Wednesday, 29 April 2009
With just over a year of comedy experience, Kevin J has everyone talking about the new white comedian on the circuit after his recent feature as Hot Spot (new talent) on MTV Base’s “Kojo’s Comedy Funhouse”. The 21 year-old comedian credits his multi-cultural surroundings of Tottenham for the foundations of his jokes. The class clown who simply loved making people laugh has gone from being called an “attention-seeker now called a comedian.”
Marvin Sparks caught up with Kevin J to discuss his begninngs and sharp rise to fame in comedy, being a white comedian on a black circuit, the Kojo effect (click for interview with Kojo after you've read this interview) and more.
What is the difference between being the class clown and a comedian?
Comedian is a craft. You don’t just go on the stage and do anything because you’ll get found out. I’m sure a lot of people have seen comedians who go on stage and you can see they haven’t planned it. They just think they are a funny guy just [tell] jokes you would tell while you’re drunk at the back of the bus and it doesn’t work. Whereas a comedian you need your jokes, you need your set; you need to know what your saying, when your saying it and how your saying it, facial expressions.
What made you take the step from being the class clown to doing comedy?
I never thought about doing comedy - never even crossed my mind. I never liked comedy when I was younger. I thought it was boring, but then I went to Kojo’s Comedy Club at Corks Wine Bar and when I saw it I was like “Wow! I want to go up and do it.” I spoke to Kojo afterwards, asked him how I could get into comedy, I gave him a few pointers and said to me “Come back when you have 5 minutes worth of material.” I went back about 3 months later and performed there for the first time.
Do you remember much of that performance?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Clear as day. I used to call Kojo every 2 days and be like “Ahh, this that, this that,” but he would say to me “Bruv, just get your jokes and come and do it.” I remember he introduced me and as I was walking down I was thinking “I don’t remember my material,” and I’d been practicing it. But then I did the show, it went really well, people were laughing and gave me a good round of applause. When I came off stage I remember Kojo had this smile, he looked proud of me. He just put his arm around me and was like “Bruv, I told you you could do it,” and that kind of sticks with me. Kojo’s face and him saying “I knew you could do it.”
When you were talking to him on the phone saying “This that, this that“, was that you testing jokes?
I’ll be honest with you, I wanted Kojo’s approval. I tried telling him my jokes but he said “I don’t want to hear your jokes. If I find them funny it doesn’t mean everyone else will find them funny, but what matters is if you find them funny.” But then I would phone him 2 days later [tell him] “Alright I’m ready,” then he’ll [say] “Alright, I’m putting you on this show,” then I’ll be like “Nah, nah, nah, actually I’m not,” and then I’d call him back. That happened for like a week-and-a-half and then he said “If you don’t do this show, I’m not going to take you seriously,” so then I had to.
What made you decide to perform in front of urban/predominantly audiences?
I didn’t decide I wanted to make black people laugh, it was [as a result of] the comedy club I went to. The black comedy scene in the UK is growing, so it was easier for me to get onboard. In a white comedy club you can’t speak to the comedians, you don’t know who runs it. Whereas Kojo’s Comedy Club, the guy that runs it, hosts it, is at the after party - he’s doing everything so it was more accessible to start on the black circuit.
Have you done many mainstream audiences?
I’ve done a few mainstream shows, but when I do mainstream shows I change my material slightly. Simply because the references are different, the language is different, but I still talk about the same subject mater. A young white guy growing up in London, but the way I refer to things is different.
How has growing up in a multicultural area affected your material and helped you succeed. For example, you put on a very convincing west African accent.
I’ve got insight into a lot of cultures. Everyone knows me for my Nigerian accent particularly. People are always like “Wow, I could have thought you were Nigerian.” I work on a lot of accents; Turkish, Chinese, Jamaican... I work on a lot of accents because, I think when you can almost change yourself into someone else on stage it brings colour to the stage. You can’t do it all in one tone or one dialect. It’s alright, but when you can switch it up like one minute you’re a Jamaican man the next you are a Chinese man it’s weird because I am a white guy but on the stage there is a Jamaican man arguing with a Chinese man but people are thinking “What?! But your white.”
I work hard on trying to get my impressions down but growing up around them, I know little things that they say and I’m around a lot of people. When I’m at church or when I’m in the Chinese or Kebab shop, I don’t just order my food, I watch them; I watch how they interact with one another. The way I impersonate them is not how an English person thinks of them but what they actually do because I’ve watched them interact.
Some people would say you don’t speak like a “white boy.” How do you respond to that?
It’s where I grew up at the end of the day. If I grew up in Essex then I’d be speaking cockney like “Alright mate?” and be wearing a Hackett jumper with Reebok classics. What it is, is I grew up in north London. Although it is multi-cultural it is predominantly a black area, so it’s not like I want to be black because I haven’t got a skin fade, I haven’t got gold teeth, I haven’t got the stereotypical things that black people do, it’s just the way I talk. Take me or leave me that’s what I say.
A lot of your jokes are based on stereotypes. Have you ever come into any confrontation with hecklers shouting at you or people wanting to fight because of it?
Not really fight me, but I think a lot of the time people need to realise it’s comedy. I am not out here to insult anybody. There are many things I could insult other cultures about but I don’t. I talk about the funny things and most of the time it is [from the perspective of] a white guy being around black people. I’ve got so many jokes waiting to be written from scenarios I’ve been in. So yeah, a lot of people have been offended by what I’ve said but that was at the beginning of my career in the very early days when people were thinking “There’s a white person up here talking about black people,” but once they realise I’m not being racist or prejudice, I’m actually having a laugh doing comedy, they know me as a person.
