Problem Kids Dream Up the Sound of Island Hip-Hop in Caribbean Slang

Problem Kids Dream Up the Sound of Island Hip-Hop in Caribbean Slang
Photo by Scott Laroc
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It took what felt to the band like forever, but after two and a half years, Problem Kids are finally ready to release their new album, Caribbean Slang, January 24. Bassist Eddy Davis explained the holdup to New Times: "We don't have the liberty to rent out a full studio. We have our day jobs, so we get in there on the weekends." During the week, while selling insurance or doing construction, the six members of Problem Kids are dreaming up what the sound of island hip-hop might be.

Problem Kids began on a car ride in 2009 when MC Tish heard MC Marty freestyle some lyrics. "We were sitting in the car faded when I heard Marty rapping," Tish remembers. "I couldn't believe what he was doing. I'm an audio engineer by trade, so I had some mad beats. We started fucking around and showing what we were doing to friends. In 2011, we said let's get a band together."

After adding Davis on bass, Humberto Casanova on keys and sax, Omar Williams on guitar, and
Nick Lebess on drums, they began gigging throughout South Florida. They mixed original songs with instrumental covers of favorites such as Oasis' "Wonderwall" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away," in which they rap original lyrics. "We have 15-year-olds and 70-year-olds at our shows." Tish says. "Always there's someone who comes up to us and says, 'I've never heard anything like that.'"

New and longtime fans will have a chance to hear the band's live show at the album-release party January 28 at the Wynwood Yard, where their Miami influences will show. "I got into music going to parties as a kid and hearing old-school merengue and salsa," Davis says. "Then we started going to quinceañeras. We'd hear booty music and grunge. You can hear our influences in our cover-song choices."

Adds Tish: "Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers changed my whole view of music, the idea of lyrical content as storytelling. We wanted to make people listen to the lyrics instead of just the beats." Tish is especially excited about one of their new songs, "Fidel," on which the mostly Cuban-American band was able to demonstrate appreciation for freedom of expression and speak out against oppression.

The entirety of Caribbean Slang, Davis says, was a journey for Problem Kids. "We were able to get the musical arrangement more development. The sound is the culmination of a couple years of us playing in the scene. We figured out how to translate our live sound into a record, while at the same time we think it stands up as a hip-hop record."

After years of work, Problem Kids are relieved to get Caribbean Slang out to the world, though Davis says you might not have to wait too long for more music. "Because this album took so long, we're probably going to next put out singles. Hopefully, you'll hear a lot more music quickly."

Problem Kids
8 p.m. Saturday, January 28, at the Wynwood Yard, 56 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-771-4810; thewynwoodyard.com. Admission is free.

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