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Tarik Robinson Creates A Canvas With “Rio De Janeiro”

Tarik Robinson is a veteran emcee and producer from Calgary, Canada. He’s now going by his government name for his solo responses. He’s been a pioneer in his local scene for a year with his group titled “Dragon Fli Empire” alongside DJ Cosm. with DFE he was able to tour extensively throughout Europe.

There’s something about cultural music that’s just so hypnotizing. When an artist fuses their background into their music, you get a sense of who they are as a person. And in a way, you’re able to embrace the multitude of characters in this world. So for Tarik Robinson, the way he constructed “Rio De Janeiro” brought a sense of appreciation. This relaxing production was stripped away from vocals and lyrics because I mean.. who needs all of that to tell a story?

The production alone was able to paint vivid images for its listener and in a way, gave us the freedom of self-expression. You were able to manufacture your own story to the beat instead of the story being written for us. Instead, we have essentially the canvas. And the canvas is the soothing and spotless beat curated by Tarik Robinson. “Rio De Janeiro” was a nice offering from Tarik Robinson that put us in a different state of emotions. It was all much appreciated.

Listen to "Rio De Janeiro” here and get to know more about Tarik Robinson in our interview below!

Hey Tarik Robinson! Mind telling us a little bit about your upbringing and what inspired you to do music?

I was born in Halifax, Canada and was raised in Calgary, Canada. However, my parents are from Jamaica. In my household growing up, my mother would always play music. We would listen to reggae of course, but also a lot of soul, R&B, and gospel. That provided provided a foundation for me to start to figure out what I really liked in terms of music. In the early 90s, I was introduced to hip hop and immediately was drawn to it. I also had piano lessons growing up, and would create my own melodies on the piano. I wanted to hear what my melodies would sound like with different instruments and drums so I asked my father to get us a keyboard for Christmas. With that keyboard, I started making tapes which would combine the different sounds from the keyboard into beats, even though I didn't realize that was what I was doing at first. Eventually I thought why don't I put some rhymes over this? I started recording myself in high school on a mic that was built into a Hitachi ghetto blaster and showing my friends. So it all happened very organically.

We noticed the cool latin flare to the single “Rio De Janeiro”. Was this inspired by your background? In what ways do you incorporate who you are into your music to make them more distinctively relatable to you as an artist?

The entire Unión Latinoamericana Beat Tape was inspired by multiple visits I made to Chile for my day job working in IT. I went there five different times between 2014 and 2016. I learned about Chilean culture but also Latin culture in general. I met several hip hop artists there who exposed me to the wider Spanish speaking hip hop community which spans all of Latin America. So the project as a whole is a tribute to that scene which inspired me. They revere the classic boom bap sound to the point where I could witness something like 2000 plus people at a concert jumping up and down to the Lords of the Underground with the level of excitement as if it was 1993. Brazil of course is a Portuguese speaking country so it stands out a bit from the rest of Latin America, but it has such a rich musical culture that works so well with and embraces hip hop I definitely wanted to include that samba / bossa nova vibe on the project. Many hip hop producers including legends like Madlib and J Dilla have combined those two worlds and it always sounds amazing. 

What were some of the most challenging aspects in making “Rio De Janeiro”?

Making the instrumental "Rio de Janeiro" wasn't a challenge. It was one of those times where everything seems to come together perfectly. The little snippet that I manipulate on that track worked perfectly with the first drum sounds I picked out. I played around with filtering the sample to bring out different layers of it. There is so much going on in Brazilian music that if you slow it down or you isolate a baseline and you'll discover parts of the music that you didn't even know where there. Hip Hop production allows you to really mine and the reimagine vintage music into a brand new format, one of the really overlooked creative advances made by the pioneers of the genre. I follow in the footsteps of producers like Large Professor, J Dilla, Madlib, Pete Rock, Lord Finesse, Diamond D, Q-Tip, DJ Premier, etc. These guys created a sound that combined vintage music with banging drums and thick bass lines that hypnotized me as a youth. Even if the current trend is to make trap beats on fruity loops, nothing inspires me like those smooth melodic boom-bap beats from the 90s

If you could describe the theme of this single how would you describe it?

A UK hip-hop blog called "Old to the New" described this project as 'celebratory boom bap'. I like that description. This album (and this song in particular) is a celebration of both Latin American culture and hip hop culture. For the video, as the music I sampled is from the 60s, I chopped up vintage footage of Brazil from the 60s. It was a perfect way to visually bring out that celebratory vibe. I wanted to make sure to emphasize the joy of Carnaval and also the heavy African influence on Brazilian culture which I feel is sometimes overlooked.

What’s next for you Tarik Robinson

The Unión Latinoamericana Beat Tape emphasizes my production skills, but in my group Dragon Fli Empire I am the emcee while DJ Cosm handles the beats. We have a new EP that will be dropping this summer. After that I have a solo EP where I both produce the beats and rhyme which will come out hopefully in the fall or winter. I may revisit this beat tape formula celebrating different cultures in the future as well. I want to do an Indian flavored beat tape and a Jamaican flavored one. The possibilities are endless with the creativity involved in making hip hop beats.


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