How does Kevin J the comedian differ to Kevin J the person and do people take you seriously?
They don’t you know, they really don‘t. It’s really weird because people are always like “You aren’t that funny off-stage.” Since I started doing comedy, as a profession, off-stage I’ve become less funny because I hate seeing comedians that try and be funny off-stage. It’s like if you saw a fireman who’s always trying to put out fires everywhere he went. Leave it at the office. I look at comedy as a job; I love it but it’s not about being that guy in McDonalds. Everyone knows I’m a comedian, everyone’s been to a show, they’ve already laughed then came up to me and said “You’re hilarious.” I leave [being funny in public] to the jokers, which I feel I have graduated from being a class clown to a comedian.
Apart from being white, what separates you from other comedians?
I’m funny. Nah I’m playing, I respect every comedian. Until you go up on stage and try and tell jokes, you have to respect them because it isn’t easy and it‘s very scary. What makes me different from other comedians is I am me. You will never find another me and I am not anyone else and you won’t hear “He‘s like this person“ or “He‘s like that person.” There’s been a lot of talk of “Other people writing Kevin’s jokes,“ because they don’t hear me saying the same 5 jokes everywhere I go. I’m switching my material up quite a bit. I’m trying to anyway. It isn’t easy, but I’m trying to.
This talk about other people writing my material, they’re not. I write everything myself. I have people who help me, but no one writes my material.Back to the point, what makes me different is, like I said, I’m me. I do what I believe in. I don’t do it because I think other people will find it funny, I do it because I find it funny. I’m very new to comedy. I’m still trying to find my voice like when someone plays football they are trying to find their position. I do me and I represent what I believe in.
Comedians get a lot of criticism for repeating jokes. Is there too much pressure on you to churn out new jokes?
Yeah there is. There is a lot of pressure to keep doing fresh material. My argument is, when you go to a Jay-Z concert and he is performing his new stuff everyone [likes it], but then he says, “Right, now I’m going to take you back and see who the true fans are. Who remembers this one?” I can’t go on the stage, ask who remembers this one and drop a joke from when I first started doing comedy, because I‘ll get booed off. It is hard and what people don’t realise is it is so hard to go home and write a joke. I try and keep it as fresh as I can and switch up my material as often as I can, but there’s only so much a comedian can do.
You aren’t the only white comedian on the circuit. Is there any rivalry between you and Jamie Howard?
Me and Jamie get on fine. He started comedy before me, he’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine. The only similarity is that we are white. Our comedy is completely different and I think people have realised that over time. Every comedian that picks up a mic and tries to tell a joke is my competition. Chris Rock is my competition, Kojo is my competition, Jamie’s my competition. Richard Pryor is my competition because he is still selling DVD’s. Every comedian is my competition and with regards to Jamie, me and him are cool.
You said they are your competition and you didn‘t like comedy, but who are your comical influences or who you look up to?
I’m really only educated about comedy in the last two years. Kojo; I know I speak a lot about Kojo but he inspires me. The guy works so hard, he inspires me and I like his style of comedy, it’s very honest and real. Everyday things you’ll see and things that happen, he’ll make a joke about it and it’ll be funny. Eddie Kadi; the way he freestyles, his improvisation on stage - I don’t know anyone that can do it like him - and the energy that he brings. Moving on to mainstream comedians, Lee Evans; he’s just crazy. If I could be anything like him I’d be happy. There’s a guy who’s quite new to the circuit, Michael McIntyre, he makes crazy observations and I love that.
How pivotal has Kojo been to your career?
Kojo’s done a lot for me, and I know a lot of people know that but I think he respects that I am a true student of comedy. I’m doing everything by the book and I’m learning the ropes of comedy. Kojo’s given me very big breaks. He put me on his A Night With Kojo; an opening spot in a sold-out Hackney Empire and I’d only been doing comedy for like 7 months. He gave me the opportunity to start comedy and now he gave me the spot on MTV Base, the Comedy Funhouse. I’ve got a lot of respect for Kojo because he looks out for people. He’s not just about himself.
This may be a tricky question but out of the 3 events, would you rank each one above the other?
The first one, when I performed at Corks, I felt the most elated. I felt like I was floating, I couldn’t believe I‘d just done this. It must have felt something like giving birth. Hackney Empire, for me it was surreal. I couldn’t believe I had done that and my parents were there. I had actually bought tickets to the show, 2 days before the show Kojo called me and said “I want you to open the show,” so I gave the two tickets I had bought to my parents. That was a very proud moment; performing at Hackney Empire and knowing my parents were in the house.
The MTV Base show was like a reward for the hard work I have done. I’ve worked hard in the last year. I’ve done a lot of shows, worked really hard, kept my head down and didn’t get caught up in all the hype and that was like a nice reward for the hard work I have done. Now I’m seeing myself on TV. If I didn’t get into comedy, who knows? I could have still been on TV but it would have been Crimewatch or BBC news.
How did your parents react when you first told them you wanted to be a comedian?
My mum was scared because she knows that comedians get heckled and shot down. My dad is just raw. He was like “Your not funny.” I said “But you ain’t heard my jokes yet,” [he replied] “But I know you ain’t funny.” My dad is one of them undercover supportive people, like when you take home a painting he’s like “That’s rubbish,” [I say] “But I’m 3 dad,” [he replies] “I don’t care, it’s rubbish.” They’ve both been very supportive.
And they enjoyed the show?
