Consistent. Giving. Bold. This is how the West-Indian American Executive Creative Blacka Di Danca describes himself. With his work in the dance and music world, he has inspired the industry these past couple of years, having made a name for himself – and it’s not only the worldwide dancehall scene that respects him for his talent and powerful engagement. It goes beyond his creative work. Blacka – who grew up in a Caribbean household in Brooklyn, New York – is driven by a force to use his name and platform in the most meaningful way possible. With the pandemic affecting lots of performers and choreographers, endangering their career and future, he has created a hub in Los Angeles for artists to help and support each other in these difficult times. For this, he uses the resources of Danca Agency, a talent agency and production company based between New York, Los Angeles and Miami. But this is just one example out of many. Recently, he also started powerful engagement to help out people in Texas, suffering from life threatening winter storm effects this past month.
Right before this, he was actually having a big moment for himself: In February, the artist released his debut album „Son of An Immigrant“, undoubtedly a great success for good reasons. With only 10 songs he not only proved his talent but also his knowledge and expertise that he started to collect at a young age, growing up in a home with its own recording studio in the basement, owned by the Jamaican-American musician Courtney Panton. But its real spice lies in the realness with which Blacka is approaching music: sharing his very own story and life experiences, being a son of an immigrant living in America, following his dreams. With his song „Come From Far“ he created a reminder that everyone can do it too, „no matter where you came from, the lessons you’ve learned along the way is your strength“. Maybe this is what it’s all about in life, to just never give up: ride the waves, knowing that there will be ups and downs but they will always take you somewhere. To different places with opportunities to grow, to become better in your craft, clearer in your vision and more conscious of your community and surroundings. Below, a conversation about Parang and Pauper’s CD playlists, the power of Jamaica and true super powers, about making Los Angeles a new home and why a good song feels like a good phone call.
Sina Braetz: Introduce yourself in one sentence.
Blacka Di Danca: My name is Blacka Di Danca and I’m an Executive Creative.
How did you come up with your artist name Blacka Di Danca?
Growing up in Brooklyn, I spent a lot of time with my cousins “New Kingston” (Jamaican-American Reggae Group). Their father, and my father figure Courtney Panton, gave me the name “Blacka” one day while we were having breakfast in their home. Since then, it stuck with me. I came up with “Di Danca” while in college in January 2009 because Facebook needed me to add a middle and last name on my personal profile. So I took the normal “Dansa” title we use in the Caribbean, I changed the “s” to a “c”, then added “Di” to connect both, and I became “Blacka Di Danca”.
Something that most people don’t know about you?
I’m more introverted than I am extroverted.
Share with us your best and most difficult memories growing up in Brooklyn, New York.
My best memories growing up in Brooklyn were holidays with my mom and little brother, especially during Christmas with her Parang and Pauper’s music cd playlists. I grew up dancing and listening to all types of music: Reggae, Soca, Dancehall, Calypso… and Christmas morning was always the best time at home, setting up the tree and dancing together.
Some other irreplaceable memories are of me and New Kingston partying all over Brooklyn. We’d literally get in the car, drive around with the music low, listening for backyard parties, and we’d occasionally pop up in random people’s backyard parties dancing! That’s just how we grew up in dancehall, in Brooklyn, our cultures are very inclusive to the good vibe you bring. The most difficult part about growing up in Brooklyn was not being able to have everything we wanted, but we always found a way to create everything we needed.
Do you remember your real first encounter with music that shaped and inspired you to do your own music?
I’ve grown up around music my entire life. Courtney Panton, my father figure, had a recording studio in the basement of our home in Brooklyn in the early 90’s. Artists like Shaggy, Sugar Minott and more would be in and out of our house, recording music in the basement, and I was always around. From then to growing up in the Reggae music industry with New Kingston for the past 20 years, I’ve had no choice but to be inspired by music, our culture is music, I’m just playing my part.
Which recording artist has inspired you most so far?
I’ve been inspired the most in my life by Beenie Man. More recently, Vybz Kartel has become a dual major inspiration.
When did you start recording your own music?
I recorded my first song with a close friend of mine, King Silvera, formally known as Basiq when we recorded a song called “The One” in 2012. It was for a popular Jamaican brand, RepJA on the RepJA Riddim with features from other artists such as Laza Morgan, Gyptian, Kardinal Offishall and more. It’s actually still out on YouTube!
What makes a really good song in your opinion?
For me, a really good song is a song that gives the listener a direct connection to the artist’s energy through the music. Whatever the intention may be, music is about communicating. A good song feels like a good phone call.
What is for you the most powerful thing about Jamaica and dancehall culture?
To me, the most powerful thing about Jamaica, is the last three letters of dancehall – ALL. It is truly an island, country and culture “out of many, one people” and you feel that in the music, the food, the dance, and in the breeze. The feeling of inclusivity that Jamaica’s culture naturally gives people around the world is undeniable.
Why did you move to Los Angeles? How do you experience the city so far?
Moving from Los Angeles from Brooklyn last summer was a big move for me. I never wanted to live in LA. But in March of 2020, when COVID-19 shut down all of the dance studios and airports, it put most of our dance careers at a halt. So, I called about a dozen dance instructors in the dancehall and soca industry living in New York, and offered to move them all in with myself in an AirBnB so that we could survive the pandemic and transition our businesses online together as one unit, Danca Agency. We lived together from March to May 2020 through dozens of Air Bnb’s in Brooklyn and Manhattan, teaching online dance classes from inside the BnB’s, then we decided to move closer to the music industry opportunities, bigger homes, warmer weather and good weed in Los Angeles. 10 of us, from Danca Agency, including our Director Shoot Madonna got on a plane together and moved to LA in May 2020. We’re still living together now.
