Ah the Release D Riddim (RDR) Team. If there is one promotional company who are like family to me, it’s RDR. From the Soca Cartel Crew, to the days of Cork’s, this team has always been about spreading the vibe of Soca. RDR held the legendary Cork’s fete every Thursday in central London. Presently there are the Red Eye, Epic, Afrobeats meets Soca (AMS) events in London. They have partnered with international companies in the Caribbean and US to bring an essence of RDR and their carnival band ‘Riddim Tribe’ outside of the UK. Their merchandise (especially the ‘Responsibly Drinking Rum’ t-shirt) is prodigious and very popular ( I need to get a new t-shirt as it happens). They have won awards. This team has been extremely productive. Credible and Hardwine are so down to earth. I asked Hardwine for an interview and he said ‘Why are you even asking? Just say you are doing this interview.’ I catch up with Hardwine, Credible and Corrine in Brixton, London.
How did Release D Riddim (RDR) as a promotional company start? Credible: Well we have been feting (partying) for years, going to places such as Barbados for years. We? Credible: It was mainly the soca cartel and a mix of a couple of other guys. When we returned from places such as Barbados, we did not hear some of the great tunes we heard playing at the carnivals until we begged the DJs to play the tunes. Hyperspice wrote a letter which shook up the soca scene in London a little bit asking ‘What is going on? Why can’t the DJs play different tunes? Stop repeating! ‘ From that Martin Jay pulled us aside one night after the Colours fete and said ‘You know what, there is a gap, try to do something’. We got a couple of people together who I knew were interested. The first event was at Cork’s wine bar and was a £1 entry to get in. It was general word of mouth and we had a flyer. Everyone came that night. It was packed! The entry line went round the corner. Everyone had a really good time and was asking about the next one. The rest as they say is history.
Since the end of Corks, RDR has been involved in other fetes and events. What are they? Credible: There’s Red Eye which is usually on the Bank Holiday Sundays, (one near carnival and one near the end of the year). Hardwine: We’ve done Epic which is more of an uptown soca city mixed with ‘back in time’ music. Then we have done AMS (Afrobeats meets Soca) which we will bring back next year. In addition, we have done some collaborations. I am very much about bringing the scene together as much as possible. There’s a time to be apart and a time to come together if you can work with everybody. Credible: Party wise, we have a boat cruise called the Cropover Quencher in Barbados on the Jolly Rancher. We do that every year after kadooment day. It’s a night time cruise. We also have a joint venture in Grenada ( a boat cruise). We have … I wouldn’t say sections in other bands but we work with other bands; Summer Crew in Grenada and in Barbados used to be Choc-o-Wuk.
What are the numbers for your fetes? Say for example Red Eye? The average I’d say is about 650? It goes up at the Easter event and at carnival. The highest we’ve had is 1000 people.
How big is the team? Credible: It is going through a period of transition. For RDR the decision makers are myself and Hardwine. For the Riddim Tribe, (our carnival band) there are four at the core. And there is the wider team which includes, DJs, designers are so forth. Hardwine is the idea and project man. I mainly deal with the Riddim Tribe and the fetes.
RDR has been going for 9-10 years? What’s the secret to your longevity? Credible: We have had to change, get better in everything. We’ve spent more money on the promotion side of things. We have the carnival side (Riddim Tribe) which gave us more visibility and has grown. There are other things which we are trying to do to contribute to the soca scene.
What makes RDR as a brand and your events different from other brands? Credible and Hardwine: It’s the vibe. We think about our customers, the people who are dancing on the floor, what they want to hear, how they want to hear it. There is a way that we play that is different. Credible: We know that we have the best mics man. We really love the music and that shows, we enjoy ourselves and people see that we enjoy ourselves. Corrine: I think it is also about the character of Credible and Hardwine as well. They seemed like cool people, at their events they are approachable and you see people talking to them. Some other promoters are more like ‘I have my perimeter’.
What is RDR’s strongest asset? Hardwine and Credible: The Djing. Hardwine: Because the DJing is what brings people to the Riddim side. People actually get excited when we come to play.
Who is your target audience? Is it more for the smaller islands? Credible: Not really, it’s more for just people who love soca and wanna hear it. Back then, it was just if you like soca, come hear it. If you can come down every week, come down every week. If you ain’t got much money, you can come in for free. Hardwine: I guess it’s because we are heavily influenced by Barbados and Grenada. Credible and the soca cartel used to go there all the time. I began from 2007. And those are the tunes that you didn’t used to hear. Like Frenzy, when they started, they did they whole Antigan thing. The iron tunes, they were just ringing them out when they started. Our people are core soca lovers but we want other people to hear soca as well.
