When Ottawa octet BLAKDENIM played an unfinished version of “Sharks” to a pal who also happened to be a mutual friend of legendary rapper DMC, he told the group he thought the Run-DMC member would be a perfect fit for the track.
Needless to say, BLAKDENIM MC Precise Kenny Creole met the observation with a healthy dose of skepticism. But sure enough, the wheels were put in motion, the song got into the hands of Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and now he’s the cherry on the sundae of the band’s new album, Usual Suspects: Season III. Their collaborative effort—a punk rock-inspired protest song against police violence—closes the LP, which dropped earlier this July.
“It was a pretty quick, seamless process and we’re so honored and blessed to have him on the track. It’s a dream come true for us,” said Kenny.
On DMC’s side, it might seem unusual for such a renowned name in rap to want to lend his voice to a young band from Ottawa, but he’s equally thrilled about the pairing. When DMC heard Kenny rap about the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, there was an instant connection. He was so impressed with the Canadian’s “ballistic, mind-blowing flows,” he said he spent the rest of the day practicing his own bars so he could measure up.
“I’m just happy to be a part of this,” said McDaniels. “I think it’s a very important record. I think what they’re doing as a band is important because especially with the times we’re in right now, and I’ve been talking to people for the last two, three years, there’s no music right now that’s defining the generation socially. Hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll is a celebration, which is cool, let’s get the money and have careers, but the majority of artists that would dominate a generation, even if it was Marvin Gaye, even if he was known for sex and love, he could still do What’s Going On?' It was needed.”
"It’s a record that’s on time without trying to be on time." - Darryl “DMC” McDaniels
Although the timing of the song’s release coincides with worldwide protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, “Sharks” was written last winter and as DMC observed: “It’s a record that’s on time without trying to be on time.”
As Kenny pointed out, BLAKDENIM have never shied away from politics or important issues in their music.
“It’s been with us from the beginning, speaking out about injustice,” Kenny said. “We’re going to make a stand. The timing of this song could’ve been a perfect marketing plan, but in fact it’s more a sad reality.”
By coming at the same subject from different generational perspectives—mixing his experience with BLAKDENIM’s energy—DMC feels the song has the power to be a catalyst for change. It’s also not his first collaboration with Canadian artists: he teamed up with Montreal’s hard rock band Slaves on Dope for “Script Writer” in 2016.
“I love Canada, I’m always in Canada,” McDaniels said. “I come up for Comic-Cons, for music festivals. I did the Live Aid with Neil Young. Canada is just so very artistic and cool. Toronto feels like New York. I’ve been to Ottawa. I had the honour of going to Western Canada to Sarah McLachlan’s house, for some reason! I gotta check my history, because I must have some ancestors from Canada. I’m always connecting with people there.
“I’ve been connecting with Canada since the Run-DMC days, I’m talking before “Rock Box” and “King of Rock,” when we had “Sucker M.C.’s” and “It’s Like That,” we would come play all those infamous early clubs in Toronto and throughout the country. We would show up to Canada and they would know more about hip-hop than we did. How do you know about that? What the hell is up with Canada?”