Welcome to T.O.K.’s world where exquisite four part harmonies contrast rough edged deejaying, soaring falsetto hooks and gently crooned love songs are as plentiful as rapped verses and gritty gangster exploits; a world where crisp production and idiosyncratic, taut songwriting yield a daring fusion that ranks them among dancehall’s most distinctive and enduringly popular acts. T.O.K. (an acronym for Touch of Klass) has named their third album for VP Records “Our World” because it encompasses an assortment of musical hues that have had the greatest influence on the group’s sonic identity. “With this album we have consolidated all that variety into one project,” explains group member Roshaun “Bay-C” Clarke. “We have dancehall, one-drop, Latin flavored beats, music for the hardcore listener, for the conscious listener and for the party goers; that is what our world represents.”
OUR WORLD is dominated by previously unreleased tracks and a few of T.O.K.’s recent hits including “Everybody Bounce”, “Super Model” and “Guardian Angel”, the latter a prayer for spiritual strength sensitively sung over a one-drop reggae rhythm, produced by Arif Cooper. Two years after “Guardian Angel’s” initial release, in March 2009, it topped Japan’s Ring Tone Download Chart, an indicator of the tremendous love Japanese fans have consistently shown T.O.K. since their initial performance there in 200l. T.O.K.’s debut album “My Crew My Dogs” and their sophomore effort “Unknown Language” were, respectively, certified gold (sales of 100,000) and platinum (sales of 250,000) by the Recording Industry of Japan. Because of T.O.K.’s enormous popularity in Japan, “Our World” will have its premiere release there on June T.O.K.’s world has greatly expanded since November 1992 when high school students Craig “Craigy T” Thompson, Xavier “Flexx” Davidson, Alistaire “Alex” McCalla and Ros
haun “Bay-C” Clarke formed a vocal group. Like many of that era’s young singers they were greatly influenced by the brilliant harmonization of 1990s American boy bands including Boyz II Men and their favorite Shai, but as Jamaican youth they were equally inspired by the island’s ubiquitous reggae and dancehall rhythms; their shared vision for T.O.K. was to create an adventurous union between beautifully nuanced vocalizing and dancehall’s rough and rugged edge.
Bay-C and Craigy T introduced deejaying into T.O.K.’s performances at Cactus (the now defunct nightclub located in the Kingston suburb of Portmore), which is where the group learned how to connect with a hardcore dancehall crowd. They began writing original music, individually contributing significant concepts, choruses and verses to the group’s collective compositions and were transformed from a mellifluous high school boy band into a tough rhyming rude boy band. However, it took some time for audiences to embrace their audacious yet appealing hybrid. “We fused harmonies with dancehall subject matter, Flexx and Alex’s sing-jaying with Craig and my deejaying and created this new sound,” says Bay-C. “But people who liked that clean cut boy group sound said why are you going into dancehall and the dancehall community was like you are a boy group, what are you trying to do?”
Undeterred by such criticism, T.O.K. persevered and secured their first recording session, covering 3T’s “Anything For You”, which was produced by venerated drummer Sly Dunbar. Flexx then approached ace selector Rory of the immortal Stone Love sound system with a copy of “Anything For You”; Rory started spinning the tune at Stone Love sessions and before long it was playing on the island’s airwaves.
T.O.K.’s continual refinement of their immense talent has kept them at the forefront of Jamaican dancehall and brought them widespread success, especially in Japan, which is now like a second home to them. The group’s diverse song content, unique sound and the sheer magnificence of their vocals as heard on their third album, guarantees prominent placements on international charts and an even greater musical presence in Our World.