Yeah, they watched the whole show. They loved Kojo; thought he was funny. Yolanda Brown, Bashy and Giggs performed. Giggs scared them a bit, but [overall] they liked it. Obviously, it was a proud moment for them seeing their son on the stage making 1,200 or whatever people laugh.
Your Facebook friends grew by nearly a thousand in the days after the show. How have things changed since you were on Kojo’s Funhouse? Are you getting recognised on the streets, have you noticed long lost cousins have come back?
All the long lost cousins have come back, but I kinda lost them for a reason so I’m trying to lost them again [laughs]. Everyone is a long time friend and my friend from years ago. Now everyone wants to call me; my number won’t stop ringing because I was on TV and they know I’ve been doing comedy because my Facebook name is ‘Kevin J Comedian’ for time. I’m getting noticed in the streets. Some old Jamaican lady came up to me and was like “Are you Kevin J?” It’s crazy. I am getting recognised but I don’t want to let that be bigger than what I want to achieve. I’ve done that now, and that’s something that was beautiful but I’ve got to keep going.
As you’ve said, you’ve only been doing comedy for a year and a bit, but you’ve already achieved big things. Has it been easier than you expected? This time last year, did you believe you would have done all of this?
I didn’t think I would have done half of it. I didn’t even think I would get booked for shows. Now I’ve got more comedy promoters calling me than girls. It’s crazy but it’s hard work. What this 1 year and 2 months in comedy has proven to me is anything is possible if you work hard, and that’s what I have done so now I’m seeing the benefits of it.
Recently you were in Bashy’s ‘Ransom’ video, have you got anymore little cameos or acting jobs in line?
When I first started, I started with modelling, acting and comedy at the same time. Comedy was the most enjoyable for me, so that’s why I’ve worked really hard at comedy. I done the Bashy video, he asked us - me and Eddie Kadi. We’re going to be in another video of his called ‘Who Want’s to be a Millionaire’. Acting is something that I definitely want to pursue. I think that’s what every comedian does at the end of the day. That is something to definitely look out for.
I saw something about a mixtape you are planning to do. Can you tell us more about that?
It is a comedy mixtape. Audio, for the car. It’s going to be UK. There will be some songs on there, but it will be up-and-coming UK artists, and it’s me doing sketches. That should be coming out in summertime hopefully. The only person I’ll have to assist me is an engineer who will be handling the levelling - I can’t do that. But in terms of producing, how it’s laid out, everything is down to me. I’m writing and paying for it. Everything is down to me.
You’ve been nominated for Best Newcomer at Urban Comedy Awards. What do you reckon your chances of winning that are?
There’s some stiff competiton in there; there’s Fumbi, Babatunde, Prince Abdi and there’s JCX and Slick. I’ll be honest with you, if any of them get it before me, I’ll be angry. Nah I’m playing, if any of them gets it ahead of me, its a reflection of what they‘ve done. I always believe the right man wins - unless it’s fixed, which I don’t believe it will be. I reckon the right man will win.I’d love to win it; it will cap what I’ve done in comedy in such a short amount of time.
People just see [us comedians] at a rave, club or a show, but we do work hard. Late night writing, writing, writing. For a comedian it’s a lonely life. You write the jokes, perform the jokes, then you’re the one who get’s laughed or booed at. There’s no backing music to save you. Just you and your mic. I’m just happy to be nominated and recognised as one of the best newcomers. Hopefully, by God’s grace, I’ll win it.
Can fans vote for it?
You have to go to Flavour magazine (FlavourMag.co.uk), they are the sponsors. You go to the website to vote for who you think is the best newcomer.What else is coming up for you in the future?Catch me doing more stand-up, I’m trying to breakthrough onto mainstream. I’ve got my own show coming out soon; watch this space is all I can say because it’s in production. Just loads of stand-up.
Facebook: Kevin J Comedian
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Her talents were initially spotted by producer Polow Da Don (Usher, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland), who then brought her to the attention of smash-hit-maker Timbaland. The highly anticipated debut album is being issued as a joint release from Mosley Music Group (Timbaland's label) and Zone 4 (Polow Da Don's label).
To mark the release of 'In A Perfect World' (in stores 4th May) Keri Hilson took time out to speak to PyroRadio.com regarding the struggles of getting recognition as a hit songwriter, being a tomboy labelled a sex symbol, blog haters to working with Elvis!
Marvin Sparks: What is about your writing skills that caught the attention of Polow Da Don and all these big artists?
Keri Hilson: I don’t know you know. I’m a little bit left of centre as a songwriter and as a person, so I think that’s just it. I’m a little bit eccentric and all of those things so I think that’s what it was.
Marvin Sparks: As a songwriter did you feel like you weren’t getting the accolades and praise you deserved?
Keri Hilson: Yeah, it’s such a producer-driven game and that’s a part that we can’t control, but I did get together with some songwriters in an effort to bring back the respect level and the clout that songwriters once had. I thought it was unfortunate that producers outshone songwriters even though we own the same amount of the song. People may think that it's from just a clout perspective, but it’s on the business side mainly. Producers would get paid first, songwriters - if they got paid at all... it’s kind of a long story that people outside of the industry wouldn’t understand but it was very interesting.
Marvin Sparks: So with the success you were seeing as a songwriter you always wanted to become an artist?
Keri Hilson: Absolutely. My first dream was to be an artist; I didn’t even know that song writing was a job or something you could make a career of. I learnt that later after a couple of situations went sour - I was in a couple girl groups and we dispersed. I took up song writing as a plan b and never thought it would get me to where I am as far or as fast as it did and it brought me back to plan a, so I‘m thankful for that opportunity.
