Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Having recently freed themselves from a suffocating recording contract, reggae/dancehall group T.O.K. is poised to reclaim its place in the music industry in 2013. According to producer and group member, Flex, the group suffered at the hands of the international label to which they had been signed.
"We never stopped performing or touring since we did Foot Prints in 2006 and followed up with Guardian Angel. However, since that time, we have had crazy issues with our record label. They gave us a lot of restrictions as to who we could record for, and we were prevented from recording with long-standing producers who we had developed lasting relationships with. So we were basically going through a process of freeing ourselves from the contract," Flex said.
The artiste says the record label threatened to file lawsuits against producers who recorded T.O.K. They, therefore, had to keep a low profile as their recording options were limited.
The group is now officially free of the contract and intends to pick up on the success of 2006.
"Right now we are working with our own record label, X.C.A.R records, and with the new label, we are acting as executive producers for our next album, which will be promoted and distributed through JVC Company in Japan. We are back now and will be able to give the fans what they want," Flex said.
T.O.K's upcoming album is titled 4 Eva and gives an account of the decade-long journey of the artistes. According to Flex, despite their absence from the scene in Jamaica, the group's international fan base remains intact.
"We still have our market. It never left. We are still the biggest dancehall name in Japan. Our market is still present and JVC is the same company that used to work with our previous label, so the response to us should still be positive," he continued.
"When we came into the industry, we weren't ignorant of the business aspect, but we had poor management, however, now, our management is handled by our own label. It's never easy to manage a solo artiste, much less a group, but 2013 is definitely going to be a positive year for us," Flex said.
The album will be released in Japan in April of this year and the other release dates will be dependent on the build-up in the Japanese market.
In addition to a new album, the group has been busy working with producers like Seanizzle, Stephen McGregor, Penthouse, as well as up-and-coming producers. Flex and Bay-C have also formed Xplosive records and Bombrush records, respectively.
A new music video is also in rotation for a single called The Voice. The video was shot in Israel, and according to Flex, the response has been favourable. The artiste is also asking for more reggae music to be played locally.
"I think sometimes the selectors forget that dancehall and reggae music are both products of Jamaica. The reggae songs are still hitting, which means there is still a market for it. There are artistes like Christopher Martin and Romain Virgo who are doing good reggae music, but they are not being played much, but the people still love their music, so play it," Flex said.
Flex encourages selectors to open their eyes and realise that Jamaican music is valued by international audiences. He also wants both reggae and dancehall music to be played objectively.
Flex is also producing a new album for dancehall duo Monster Twins.