By Kat Bein
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By Michael E. Miller
When the hip-hop movement was born, it was the beat heard around the world. Apparently Stockholm caught the buzz and a young Swede, now known as Mad Mats (Mats Carlsson), was obsessively listening to the tunes and practicing his street dancing. "I was the king of windmills," he says.
Fast-forward the mix tape of his life to today. Carlsson may not have the moves down like he used to, according to a few people in the audience at the recent edition of Gilles Peterson's BBC Awards show, where he apparently busted a move. But he's still a beat freak of the highest order. His Raw Fusion label is evidence of the fever he's had for the flavor since back in the day. "As hip-hop was my first real encounter with music," he says, "I would say that it had a great effect on the label policy. Even though we might release all kinds of styles, I would like to think that we got the freestyle sensibility which old-school b-boy culture was about."
A little over a decade ago Mats started a party called Fusion that quickly gained great popularity, drawing more than a thousand revelers each time around. After a venue and name change to Raw Fusion, the label began from the seeds of the club night and released its first record in 2002. Cuts from forward-looking artists Beatconductor, Karizma, Hearin' Aid, and Simbad followed while DJ/producer duo Up Hygh and Freddie Cruger a.k.a. Red Astaire released stunning albums that were licensed to the prestigious labels Ubiquity and Tru Thoughts in different regions.
The underground sound of Sweden right now is disco-heavy and rich in funk and soul of a Seventies nature. The mystery bootleg re-edit label GAMM, and like-minded indies like Swedish Brandy, Homegrown, and Soundscape continually release quality jams from the respected sound scientists of Scandinavia. Yet Raw Fusion seems to be the big daddy of them all, and distinctly stands out among all of the country's output at the moment.
"Raw Fusion doesn't sound like any other label in Sweden," Carlsson says. "Over here it's all very rock and roll, pop, trendy electronica, or posh lounge. No dirt at all! I like to see Raw Fusion as a label that stands out and delivers something totally different. I mean, what other labels from Sweden do you know who release black-influenced dance music?"