Jamaican music has evolved greatly in recent years, and Craig “Leftside” Parkes is one of the preeminent artists setting the pace with his fresh island drawl and multicultural dynamic. He’s been called “vintage reggae” by some music enthusiasts, a product of hip hop infiltration into the roots of its craft. In many ways, Parkes takes the shape of a mold that’s settling around him. From street folklore to dancehall chronicles, this 28-year-old Caribbean star shows flexibility with his music without compromising any attention to the aesthetics.
“I actually came across Leftside’s music when I first started the show back in 2009,” recalls BTR DJ Meredith Rifkin (host of Caribbean Fever on BTR), who’s been tracking Parkes’ career over the past few years. “I wasn’t too familiar with him until I started really scoping the scene for up & coming artists to play. I think he was just starting to get noticed at the time and I was attracted to his different style. He’s very good at impersonating other artists, but has a great flow himself… He is a true dancehall artist.”
Also known as “Mr. Evil,” Parkes’ foot was escorted through the industry door by his father, a legendary bass player in Jamaica and part of the act We The People Band. Parkes began recording with his brothers and sisters when he was in high school, and, soon after, was on the road playing drums for other bands with his father. His skills stretch across many mediums – as a drummer, keyboardist, disc jockey, and producer – and his multi-faceted character has earned him the attention of fellow artists like Main Ingredient, Gregory Isaacs, and John Holt, all of whom he played with while on tour.
The variety of influences surrounding Parkes’ rising career have all contributed to his sonic clarity and diverse vision, but it was his partnership with fellow reggae dancehall artist and former classmate Esco in his early 20s that made him a full-fledged act and innovation in music. The two joined forces to produce, write, and play music together, and created their own record label in the process to house their work. Together, they took big bass, reggae bravado and humor, and spliced them into a syncopated composition, concocting some of the most audacious sounds of the genre.
Soon, the buzz about Parkes’ caught on and his sound started to spread far and wide.
“It’s been interesting to see him really develop his own style and get the recognition he deserves as an artist,” says Rifkin. “He’s had a chance to work with some of the top producers and artists in the industry, which has allowed him to improve and showcase his skills. I like that he’s also inspirational and has helped develop other artists as well (Kiprich, Ice Cold). It’s nice to see when artists aren’t only in it for themselves and are trying to help their genre of music grow, pushing other talented artists as well.”
Along with his more modern mementos, Parkes has also become known for his retrograde technique, making music almost like a throwback to the ‘90s. His most popular tracks to date are “Want Your Body (Remix) ft. Sean Paul,” “We Came To Party ft. Kes & Loni Jones,” and “High (Friday Version),” and it was his 2005 crossover hit “More Punany,” that got him onto Hot 97 radio in New York and merged him into the rap community. Now, suffice it to say, Parkes can pretty much do anything, go anywhere, and impress anyone, and he’s enjoying the good life while he’s at it. Playing shows, growing his fan base, and toasting the high times, the momentum is only rising.
Adds Rifkin, “I’d put him in the top tier of dancehall artists and think he’s definitely someone to watch for the future.”
Click here to listen to music from Leftside and listen for his music on your favorite BTR shows all week long.
Follow BTR Writer Courtney Garcia on Twitter!