Marvin Sparks: A lot of successful writers have gone solo but have not made the transition to a successful solo artist. What goes into making a hit song?
Keri Hilson: Making a hit song as an artist, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. You’ve got to do a lot of promotion, a lot of people have to know your name and there has to be kind of a movement going on. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes for people to see the video and to hear your voice on the radio - a lot of cooks in the kitchen. As a songwriter, your work is pretty much done after the artist leaves the studio, you have very little say. Song writing is very much behind the scenes; you don’t have to do any press or anything like that.
Marvin Sparks: Polow Da Don spoke to Timbaland and told him you were this hot new singer/songwriter before you told Polow he was the producer you felt could take you to the next level. What was meeting and performing for Timbaland like?
Keri Hilson: I didn’t have to perform in front of him at first - I sang over the phone and then flew to Miami to work with him that same night. I do remember being... I remember the feeling of anxiousness. I was just on cloud nine. We went straight to the studio after the airport. I was just like “Wow, I’ve got to make an impression. This is my shot. This is something I’ve dreamt about.” I’ve loved Timbaland since way back. Ginuwine days and even before that so it was an honour.
Marvin Sparks: There have been many delays with the release of your debut album ‘In A Perfect World’. Why has it taken so long for it to finally get a release?
Keri Hilson: There were rumours way before we started the album that I had started. This is all because I am a songwriter and I was always in the studio. Yeah, sometimes it was for me but the budget hadn’t opened up. The only release dates I had were November and December, so its not as long as people might think. That is kind of a long time, I guess, if you are anticipating it which I was too, but people look at it like a bad thing. Every time they pushed it back, which was twice, I was thankful. I was happy because it meant the label cared about my project to make sure it had a proper release. This is their baby; they spend a lot of time and resources on it to make sure it has a proper release.
Marvin Sparks: How did you decide which songs you kept for yourself and did that affect working with people who could be classed as direct competition?
Keri Hilson: No, because I wouldn’t give considered competition my sound. I would give them something that they are known for. Maybe the concept comes from me but it has to sound like something that they would do, but different enough. It’s straddling the line. I kind of know when something sounds more like me than not. Putting songs on my album, it was easy to know which ones I was most connected to. It’s the ones that evoked a real emotion out of me while I wrote them.
Marvin Sparks: You class yourself as a tomboy and enjoy playing sports like basketball, but appeared as the lead girl in Usher's 'Love In This Club' video and are the object of many males desire. How do you find being labelled as a sex symbol?
Keri Hilson: Hmm, I don’t think of myself as that, but I am getting a lot of attention from men so maybe I’m on the... you know... I don’t know [nervous giggle]. I don’t really see it like that, I’m just being myself. I still feel very much like a tomboy with make up on my face and heels on my feet. I’m just me, yeah.
Marvin Sparks: Like every female, you get a lot of attention on blogs from both bloggers and users comments. How do you deal with the negative comments you receive?
Keri Hilson: Well, I guess you just take it as entertainment. You read a blog, it’s much like going to a comedy show to me because these people don’t know you, but they have a very strong opinion about you. This is what I’m here for and I’ve got to take the good with the bad and the ugly. I have to thank God that I’ve been in the industry for this long to understand or to build a thick skin.
Marvin Sparks: There was a lot of talk when the ‘Turnin’ Me On Remix’ came out. Can you see why people thought you were taking shots at Beyonce and Ciara?
Keri Hilson: Absolutely. I was using somebody else’s lyrics and the word ‘she’ can be taken many ways. Any piece of art is subject to interpretation and I understand that music is no different. When a rapper uses someone else’s lyric, it’s like “that was a hot line that so and so used,” but when a girl does it, or when I do it, all of a sudden it means I was talking directly to who they’re considering as my competition when I don’t even see it that way. I see that there’s a place for all of us and I’m addressing what these people say about me on these blogs. “I hear she’s a song writer but ain’t nothing special about her. She should just go marry an athlete and have some babies.” But I do see where they got it from but that wasn’t the energy behind it.
Marvin Sparks: Now that you aren’t just a successful songwriter but a famous singer in your own right, what do you miss most about not being famous?
Keri Hilson: I absolutely miss just not being able to have a bummy day [laughs]. I still wear my kicks and wear my tennis shoes, but I got to wear make-up ’cause you don’t want to get sliced all the way down. I’m always surprised to know if I’m somewhere that used to be pretty low-key, I’m surprised that someone there recognises me and wants a picture and I got to do it. I make sure that I’m there for all of my fans. Anyone who wants an autograph can get it, anyone who wants a picture can get it. I mean, within reasonable means unless I’m sleeping! And that has happened. People have taken pictures of me sleeping, knocked out on Benodryl, probably with my mouth open. It’s crazy. So you don’t want to get caught out.
Marvin Sparks: ‘In A Perfect World’ will be available to purchase from 4th May; what can people expect to hear?
Keri Hilson: You can expect to hear production from Timbaland who you know and love. Production from Polow Da Don who you may not know but you love. You hear him on tracks like Chris Brown’s ‘Forever’, Pussycat Dolls ‘Buttons’, Fergie’s ‘Glamourss’ and ‘London Bridge’ and so on and so forth- he’s an amazing producer as well. Also Timbaland’s protege Danja; he produced a third of the album as well. I’m very proud of the writing I did. It’s very vulnerable, it’s kind of insecure in places but it really talks about how women really think and really feel about certain situations, so I didn’t have any notions to paint myself perfect, I talk about how it really is.
