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Richard Rodwell (left) and King Lou (right), accepting their induction for "My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style" into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2023

King Lou talks the genesis and legacy of Dream Warriors’ « My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style »

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BY KAREN BLISS

Dream Warriors’ playful jazz-rap single, « My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style, » was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in November, 2023, at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio, as part of the Legends Series.

The Toronto hip hop duo of King Lou and Capital Q released the innovative track in 1990, featuring samples from Quincy Jones’ 1992 flute and horn instrumental « Soul Bossa Nova, » which most Canadians knew as the theme from a popular television game show called Definition (1974-1989).

“My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style” was included on the group’s ground-breaking debut album, And Now The Legacy Begins, climbing to No. 13 on the UK singles chart, leading to a live performance on Britain’s Top of the Pops. In the U.S., it reached No. 24 on the U.S. modern rock charts. It was also popular in Europe and Japan. At home, the song went gold, the album charted at No. 34, and the following year won the JUNO Award rap recording of the year, only the second year for the category.

The group went on to release Subliminal Simulation (1994) with the addition of rapper Spek and DJ Luv, followed two years later by The Master Plan album, without Spek. LA Luv produced but official left later that year. The pair’s final original album was 2002’s The Legacy Continues.

At the induction ceremony for the song, Lou and Q performed the classic with JUNO-winning rapper and relative newcomer TOBi. The single’s co-writer Richard Rodwell (a.k.a. Maximum 60) was also in attendance.

Karen Bliss spoke with King Lou for the CSHF about the genesis and legacy of the song.

Over 30 years ago creating hip hop, what made you go in the direction of a lighter jazzier fun pop vibe versus a harder hitting style?
The place that we grew up in, Canada, is so diverse that you literally can be walking through the ‘hood and hear Led Zeppelin, and then pass by that and hear somebody in their house playing Mahalia Jackson, then go on the basketball court and hear Bob Marley. So, the concept of mixing sounds and tunes and cultures is very natural to us.

Were you thinking commercially?
No. The concept of being commercial didn’t exist in our minds because it felt unattainable. Creating, playing, enjoying was always the inspiration for anything that we did at that time. Experimenting was natural because I was in a multicultural place and I embraced it. Even in school, in sections of the cafeteria, one would be playing dominoes and cards; at the next side, they’d be playing chess and Dungeons and Dragons. On the next corner, it was girls talking about their hair. We all grew up in that same environment. I was able to go to any corner because of how I conducted myself. I was very stylish. I was into listening, learning and enjoying the culture. My dad’s dad was a band’s man. He was in church and he used to orchestrate choirs and so forth. My dad was very into blues, into folk music. into reggae, into toasting, and he played a lot of that stuff.

Did you meet Ivan Berry before or after you formed Dream Warriors?
That was before. The time I met Ivan, I was messing with Dungeons and Dragons. I had a song called “Multiverse.” That was the first song I rapped to him at the Concert Hall.  [Rapper] Michee Mee introduced me to Ivan because I was working with her behind the scenes and Ivan’s like, “Who’s this guy that you’ve been working with? I always hear about him; I never see him.”  “He’s here today.” So we were in the bathroom and I rapped this song called “Multiverse” to him, and when he heard that, he was so shocked and stunned at how well it was placed and put together that he said, “I’ve never heard anything like this before. Do you have more?” And we gave him songs like, “Roll of the Twelve Sided Dice” that was, basically, Dungeons and Dragons, as well.  I gave him a lot of other songs in that vein. “Wash Your Face In My Sink” was another one of those.

Did Ivan shop a deal for you first or did you complete And Now the Legacy Begins?
He shopped it first. One of the songs that was on the tape —  it was four songs — was shopped all around Canada and wasn’t picked up. They didn’t know what to do with it. There wasn’t even urban departments in labels at that time. So, Ivan went over to England, and, on his way over, Island Records, I think, it was [Canadian transplant and label press officer] Nick Smash told Ivan, “Don’t shop that anywhere else. We wanna talk to you about that.”

Was “My Definition…” on that demo?
No, “My Definition” wasn’t even a thought at that time. The song that really caught them with jazz and rap for that part of the world was “Wash Your Face In My Sink.” That opened their eyes and from that “My Definition…” was on its way to be born.

Ivan said, “They want another jazz-rap song to go with a few other new songs” because we presented them with a few other songs.  So I said, “Really? I don’t wanna do that, but what I will do is go over to England and see what inspires me.” Me and Q went over there. We hung out with a man named Gilles Peterson, a DJ, big, well-known for his knowledge in all types of music, particularly jazz and blues [the genre “acid jazz” is allegedly derived  his Acid Jazz Records]. He played at a club called Dingwalls. We went into Dingwalls. One of the songs that came on was “Soul Bosa Nova.”

