The first thing you should know about Modulok is that he makes street music. That’s not a genre; it refers to where it’s from, and what it represents. Modulok isn’t street the way that celebrity rapper on TV says he’s street – that clown actually lives in a gated suburban community and is more busy bbming shareholders in his new line of energy drinks than making music. Modulok is Emilio Estevez in Repo Man street. Modulok is East London football hooligan street. 36 Chamber-era Wu Tang street. In other words, Modulok is street the way it meant before it became another meaningless corporate marketing gimmick.
Based in Toronto, Modulok is as international as his hometown. Born in Toronto’s east end to Guyanese and Scottish immigrant parents, raised in Guyana and Toronto, and moving to Berlin in 2007 to benefit from the cult-following he has there, built over seven European tours. A life spread out over three continents, Modulok was born with music in his blood – he is the nephew of Guyanese calypso legend Dave Martins of the Tradewinds, who swept the Canadian Black Awards in the 1970s and 80s (remember those?) But his music owes perhaps most to the Caribbean-infused youth counterculture of east Toronto in the 1980s and early-mid 1990s – a time when its emcee’s could seriously challenge those of New York City, when dancehall devotees congregated at tiny shops in strip malls to get the latest cassettes from Jamaica, when its grey concrete walls boasted some of the most talented graffiti art in North America, and when skinheads used to brawl at the Scarborough Town Centre food court.
Modulok’s music career emerged out of the underground hip-hop movement of the 1990s – when young bboys and bgirls adopted a DIY ethic and pushed the boundaries of the genre. After four full-length albums, and years of college radio love, critical acclaim and extensive touring in Europe and the U.S., Modulok delivers You Look So Tragic. Previously known for rugged yet intelligent underground rap, his new album defies simple genres, and features several collaborations – Bad Brain’s frontman HR, Pacewon of Outsidaz fame, Los Angeles underground legend 2MEX, and two hometown heroes – D-Sisive and Anonymous Twist.
Asked where his difficult-to-classify album fits in today’s musical landscape, Modulok explains. “It’s for people that like street music. The thing is, mainstream rap has gotten so poppy and dumbed down, and the indie music scene is all this pretentious hipster garbage. Both reflect the same soulless, nihilistic death-culture. But a lot of people are sick of it, and the bubble has to burst. I like to think of my album as part of the soundtrack to the end of an era.”