Marvin Sparks: 3 people who you’d love to write with or for dead or alive?
Keri Hilson: Dead or alive, umm, 2 of them are alive; Lauryn Hill and Michael Jackson. It would be interesting for me to do something with Elvis!
Marvin Sparks: Have you got anyone lined up for future projects?
Keri Hilson: I working to do something with Estelle - UK’s own Estelle, I think that would be an interesting collaboration. I’m working with Ryan Leslie on a song for Fabolous’ new album. I haven’t been doing too, too much promoting right this moment - I’ve been promoting my album for about a year now since ‘Energy’, so I haven’t written too much. I’ve got to get back into the saddle after I’m done with as much promo as I’m doing right now.
Follow Keri @ http://twitter.com/MissKeriBaby
For more info: http://www.kerihilsonmusic.com
PyroRadio.com: How did you come to recording Right Round?
Flo Rida: It being my sophomore album I just wanted to show my growth and expand my horizons. With the Dead or Alive sample, growing up in a household with 7 sisters I heard all types of music. My A&R brought it to my attention, I met up with the producer Dr. Luke and we made it happen.
PyroRadio.com: You‘ve reclaimed your digital downloads record, were you surprised this time around?
Flo Rida: Doing it again definitely surprised me but it being a hot record, not at all.
PyroRadio.com: The album is titled R.O.O.T.S which stands for ‘Route Of Overcoming The Struggle’, what’s the biggest struggle you’ve had to overcome and what did you learn from it?
Flo Rida: The biggest was losing my sister but it definitely inspired me and motivated me to say you’re not promised tomorrow so take advantage of everyday as long as it’s positive. With that said, I gave music 200%.
PyroRadio.com: Was that recent?
Flo Rida: Nah, 8 years ago.
PyroRadio.com: Is there a stand-out song for personal reasons?
Flo Rida: The self- titled record R.O.O.T.S. which talks about where I come from, what I stand for, how I got here, the different struggles I went through but I [managed to] keep my eyes on the prize. Here it is, very successful.
PyroRadio.com: How do you feel about the tag “Ringtone Rapper”?
Flo Rida: Well you know people can say what they wanna say. To each his own. I’m the type of dude where [as long as] I can get my financial stability its all good. I love driving in my nice cars and feeding my family, so it’s all good.
PyroRadio.com: There’s a perception that you only make party records or singles for digital market which is why your album sales aren’t relative to your single sales. What would you say to those who think that?
Flo Rida: That’s people who don’t do their homework, listen to my mixtapes or my albums. They definitely ain’t doing their homework because a lot of artists out there don’t sell half as many records [as I do]. I’m an international artist. I sell more than them.
PyroRadio.com: Would you say the rap game is a bit too serious with anyone who isn’t deemed lyrical is classed as killing Hip-hop?
Flo Rida: To each his own. People are going to always have their perception of what rap should be. I don’t really get into that, I just love making music.
PyroRadio.com: Digital artists tend not to have a long time in the music business; how do you plan on staying relevant in the game for many years to come?
Flo Rida: Continue to have the biggest records in the world.
Buy the number 1 album R.O.O.T.S. out now on Atlantic Records.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
If you haven't checked The Greatest Interview (not my words :oD) with hotly-tipped Hip-Hop artist Ash Roth, see't yah:
To mark the release of 'I Love College' (6th April) and 'Asleep in the Bread Aisle' (20th April), PyroRadio.com caught up with Asher Roth to find out why he hopes to go head-to-head with Eminem, if he's just a white guy trying to exploit black music and why he isn't a rapper.
MArvin Sparks' interviews Asher Roth
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
(disclaimer: video is a fan video NOT by anyone associated with Busy Signal)
Vybz Kartel is the self-proclaimed Teacher, known to his opposition as "Di Bleacher" for "obvious" reasons. Busy and Kartel have been going back-and-forth since about 06 when Addi left the Alliance although it has never reached the heights of Mavado and Kartel. Rumours are swirling that this is about Kartel, but I'm not too sure.
Yes, you may recognise the riddim is a 90's riddim, known as 'Bam Bam' by Taxi Gang (Sly and Robbie) made popular by "father and son" (they weren't really, that was PR) Chaka Demus and Pliers 'Murder She Wrote'.
Real followers will know the real inspiration behind this song from the sample. Post-Sean Paul dancehall fans "Waak (walk) wide"
Good song by Busy, but not on levels of original. Loving the throwback isht!
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Sounds aight. Busta is a Dancehall DJ in a Hip Hop clothing anyway. Needs to work with more.
This was a banger:
Busy kills it, S. P's flow was probably the best I'd ever heard it! Stephen with another one of them cinamtic bangers. Should have been bigger IMO. I mean come on, it got Ringtone treatment.
Monday, 13 April 2009
When he first started with this "Thanks for the promotion munkey," @ 50, I thought "Come on maaan, it isn't good promotion". Little did I know I'd be anticipating his album more than every other Hip-hop album (I can think of that's dropping in 09 apart from Nas + Damian Marley) including Fifty's.
A whole bunch of tracks have been leaked to benefit off the adverse promotion. Wanna know what did it for me?
Produced by who will probably be my favourite producers of the year 'The Inkredibles'. Yeah, they've catted JUSTICE League's style with a bit of The Runners (sample sounds like synths on Speedin in particular) in there but this shit knocks. Added to the fact that those three aforementioned producers will be handling the majority of 'Deeper Than Rap', I'm officially sucked.