How did RDR get into merchandise? For example the ‘Responsibly Drinking Rum’ t-shirts? Credible: It was just one of those things, we liked the slogan ‘Responsibly Drinking Rum’ on a t-shirt. Other people saw it and said, Yeah ‘I want that t-shirt’. And that’s how it started. Hardwine: We just kind of fell into it.
Is it hard to partner up internationally with other bands? Not really it depends on the people. Communication is not that much of a problem as we are all connected up. But it is easier when we are at the place and when we have a named person that works with us. So in Barbados we have Kim, in Grenada we have Bobbi who leads summer crew. They help a lot.
When thinking about venues in London, what is first thing you look for? Corrine: Air conditioning! [laughter] Credible: Yeah there is that. Obviously try to keep it as central as possible. We want people to be able to come from all over. Size, depending on what event we are doing. Then there are the other factors such as sound, air conditioning. Those are the main factors.
How do you pull in the younger crowd? Hardwine: One of the things that we have done is add the kids element to our carnival at Notting Hill. We won this year for our kids section. We have a good team there (Shout out to Sash). We are trying to get the children to come up through the ranks, see what the actual culture is about and take it from there.
At carnival weekend, there are loads of events and even more international teams coming into London at that time, is that an issue for you guys? Are you worried? Credible: I wouldn’t say worried. We have Carnival Thursday and a fete before the carnival week. We stick to our fetes and people attend. Hardwine: You look and say ‘ok there are a lot of events.’ But to me that can be a good thing. It depends on what the other promoters are doing and how they are promoting. If you are actively trying to get more people to come into soca, then by all means put 50000 raves if you want. But what might be happening or what some people are trying to do is just try to take the people who are already going to particular events. That’s not cool. What we try to do is go out to find new people. We spend loads of money doing our mixes (CDs) and for example ( although we haven’t done it in a while) every Rum Fest we would put them in the bags as Rum Fest had a different crowd.
Do you guys ever talk to other promoters? Cause there are times when have been about three fetes on the same night and you think ‘Man why don’t these people talk to one another?’ Hardwine: We do try to steer clear of dates of other events and we have been lucky that we haven’t really come up against anyone. But you have to find a date that suits your brand and event. If you know that someone is going to do a thing on that day, you have to think, ‘Is our event the same? Is it different? Can we pull in different people?’
Other teams have brought in international artists and DJs. RDR doesn’t really do that. Hardwine: We have actually. We brought Rupee over in 2009 at Red Eye. I’m not sure why we didn’t continue. I think it did not fit what we were trying to do at the time. We have a lot of plans for 2017. It’s not that we are ruling it out. Never say never.
When did you know that RDR had made it as a brand? Hardwine: You know what? We still don’t know. Sometimes we realise and then sometimes we forget. Cause of the type of people that we are, we are kind of laid back and we have to push ourselves. Then we stop and think ‘We just had 800 people’. I think the Riddim Tribe perhaps make me realise. Credible: The followers of the band, we have a lot of core soca followers, but we have people from different countries coming to join the band and sometimes you think ‘How did they even find out about us?’ When you see all those people, that brings it home.
Have there been any challenges to promoting soca in London? Hardwine: I think one of the challenges is pushing it out to new people. They class soca as reggae. Credible: Venues for us has been a challenge in the last couple of years. Most of the venues will say that we don’t want you here because you are too urban or you are playing this kind of music which is not what we are about. That has happened quite a bit. We don’t have links in the city, to speak to the clubs and to be able to get them. We don’t have that advantage to get the dates that we want in the city. Hardwine: One learning point is that we had to learn how to promote ourselves. We are not really loud like that . I’m quite quiet until I get on the mic. Credible: We won awards this year at Calabash Awards. In the industry now it might not be seen as a big thing but someone had to vote for us. But we don’t really put it out there. We’re still learning we can shout out about ourselves sometimes.
What’s next for RDR? Credible: Next year is our tenth year, we will be going to have a nice band launch, we have the theme. Ohh are you going tell me the theme? Credible: Why not? It’s ‘Tales of Valour’. We are looking at Red Eye which will be bigger and better. DJ wise, we will see where we are going…there is RDR Galavants.
The RDR team have been quietly but indomitably doing their thing and achieving their goals. That is the nature of Credible and Hardwine; ever self effacing and not really shouting out their achievements which are many and significant. Never count this team out. There’s so much more coming. Their new online magazine Completely Caribbean is out now!
For more information on Release D Riddim please visit, www.releasedriddim.com, Release D Riddim on soundcloud, mixcloud Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please also visit rdrgalavants on instagram and www.completelycaribbean.com