On one side, you have a name that’s very prominent in Caribbean culture – Ricky. On the other, there’s one of the most familiar last names in all of Germany in Dietz. Bring them together and you get RICKY DIETZ – a Berlin based, yet worldwide looking duo, made up from a German producer and a half Jamaican, half Canadian singer-songwriter who has toplined for a handful of notable modern urban music names. Together they’re the dancehall, afrobeat and pop crossover act.
Meet Pierre Baigorry and Sway Clarke, who themselves first met a couple of years back. “It was strange,” says Sway, of how the pair came to make music together, “I met this German dude who had essentially been making reggae and dancehall music his entire career.” Despite their differences in upbringing, Pierre inspired Sway to showcase a more nuanced side to his personality – to move beyond the folk music he’d originally been making and move toward his island roots. “This red haired white guy was like ‘Let’s do some black music!’” he explains, “and it pushed me to do that.”
Prior to RICKY DIETZ, Sway had been writing toplines for international acts like John Legend and Tinie Tempah – strong groundwork for the duo’s worldwide appeal. In order to prep for their release, the pair also headed over to Lagos – home of Nijah music - to work with Nigerian producers. Pierre had been taken by their drum patterns for quite some time and now had the opportunity to combine those beats with RICKY DIETZ´ Caribbean flavoured music and their own way of pop songwriting.
As much as there’s a crossover between afrobeat and dancehall, RICKY DIETZ also break down several more barriers – first, by singing in English, they attract an international audience; and second, through their presentation, there are more than a fair few hints to Germany and east Germany in particular. Take the video for debut single “Lemonade Drip”. Aurally, it’s a soft, sun-dappled track, ready made for experiencing with a strawberry daiquiri or two, ideally next to a beach or some kind of water or carnival. And yet the video has all the hallmarks of east Germany. Near the beginning, there’s an old car – one you could only get in east Germany – being pulled along by a horse. Elsewhere there are the visual tropes of 1989/90, with eastern bloc motifs taking centre stage in a video that takes place in the dead of night.
“In the world of dancehall, in the world of afrobeat, aesthetic is very similar. It’s very American,” says Sway, explaining why they’ve decided to embrace a German aesthetic. “It’s always tropical, there’s girls, all those kind of things. But one of our goals is to do something that turns us on, to do things differently and make it almost fantasy-like, in a way. So we’re trying to cultivate our own aesthetic. We didn’t want to do the standard thing.” “One of our big inspirations is Outkast,” he continues. “We liked the way they pushed hip hop music.” Ultimately, RICKY DIETZ have decontextualized afrobeat and are pushing it forward – or at the least, giving it a sideways lilt in a new direction that hasn’t been witnessed before. Now they’ve just got to drop some more music... “We’re perfectionists. A lot of times we’ve come to the position where if someone doesn’t rip something out of our hands we’ll keep editing it and changing it for a very long time,” laughs Sway. “So we had to just start!”