Will he be over? I very much doubt it. If Lupe can overcome forgetting Tribe Called Quest lyrics (and say he preferred MC Hammer over them), Lil Wayne can get away with kissing a next man and lie on Carter II (better than Carter III so you know) about getting shot and missing school to sell drugs then sell a milli first week, I'm sure Officer Ricky can overcome Fifty. His shit may be failing on singles charts but none of the singles from Platinum-certified 'Port Of Miami' touched top 50 on the Hot 100 - not even Hustlin'.
With the right direction Trilla could have been 4.5*, I feel this could achieve that.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
Following in the footsteps of his Granduncle, he has his formed his own label dubbed Jukeboxx and is one of the most sought after producers in Reggae music. Following on the back of a successful 2008, Shane Brown has teamed up with VP/Greensleeves to release Silent River/Nylon riddim.
Marvin Sparks caught up with Shane Brown to discuss Jukeboxx records, Demarco’s departure, his recipe for Busy Signal’s recent success and how a Reggae producer makes money in these tough economical times.
Marvin Sparks: What techniques did you pick up from working in Tuff Gong as far as engineering?
Shane Brown: Analogue; it was all analogue back in the days at Tuff Gong. That was one of the greatest lessons. Just being in that analogue era. That was a very important and vital part of my upbringing in music. Another thing was their technique of recording acoustic instruments. A lot of modern engineers, right now - that era has passed the by so they don’t know about acoustic engineering. That was a very next important technique that I learnt. Being able to mic a drum kit and a piano.
Marvin Sparks: What advantages are there when using live instruments?
Shane Brown: Well from my perspective, when you are doing a one drop rhythm nothing can beat that live feel from a drummer, with even the fills and the accents from the drums than a drum machine which is just a sequencer. It has no feel to it like a live drummer. Also, for a roots rhythm, a live bass can never be replaced by a keyboard. And with the horns, the keyboard ones don’t sound organic.
Marvin Sparks: Is there a particular reason why you don’t use live instruments for Dancehall rhythms?
Shane Brown: Because you have so many different elements to a Dancehall rhythm, so for the elements that I want, it can not be produced by a live drummer. I may have four different kicks and different subs, so you get more subs and ultra-low sounds which can’t be done by a drummer.
Marvin Sparks: Would you say you have a trademark sound that separates you from others?
Shane Brown: The trademark of my Roots rhythms are more of a back-in-the-days sound where you hear the live instruments that I just spoke about. My trademark is more of a live sound. For my Dancehall rhythms, I more stick to old school Dancehall. You are not going to hear me with a riddim that is going at like 120 beats per minute. I stick to a slower movement with a groove - that’s my thing. I don’t like the riddims too fast.
Marvin Sparks: What motivated you to start Jukeboxx record label?
Shane Brown: Well, I was just an engineer and I wanted some growth in the business. I found myself producing for other people, so one day I just kind of said to myself ‘Why not do my own production instead of staying stagnant?‘ Just ambition; I wanted to grow.
Marvin Sparks: You’ve already got two artists under the label who are very popular in the scene right now. What did you see in Busy that made you take him on?
Shane Brown: The first thing I saw in Busy was I admired his style and his flow. But then I gave him a roots riddim called the Statements and his delivery on that riddim made me think he was very unique. He can deliver on a Dancehall, a Hip-Hop and even a Roots riddim. Not every Dancehall artist can deliver on a Roots rhythm. That was the first thing that drew me to him; his talent.
The second thing that drew me to him was seeing such a talented artist being somewhat stagnant and not growing quite as quickly as I think he could have grown.
Marvin Sparks: From a UK perspective, he never really followed up the success of Step Out. He has definitely made a big impact over here since joining Jukeboxx, and followed it up consistently. What did you say or do to help him grow?
Shane Brown: The direction I saw for Busy, was not just to think Jamaica but think outside of that box. Luckily for Busy, he is naturally a person that is willing to experiment with different sounds and techniques. Next thing is to be more press friendly - more people friendly. It doesn’t make sense having this talent and no one doesn’t like you. Thirdly, we got his image a bit softer. Just because you are a dancehall artist doesn’t mean you can’t dress and look presentable.
Marvin Sparks: The other artist who is doing well is Demarco; how did your working relationship begin?
Shane Brown: Actually Demarco is not with this camp anymore.
Marvin Sparks: Really? Since when?
Shane Brown: Since this month [January].
Marvin Sparks: Why was that?
Shane Brown: We weren’t seeing eye-to-eye. So I now have Peetah Morgan. He is the latest addition to Jukeboxx.
Marvin Sparks: With Peetah and Gramps doing solo work, are Morgan Heritage splitting up or just doing solo projects?
Shane Brown: It is important to note the group has not broken up. After so many years together, Morgan Heritage is a brand, and they have to preserve that brand so they can only do certain types of songs within that brand. But yet still, each individual member of the group has different types of music that influences them and different types they would like to do. Like you can’t get Morgan Heritage doing a song with a heavy Dancehall beat. So now you have Peetah singing on a Dancehall beat.
The group hasn’t broken up but individuals within the group are doing different things, and it can only be better for the group. It’s a wider audience. If Peetah or Gramps are doing a couple Dancehall tracks or a couple Rock tracks collectively as a group they are still Morgan Heritage, and they are getting different fans. Each member of the group is actively involved in the others project.