LA was definitely the right move to make in our journey, there is so much opportunity here for those who chose to create opportunity for themselves, you just have to be aware of what you want and don’t want, who you are from who you are not, and then your experiences in LA will make more sense and be fruitful.
What made you release your debut album? And what are you hoping for the album to do with people, what’s your message?
I released my debut Album “Son of an Immigrant” on February 5th, 2021 with Empire. The only reaction that I wanted my fans to have from my album was self-reflection and to be able to dance to it all. Creation comes from within and is designed to be given. Life is creation, life is given. My album is my gift to the world wrapped in 10 layers of my personality disguised as songs. My message is my life experience, the son of an immigrant living in America, that consistently makes it as far as he dreams. You can do the exact same, no matter where you come from. Our ancestry is our super power.
How did you choose/curate the songs for your debut album?
I chose 10 songs that best describe me, my personality, who I am as a person and embodied the title of my album “Son Of An Immigrant” out on Empire. The intro song “Another One” produced by Mysta Crooks and Clayton William, is the first song on my album because it’s the best representation of who I am, Brooklynite and West-Indian. When you listen to “Another One”, the marriage of dancehall and hip-hop music keeps you highly engaged. Each song chosen after was selected from a list of my favorites with fan favorites that I carefully curated, like a party, and ending it all with a piece of my life story to tie it all together and make sense of the album title, Track 10: “Come From Far” produced by Stylolive.
What is your favorite song from the album?
My favorite song from the album is the last song, “Come From Far”.
Tell us more about your song, “Come From Far“.
Come From Far, produced by my brother Stylolive, is more a nostalgic autobiography than it is a song. Every line is a memory of growing up in Brooklyn with my cousins New Kingston. The third line of the song “pan di bus with a likkle bit a quarter from mi jar”, references a memory of searching my house looking for coins, finding the coin jar, and then adding up all of the change I found to get on the B103 bus from Downtown Brooklyn to Canarsie to hang out with my cousins. I always want to use any part of my life’s story and experiences as a guide book for others to be able to create their own life/career roadmap. Come From Far is a reminder that you can do it too. We have come way too far to give up now – no matter where you came from, the lessons you’ve learned along the way is your strength.
How did the idea of your tik tok/instagram challenges develop? How are you experiencing them so far?
Crazy thing – I’ve never really started any of my dance challenges for my music, my fans are responsible for that. I just post that the song is out, and my community just starts dancing to it. Three out of ten songs “Another One”, “Bubble Up” and “Buss Down” are already viral dance challenges with millions of views each. A few more on the album are now dance challenges that are still picking up as the viral ones are still consistent. I keep a tight relationship with my global community, and dancehall is super supportive once you support others. This is the product of supporting each other, in any way you can.My experiences with dance challenges so far are bitter sweet. In September, my record “Buss Down” with Krossfayah and Clayton William went viral – really viral. The #Bussdownchallenge is a dance challenge started by my sister Spiice The Dragon, and is popularly known as the “water bottle challenge” as it involves balancing a water bottle on the head while dancing to the song. This water bottle dance move, named “Spiicy Balance” started a global trend that became the dance challenge for other songs like Wizkid and his song “Joro” shortly after. While “Buss Down” was playing during the NBA playoffs and finals, and the #Bussdownchallenge was going viral on the internet, Tik Tok started targeting our team by removing our videos tagging or using the song. Spiice’s initial Buss Down challenge video reached 1.1 million streams in one week before Tik Tok removed it for “Adult Nudity and Sexual activity”, although she was neither nude or performing sexual activity. Our other Danca Agency choreographer Kinkyy Curly had her video removed after it reached 1.1 million streams in 6 hours. Since then, Tik Tok has removed dozens of #Bussdownchallenge videos from my account and the account of my fans without fair reason, while curating the #Jorochallenge from Wiz Kid, although it was the same dance challenge. I’ve been in direct contact with Tik Tok regarding this issue as I am a verified artist on their platform, but after sending comparing screenshots of both challenges, they stopped responding to my internal emails. We’ve lost hundreds of millions of streams because of this – a battle we are still fighting today.
What was the most special performing experience for you so far?
Right before the pandemic hit, a friend of mine Amari Marshall invited me to perform for her birthday party at the W hotel in Los Angeles. I flew out with my best friend Charlie and I performed my set. While I was performing, the entire crowd was singing my lyrics and dancing with me! And it was my first live performance in LA. It showed me that my music fans were engaged and inspired me to keep on going.
What are your hopes and plans for 2021?
My hopes for 2021 are to continue growing with my families Danca Family (global dance crew) and Danca Mafia (music group and label). My goal is for all of our artists to continue growing monetized brands so that we can all equally create generational wealth and honestly just have more free time to spend with the ones we love.
Big love and thank you for this interview! I wish all of the readers endless success, health and abundance this year, 2021! It’s yours, claim it!
Interview: Sina Braetz
Images Gallery: #1 by @shootmadonna, #2 by @jordanhiraldo
For Numéro Berlin, Blacka Di Danca created a playlist with 20 songs which have influenced him most in life, inspiring both his dance and music work. Check it out now!