Equiknoxx drop a new mixtape

Jamaica’s finest return with a full-crew full-length of forwards-leaning dancehall – we caught up with Gavsborg to find out more.

If dancehall is enjoying wider appreciation than ever lately, Equiknoxx surely have a lot to do with it. As we reported recently, the Now Thing 2 compilation is helping revive the reverence for wild instrumentals from Jamaican producers like the first instalment did around 2001, but Equiknoxx have taken their own sound out of Jamaica and around the world as a performing and recording crew. Their Bird Sound Power and Colón Man albums on DDS got a whole lot of people listening to dancehall who might not have done otherwise, joining the dots with other experimental dance music thanks to the inherent weirdness and weightiness the genre is capable of.

As well as the headsy beatdowns from core producers like Gavsborg (interviewed below) and Time Cow, Equiknoxx also roll as a fully-fledged crew, vocalists and all. With the likes of Shanique Marie, Kemikal Splash and Bobby Blackbird up front, they perhaps surprised European festival goers expecting an hour of moody instrumentals with their joyous, full-spectrum JA performance, proudly carrying the decades-deep dancehall culture forwards and embedding it in the psyche of thousands.

If you want to get a feel for the personality of Equiknoxx as a collective, their new full-length release Basic Tools (Mixtape) has got you covered. It was recorded in Kingston, Birmingham, Manchester and New York, and it features the full crew as well as additional guest vocalists and friends jumping in on the fun. And it is indeed fun, throwing shade on ital reggae with their new concept ‘jerk pork reggae’ and other such skits in between some of the freshest songwriting we’ve heard all year. Like all good mixtapes, it’s littered with in-jokes, but it also shows Equiknoxx at their fullest, at their most natural, and the playful joy and ice-cold swerve is a deadly combination. That a lot of these tracks were recorded in one take says a lot about the skill this crew step with. Cop it at their Bandcamp and celebrate one of the vital forces in modern dancehall, and in the mean time check out this ridiculously cool video for ‘Urban Snare Cypher’ directed by Storm Saulter.

We caught up with Gavsborg to find out a bit more about what went into recording Basic Tools – find out what he had to say below the video:

Did you start recording tracks for Basic Tools with the idea of a mixtape in mind? Or is this just a standard part of the creative process within the Equiknoxx crew at all times?

We started by recording ‘Urban Snare Cypher’, I wanted to ghost write for Blackbird, he pretended to be cool with it and asked me to lay down the verse, I did and then to my surprise, he said cool and laid down a whole different verse right after… we began to trade bars in a way which felt like hip hop and dancehall mixtapes we grew up on. The other tracks followed from there

It feels like this is a consolidated effort to present the full spectrum of what Equiknoxx is about – more than just the instrumentals as on the DDS albums. Was that part of the intention with this release?

Both spectrums are true, the albums on DDS is something we genuinely do which is to sit and listen to our own beats haha. So are honoured that DDS have shared that side. But there comes a time when we also want to sing/rap on the tracks. As for me personally it’s not so much if vocals exist or not but more importantly that vocals can exist so I have this thing where if I can’t rap/sing/chant on a track … then I’m probably deleting it.

Were you really recording most of these in one take in the studio? The video to ‘Urban Snare Cypher’ shows you guys set up with the gear jamming out – is that a faithful portrayal of how it goes down when you’re recording?

Yep the tunes were recorded in one take, only going back over for emphasis or adlibs etc. an average studio day with Equiknoxx crew is more time hanging out, eating, chatting etc so when the music finally hits we like to get to it right away. (In and out thing)

There’s a lot of multi-talented crew jumping on the mic from their other trades – have you known for a while that Storm Saulter could spit bars as well as direct videos?

We definitely didn’t know that Storm had bars ‘til recently! We were very wow’d by his MC skills. We were sharing some of our raps and bam! He started rapping too.  When he rhymed Ernie Ranglin with pet pangolin it was over for me

Were there any particular moments when you were recording in different places that stand out to you?

Impressed by Kemikal and Time Cow who were able to have bars on the ready without even hearing the beats. That was big to see, I was like yea, other crews might get nice in the booth but so can we. 

When you’re working on this side of the Equiknoxx sound, does it still feel like dancehall to you or has it moved into another kind of zone for you?

We always move in and out of zones.