Yes King: Heading to Jamaica via London

Take Mark Rae, a mainstay in the UK hip hop and soul scene (formally of Rae & Christian fame), throw him in the ring with DJ/producer Rhys Adams (known for his work with Rocker’s Hifi). And then uproot them their London home and fly them over to Jamaica. And what do you get? Yes King.

On their new album Rock This World, Yes King bring together the different strings of hip hop, dancehall, disco, ragga and ska to create a sound that’s based in Jamaica, but still the strong London vibe and feel that the pair are known for. The project came to light when the pair were producing an album for Wall of Sound, and later flying to Jamaica to record with some of the local vocal talent. With their record in the stores now, ITM talks to Mark Rae form Yes King.

How did you guys start working together?

We started in 2003 after we both moved to London at the same time, and our original connect was through the different drummer label in Birmingham where Rhys had originally remixed a Rae & Christian tune called Hold Us Down. We worked first on my solo LP Into The Depths, as well as doing remixes for the Beach Boys, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole.

The album has a heavy reggae/dancehall influence, which may come as a surprise for those expecting something on a more soulful Rae & Christian kind of tip. Where did the Jamaican influences come from?

Both of us had worked in this field. Rhys with different drummers in Rockers HiFi, and I had worked with Joseph Cotton and Cedric Myton of the Congos on Rae Road and the second Rae & Christian album Sleepwalking, so it forms some part of our past. I had been playing dancehall as a DJ for over a decade so it wasn’t an unknown area by any means.

You also work together as ARP (Adams/Rae Productions). Is the ARP sound different to what you do with Yes King?

ARP was an early incarnation we may revive but the name has been used by others so unlikely it will resurface other than in the production liner notes of whatever we get up to. Yes King now has its own sound which despite the amount of influences does have a unifying production ethic

You work with a number of very talented vocalists on the album, including Mystro and Veba, but the big surprise is Tor’s work on Crunch. Can you tell us a bit more about her?

We saw her on Channel U in our old studio and I tracked her down through local hip hop contacts, she took about six months to get in the studio and we were very pleased when she finally did her thing, she is one of the best MCs in the UK.

Ayak’s contribution is also amazing, what’s her story?

Born in Sudan, moved to London due to civil war at the age of one, signed to Polydor Germany at sixteen. We found when I was touring with her in Edinburgh and we hit it off, so she used to come every Wednesday into the studio and write on our beats while we went out for curried goat.

The lyrics are, for the most part, very positive. Was this a conscious decision?

Yes indeed, we encouraged a positive outlook as we weren’t trying to add any more negativity to the world and particularly hip hop and dancehall.

With so many guest vocalists, how do you tour the Yes King sound, and when can we expect a visit to our shores?

We would love everyone to be there, but it’s rather expensive so we try and roll with Mystro and Lady Chann plus Ayak, we hope to be out there in February of next year so fingers crossed.

In this part of the world at least, Rock This World is released on New Zealand indie label Loop Recordings – how did that come about?

They loved the record and have a grounding in the style of music Yes King represents, I have also always had a great time touring down under so we were all excited to get to return.

You both seem to be pretty busy with other projects outside of Yes King. What does the future hold for Rhys Adams and Mark Rae?

I’m doing solo LP and Rhys has a roots/reggae thing on the boil. My album has been created and recorded entirely in Los Angeles, so it’s a diversion from the past I’m proper gangster now. Actually I’m singing on it so it’s been fun and challenging.

Yes King Rock This World is out now in Australia through Loop Recordings and Stomp.