Marvin Sparks: Demarco built your popular Dancehall riddim ‘Warning’ as well as Busy Signal’s smash-hit ‘Unknown Number’ last year. Will there be much of an effect as far as output and quality of riddims?
Shane Brown: It can not effect the output because JukeBoxx has been around before Demarco. We have only done one riddim with Demarco and that was the Warning riddim. The other riddims were not done by Demarco so he is not the backbone.
Marvin Sparks: One of the standout cuts on the Nylon riddim is the Busy Signal ‘ Trading Places’. Talk us through how that concept came about?
Shane Brown: We were in the studio - the thing with Busy Signal is he is a person who is very spur-of-the-moment. We were just talking in the studio and the rhythm was just playing in the background. We went into a conversation where we were just making jokes about people, like people in higher places and just making jokes at them. Someone said ‘Yo, that’s a bad [good] idea for a song’ and that’s how it came about - just from a joke.
Marvin Sparks: Tarrus Riley’s ‘Start A New’ touches on domestic abuse. Whilst recording, did it cross your mind that the song could possibly be controversial?
Shane Brown: You see for me, I like real life situations expressed musically. I’m not afraid of subjects. Once the audience or once a person can naturally relate to something, let’s talk about it. Tarrus came to me with the idea, told me what the idea was, and I said ‘Let’s go for it’.
Marvin Sparks: Speaking of controversy, you produced ‘Gash Dem’ by Chuck Fender, which was banned.
Shane Brown: Yeah, that was banned. Up to now I don’t understand why it got banned, but I guess the system has their reasons which we can’t help. But yeah, that one was banned in Jamaica and again, it’s a real life situation where he was singing against crime and violence. The same thing that you see on the news and in the newspapers is the same thing that we are saying musically to me.
Marvin Sparks: Around the time when the Mavado vs Vybz Cartel war was at its peak last year, many critics came out and said producers should be held more accountable for diss songs. Your name wasn’t called but you did have the two on the Silent River going at one another. How do you respond to that?
Shane Brown: I can’t speak for other producers. At the end of the day I have the final say. It is my song, my production and my label. Speaking about those type of topics, at the end of the day it is still an art form, and as within everything, you have competition. In sports, in politics, in church you have competition. If it can be carried out in a decent manner I have no problem with it. Its just like when we go to watch a movie; I like a good action movie, and there is nothing more gruesome than visually seeing it. I think there is more incriminating seeing the action than listening to it.
Its an art form. I’m not going to say Chuck Norris influenced crime and violence or knock him for doing those kind of movies. I have no problem with these type of songs. If I don’t do them often it is by choice, not because I don’t agree with them.
Marvin Sparks: Have you spoken to both artists and is the war over now?
Shane Brown: What a lot of people need to understand is this war thing is very seasonal. After summer coming up to December everyone is preparing for Sting. Therefore, that is the season for it. But after Sting, there is no way you can start the year off on that note. Both parties are saying they have finished with that.
Marvin Sparks: So is it all engineered then?
Shane Brown: No, it isn’t engineered, it’s just a part of it.
Marvin Sparks: So we can’t expect either one to record a new track on one of your rhythms?
Shane Brown: Nah, that’s not really my vibe right now. I’m more into the girls songs and some party songs. But who knows? If these two artists can keep it musical and not physical its all good and fun.
Marvin Sparks: Have there been examples of songs you haven’t put out? If so, why didn’t you?
Shane Brown: The first thing for me not to put a song out is if it is off key or off pitch. Basically that is it. I am a Godly person, so once they get to the direction where they are referring to God in an ungodly manner that’s not my thing either.
Marvin Sparks: How do you select which artists you work with?
Shane Brown: Well that is an interesting question because there are certain artists that will always be on my rhythms - like Mavado. For example, apart from being an artist we are friends. Busy Signal, naturally, is my artist. Apart from that, I may have a rhythm where I’m hearing a particular artist on it. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of times they don’t work out. But I just have a little vibe of a rhythm and I’m just feeling a particular artist on. If I think working with the artist is going to be a headache I don’t pursuit it.
Marvin Sparks: How does working with a veteran like Bounty Killer compare with a young artist? Do you leave the veterans to do what they are doing?
Shane Brown: No, I don’t leave anyone to do what they are doing. No matter if you a re veteran or a new artist. At the end of the day, I am the producer. If I’m going to work with someone that is aggressive or arrogant to the point where they won’t take direction from me then they don’t need me as a producer in that case.
Working with Bounty Killer or working with a new singer is all the same to me. One thing my dad taught me about this business is once you come into the studio you are no longer a star. You are a star outside of the studio with your fans, but once inside we are all equal and trying to achieve a song.
Marvin Sparks: Which producers influenced you?
Shane Brown: Clive Hunt who was a roots producer from back in the days. Also, Sly & Robbie, Dave Kelly and Tony Kelly as influences from producers.
Marvin Sparks: What are the essential qualities to being a producer?
Shane Brown: First thing is the producer has to know what he is looking to achieve at the end of the day. The producer is the creator of whatever the song is, so he has to know what he wants the song to be or what it turns out like. As a producer, you need to know key and pitch. You need to be able to give direction because the producer is like a contractor building a building. You need to be able to manoeuvre and direct and instruct the artist or the musician to get your dream to light.
There are some producers in Jamaica, - now I’m not knocking anyone because you have to do what works for you. A lot of people might just come and get a rhythm, and the artist [records] it, and gives back the song, and [the producer] will say they are the biggest producer. That’s not a producer to me, and in Jamaica now everyone is a producer it seems. To me, the greatest thing a producer could have is the know how - what is it that you want to achieve.
