of the bones attached to the skeleton, but what we are doing is music.”
For the members of the A-Squad Boyz, it is important to write about their specific lives. “There are a lot of rappers out there who are talking about stuff that they don’t do or ways they don’t live. They call us soft,” says Eddy Mayor. “If they live it, then they are going to sing about it, they’re going to rap about it. For us, even though we are friends and we’re really close, that stuff that they go through is not what we go through. So, do not expect us to be like that.”
Black Mamba says: “Honestly, it’s not like we can’t do that. We’ve gone through a lot coming from a country that has gone through 25 years of war.”
At the moment, he says the group is waiting for the correct time to write about the sights of violent warfare in their home countries: “We are thinking of doing something more on that sense. We want to bring a little bit of the cold reality that we have gone through, a side of us that people haven’t seen. We are trying to give people a full dimension of A-Squad.”
The A-Squad Boyz will be performing at the Days Inn Hotel on Feb. 6 for a show called 2K10 Blueprint. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15. As well, they will be performing a Valentine’s show for all the ladies at the Amsterdam Rhino on Feb. 15.