DJ Collage: Raw Ragga Sound

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Lawrence Chatman’s alias, DJ Collage, aptly describes his patchwork of styles and his eclectic resume, which includes collaborations with breakbeat innovators Meat Beat Manifesto, house hippies Dubtribe, and Canadian Celtic bhangra crew Delhi2Dublin. But even though his Supercat-inspired flow makes perfect sense over downtempo, future ragga, and deep house, there has been some confusion when it comes to his name.

“People at the electronic clubs keep asking me what type of music I spin,” says Chatman of his “DJ” prefix. “The dancehall and Caribbean community I come from [understands] it means ‘vocal MC,’ but outside that community they [don ’t] get it.” To remedy things, Lawrence is undergoing a transition from DJ Collage to Mr. Chatman, which is the name he’ll use for his debut album, Marathon Man, out this summer on his own Masse One label. Chatman, who was born in Chicago but now resides in Seattle (via stints in Oakland, CA and Vienna, Austria), hopes the album will further showcase his talents as a solo producer and artist.

Album tracks like “Bombay Rock,” “Big Mon Now,” and “Mi Rite Time” (produced by his other alias Dutty Larry) feature catchy choruses and vocal hooks–no surprise, as Chatman readily admits to being a pop music fan. Though he could have called on previous collaborators like Sofa Surfers, Stereotyp, or Ghislain Poirier to help on the record, Chatman opted for a more personal statement. “I like working with people and exposing myself to different artists, but at the same time I want people to hear where I’m coming from,” he explains.

Lately, fans are hearing him at opening sets for Yellowman, Sly and Robbie, Collie Buddz, and Kode 9, and at his weekly Monday night reggae party Jam Jam at Seattle’s Baltic Room. “I’m what they call a ‘vibes man’,” says Chatman of his performance mindset. “It’s about self-expression and what people feel from
the music.”

“I was influenced by Supercat, Cutty Ranks, Nicodemus, Shaggy, Red Fox–the whole late ’80s and early ’90s New York reggae explosion,” says Chatman, noting that music from that era had urban street cred and Caribbean flavor. “It was raw!” he says. “That’s the vibe that I want to bring back. Although times have changed, when I look at people’s reactions when they hear that raw beat–they really respond to it!”