Rupee: Chartbusting Caribbean Artist Uses EV RE-1 Professional Wireless on Tour
“Music is all about evolution and progression. My sound is unique, and that has allowed me to create my own niche.“ - Rupee, 2004
Rupee is one of the foremost artists in the intoxicating musical movement known as soca (soul + calypso) - the supercharged party music of the Caribbean. With his debut Atlantic album, “1 ON 1,“ slated for release in the fall of 2004, Rupee is now poised to capture the global mainstream audience. Rupee’s soca sound is rhythmically complex yet instantly catchy, a non-stop blending of the flavorful, tuneful, and irresistibly danceable. With “1 ON 1,“ he becomes a major force in the eruption of innovative urban-influenced Caribbean artists who are changing the face of music worldwide.
“Caribbean music as a whole has had a marvelous resurgence in the last two years,“ Rupee notes. “The likes of Sean Paul, Shaggy, and Elephant Man have opened doors for soca to walk through. It’s a beautiful thing. With the background I have, it’s natural for me to experiment, and I think it’s necessary and good for the music.“
Rupee, born Rupert Clarke, is the multi-ethnic son of a Barbadian father and a German mother. By the age of nine, he had lived in three completely different cultures - German, English, and Barbadian. “My two older brothers were performing rap in Germany and England,“ Rupee recalls. “They would always take me out with them, and I’d scribble down my little verse or two!“ Rupee’s first success came as a teenager, when he won a popular Barbados talent competition. His performance stole the show and fueled his desire to be an artist. The public’s response to Rupee was tremendous, and in 1997 he was invited to join the top Barbadian band, Coalishun. With no formal musical education, but an adventurous and well-tuned ear for hooks and vocal arrangements, Rupee became a natural innovator. As a result, he stoked the progress of soca music - especially in expanding its reach to the young - by fusing it with hip-hop and dancehall. “In Coalishun, my role was to chant [rap],“ he explains. “When one of the vocalists was unavailable for a session, I ended up singing a calypso song, even though dancehall was really my thing“.
The following year, Rupee hit it big with “Ice Cream,“ which blew up the Caribbean charts and put him in the spotlight. He had found his musical comfort zone and started composing in earnest. “Performing ’Ice Cream’ onstage, seeing it touch the audiences at Barbados’s Crop Over Festival, in Trinidad, England, Canada, and New York, made me realise the power of my own pen,“ says Rupee. “I was blessed that my household was very diverse, musically. My mom loved Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, and at my dad’s house, I heard Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Sparrow, and Red Plastic Bag (the Barbadian calypso monarch). I absorbed all those forms of music and they became a part of me. When I began writing soca full time, I called on all these influences.
“Ice Cream“ was followed by a string of smashes from three self-released solo albums. The scorching up-tempo song “Jump,“ from his first album, won Rupee repeated Road March titles at carnivals in Barbados, New York, Miami, Boston, and Toronto. “Tempted to Touch,“ from his second album, enjoyed over two years of international club play, spreading to urban and pop radio in Toronto and Miami. It became the catalyst for Rupee’s worldwide deal with Atlantic - as well as the first single from “1 ON 1.“
“1 ON 1“ celebrates both Rupee’s sense of his multi-national heritage and his brimming, forward-looking confidence in his original music. He generously and enthusiastically credits Caribbean-based producers like Chris Allman (Slam City Studios), Peter Coppin (Monsta Piece Studios), and Darron Grant (Underground Studios), as well as his recent work with New York-based hip-hop fusion hit maker Salaam Remi (Fugees, Hot Stepper, Miss Dynamite, Nas) for their important contributions to his musical growth and the progressive direction of the album. “I wanted to accomplish a diversity in this album, and expose different sides of soca music,“ says Rupee. “I didn’t want to tread a fixed line. We used a lot of acoustic guitar and percussion, and a lot of universal sounds: you can hear rock, R&B, and hardcore reggae, as well as pure soca. I think it’s possible to bring various elements of music to the soca art form, and that can bring it to a wider audience.“
Before deciding to pursue music full-time, Rupee explored other aspects of his creative nature, “After college I worked as a graphic artist for two major ad agencies in Barbados,“ he says. “I really needed to make a decision about working in advertising or music. So in 2000, I became a solo artist.“ Rupee has kept all of his creative sides busy by playing an active role in the design of his web site www.thisisrupee.com and the visual marketing of his self-released projects. Initially acclaimed in the competitive and fertile culture of the yearly Caribbean carnivals, Rupee has gone on to win over masses of jubilant fans through his high-energy performances at festivals and concerts throughout North America and Europe. Supported by his vibrant Caribbean-based band, he is a charismatic and inspiring live performer. “I try to have as much fun as possible,“ says Rupee, “but I always also inject positivity. There are sensual moments, but it’s never overdone. I try to be responsible and create a vibe that’s about love and upliftment. While I tell the audience to jump and wave and get all crazy, we also have to give thanks, and acknowledge the Almighty.“