So it was Quincy?  It wasn’t the game show?
I’ll get to the game show in a minute. So, listening to “Soul Bossa Nova” in there and watching everybody, I said to myself, “What the hell? This is a game show song.” And then I went over to Gilles, I said, “Who is this?” He said, “It’s Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova.” He was familiar with it; I wasn’t. I was familiar with it from the television show, but not as a song. So I said, “Can you get this?” He goes, “Don’t worry, man, by the time you get home, it’ll be there.”  Went home, talked to Maximum 60. I was very inspired. We chopped it up and made up ‘My Definition.” Spoke to Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones was like, “Perfect.” Co-Signed it. “I love it. This is a great addition to the world stage of music.”

I said, “Ivan, we have the next jazz song they want, if they want it. But let’s go back to doing what Dream Warrior does best,” not necessarily being consistent with certain songs, but being inconsistent with the styles. We like to change up the styles. So to do another jazz song felt very forced. But the song came out very good.

Maximum 60 (Richard Rodwell) has a co-writing credit. How was he involved?
Richard Rodwell was an engineer in Beat Factory Productions. One of the first artists that came out of the camp was Michie. I was touring and performing as Michie’s backup and Richard was our engineer. We worked with him all the time. And because he controlled the speed and the tempos, I called him Maximum 60.

Did he create any of the beats or the track?
No, he helped me arrange the song. He’s a musician, at heart. Before Beat Factory, they had a band called Traffic Jam [Rodwell, Rupert Gayle and Len Grant, managed by Berry]. They were doing funk music, which became hip hop, through Rupert Gale’s brother, DJ LA Luv [Phillip Gayle], and DJ LA Luv and Michie Mee became a group [Michie Mee & LA Luv].  I started working on tour with them that way. And then they went into production and started getting into the modern changes within music.

How did the lyric flow out?
It was very poetic and very easy. I was pretty versed in television shows and books. I was into a lot of listening and conversing with people, sharing their opinions. So I was more of a poet, as opposed to a singer or songwriter, so it was very easy to blend the words together because melodic rapping is something that you can even hear in rock songs, like “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush, they kind of rap. I was just familiar with poetry, and with different genres of music that have flows as well.

[The lyric” started with “my definition of a bombastic jazz style.” Sounded great. Started playing it for some of my friends and they all were like, “What the fuck is this? Why aren’t you putting out some project thing?” So, I went back in the studio and I put at the beginning of the song, “What the funk is this? My definition of a boombastic jazz style” because I felt the reaction of my friends would’ve been a reflection of a certain portion of people who were gonna hear it. So I diffused it by telling people what I thought they were gonna do before they did it.  I think when people listened to it and they were about to say that, “Oh shit, he knows what we’re gonna say. This guy’s poking fun at us.” It made people feel easier to absorb it.

You got a JUNO, a gold record. What do you think is its legacy and influence?
When somebody listens to it, they can remember what they were doing at the time.  It brings them to a time period in their lives. It almost set a marker for them and made it a classic. They have stories that link to that, which is a remarkable to me because I didn’t think of making something that had that type of impact. That’s what makes it a classic. Classics are developed over time. You don’t create it.

(L to R): Ivan Berry, King Lou, Capital Q in Toronto collecting their first gold plaque for And Now The Legacy Begins

How did you feel having « My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style” inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame?
It made me feel happy to know that the people who appreciate more so than myself. The song itself is something that is made and given out and then people break it down. It’s no longer mine. I almost celebrate it for them when we go on stage. It makes us proud to bring people back to that moment.

You performed it with TOBi, who was a toddler when it came out (born in 1993). Did he tell you his personal association with the song?
What happened was when we went to do the 2023 JUNOs, we performed for the 50th anniversary of hip hop. We met TOBi there and he was like, “I’m a big fan…” blah, blah, blah. We performed together on the stage because it was a little medley from each of us, Michie, myself, Choclair, and TOBi, as well. He won for rap album of the year [for “Shall I Continue?”]. We had a lot of stories that we were sharing backstage. He pointed out that he does know some of the lyrics to “My Definition” and certain songs So working with a newer artist like TOBi on a stage for our induction, it shows that we’re passing a torch. TOBi rapped a verse of “My Definition,” which was amazing. He was like, “I always loved the way the words flow together. I remember the part ‘bags of mostly water search to find my definition,” not realizing that bags of mostly water are humans because we’re mostly water. It’s like, “Yo, that shit is cool.” . I was shocked because it’s a younger dude, but I remember us, we researched old songs like crazy. That’s what we did.

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