By Stephen Jones
The Chaldean community presents an impressive pool of music talent from multiple generations, all over the country. Two of the foremost Chaldean musicians are gifted emcee, Biggie Babylon, and edgy guitarist, Mark Kassa of Slight Return. Both artists see music as a way to inspire Chaldeans like them who have similar dreams but may feel hesitant to pursue them because of lack of Chaldean representation in music.
“I pulled up to a house…”
Anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock for the past 30 years can sing along after hearing those lyrics on top of the DJ Jazzy Jeff instrumental for “Yo Home to Bel Air”, the theme song to the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. What they may be less familiar with is the 6 foot 2, 350-pound Biggie Babylon draped in a 90s-inspired ensemble and riding in the backseat of a taxi for the video to his newest single, Pulled Up Fresh, a Chaldean rebirth of the chart-topping hit from more than 25 years ago.
This sort of creativity is the reason why Babylon has attracted the attention of DJs at radio stations all over the world, including Eminem’s Shade 45 on Sirius radio. The San Diego rapper believes his name should be mentioned with the best hip-hop artists in the world.
“Our thing is to make music that competes with all the other major artists out there,” said Babylon. “We don’t want people saying ‘oh, that’s just another Chaldean rapper’. I want Chaldeans to realize that I’m on the same level as these other guys first and then see that I’m one of their people.”
Part of what drives Babylon is the lack of Chaldean representation in hip-hop. He wants to inspire up-and-coming Chaldean artists who love hip-hop to go after their dreams, and he plans to do that by becoming one of the best rappers in the world.
“My goal is to become the biggest artist in the world when it comes to music,” said Babylon. “I’m going for the Grammys because I know if I do it, I’m opening the doors for other talented youngsters out there that have a passion for this.”
In addition to music, Babylon is also a brand ambassador for Babylon’s Garden, a cannabis shop in San Diego. Babylon hopes to use the same larger-than-life personality that he displays as the face of Babylon’s Garden to transition into acting after he becomes an accomplished musician.
Babylon’s The Greenprint album features production from multiplatinum producers and is available on all major digital platforms.
Mark Kassa of Slight Return
Detroit-native Mark Kassa is the lead guitarist and vocalist for Slight Return, a funk and rock band that gets its inspiration from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Rage Against the Machine, Santana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robin Trower.
Slight Return was formed after Kassa graduated from Musicians Institute College in Hollywood.
Although they are now known as one of the funkiest bands on the Detroit scene, Slight Return did go through a period when their future was uncertain.
Early on, Slight Return received attention from many of the major record labels, including Sony and Atlantic. Family obligations caused the band to pass on a deal at the time, but they continued to make music until their vocalist passed away from cancer.
After this tragedy, Kassa and Slight Return disbanded until Kassa’s wife challenged him to start up the band again and feature as the lead vocalist. Kassa accepted her challenge and Slight Return has been rocking ever since, recording with some of funk’s biggest draws including George Clinton, Billy Cox and Dennis Coffee.
Kassa attributes his success in large part to two elements of his upbringing, his Detroit roots and the Chaldean community that raised him.
“My family has had a store on Linwood and Davison for more than 30 years,” said Kassa. “I spent basically my whole life there, listening to the 70s funky stuff, and that groove stuck with me the whole time.”
Kassa boasts an impressive portfolio with more than 100 professionally-recorded songs. He has recorded one album with his first band, Tower, and eight more with Slight Return.
Slight Return’s single “Vicious Tides” feat. Andy Vargas (lead vocalist for Santana), Tony “T Money” Green and legendary drummer Dennis Chambers has been in the top 20 of the Global Rock DRT Charts for more than three months, peaking at number 13.
You can find Biggie Babylon on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @BiggieBabylon. You can find Slight Return on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @slightreturnusa.