Marvin Sparks: Everyone is experiencing these tough times from major record labels and retailers to the small labels. How does a Reggae producer get returns for their product?
Shane Brown: You are asking the right questions you know [laughs]. Right now, I wonder myself, because apart from being a producer I am an sound engineer. I mix for people. But sometimes, I wonder how people can pay me because there are no returns. I mix most of DASECA’s beats. To be a producer in these times, you are better off managing an artist because there are little or no returns from record sales. You better be looking after an artist and keep overheads to a minimum.
That’s the thing about it for me; keep your overheads at a minimum. Every successful camp - like you have Don Carleon, he has a stable of artists; Jukeboxx, we have artists; DASECA, they have artists. You have to have artists that you have control of and are managing because that is where music is right now. Music is like promotion for my friends. That is why I don’t want to [record] everyone. I have to think about my goal, my ain and my objective, so I think that is the best way for a producer to make money.
Marvin Sparks: Major labels give artists advances to make projects with producers usually being paid from that. But in Reggae and Dancehall it usually works the other way around with producers paying artists to record. Do you still pay artists?
Shane Brown: No, I don’t pay artists. None at all! [laughs] I don’t deal with that. I feel an artist should pay me in all honesty. Once there is a financial situation being entertained by an artist, I am not into it no matter who you are. VP sometimes [give advances]. I was hired by VP to do a Sizzla roots album which I am going to start. So they are actually paying me to do an album for them.
Marvin Sparks: So you just get artists to record without payment and it works as free promotion for them?
Shane Brown: That’s exactly what it is. You know what is the hardest thing about being a producer in Jamaica? When you have a hit riddim, everyone, eventually - I don’t know if it is because of this new era with Protools - people just get your riddim, voice it and give it back to you. Or when you are a friend of someone, there are always about 20 artists who want to come and voice your riddim.
Like this year for example. there are 2 riddim’s I’m putting out - 1 by the name of Dubwise and 1 called Rainforest. I am trying my best to keep it at a minimum with just 5 cuts on the Dubwise. Just this morning, before this call, Beenie Man came - he heard the riddim playing on the radio. Now how do you tell Beenie Man ‘Beenie, somebody else is on there’. I stopped mixing the song to talk to you on the phone. So sometimes it not like the producer said he wants 20 songs on the riddim. Really and truly, on Dubwise I need 3 songs, but that’s almost impossible.
Marvin Sparks: You produced what became the unofficial national anthem during the celebrations of Jamaica’s achievements in Beijing. How did ‘On The Go’ by Mavado for Nike’s Olympic campaign come about?
Shane Brown: Olivier Chastan [Vice-President of VP and President of Greensleeves ] and I are good friends. He told me that Nike approached him for me to do a track and he asked me which artist I am feeling to do this track. He told me the concept and everything, I told him Mavado. He said good, because that was the name Asafa Powell called.
We got the concept of the riddim from Nike - a festive, Olympic sounding riddim - then I made the track and called in Mavado, told him about the arrangement and he agreed to do it. Apart from the concept of the riddim, Nike wanted some key points made in the song itself. I gave him a guideline and he done it.
Marvin Sparks: It’s a shame Usain Bolt came and broke the record before the ad campaign and song got big.
Shane Brown: I wouldn’t even call it a shame; it still benefited everyone. Unless you were in the media, people didn’t know who the song was for. Majority of the people just had it as an Olympic song. It wasn’t about Asafa, it was about Jamaica and was like the national anthem.
Marvin Sparks: You weren’t nominated for any awards at the prestigious EME awards even though you a few hugely popular riddims nor was you nominated for Producer of the Year. How did you feel about that?
Shane Brown: It hasn’t affected me. When I saw the names of the producers who were nominated - DASECA and Stephen are friends of mine and good producers. So for some reason they don’t recognise my work or don’t think it was eligible to be nominated then I won’t fight it. I don’t do it for an award; it motivates me to do more work.
Marvin Sparks: What can everyone expect from Shane Brown and JukeBoxx in 2009?
Shane Brown: As far as production, I’ve started the year out with 2 nice riddims. Just expect more variety. Expect a lot of singles: I’m doing a single with Mavado, a single with Vybz Catel, a single with Peetah Morgan, a single with Busy Signal. Some singles in the scene amongst juggling riddims.
Know that, even though a lot of producers in Jamaica - I don’t why but have turned their back on the Roots music, Jukeboxx will never do that. A riddim like Dubwise; people think its a riddim from the past, one that I’ve made over - but it’s all original. You can expect Jukeboxx to be endorsing keeping the original and authentic Reggae music alive.
Nylon/Silent River riddims both available to buy now
For More info: http://www.myspace.com/jukeboxxproductions
Friday, 3 April 2009
2006 I said Mavado, 2007 I said Busy Signal (I never said new artists), 2008 I said Serani, now 2009 I'm not sure as yet, but the artist doing it for me "ah Jah Vinci" from Deva Bratt, I mean Vybz Kartel led Portmore Empire. First heard him last year on that terrible diss track by Kartel to Mavado on Day Rave riddim. Yeah, I said horrible. And he sounded just like fellow Empire member Black Rhyno. But anyway, it worked for him because he got the exposure he needed from that.
He's moved into his own style which mainly consists of life teachings and cultural side therefore his target audience is different to Black Rhyno. I'm currently rinsing 3 songs by this dude, each as good as the other. As long as he keeps doing these songs, stays far from the tracing (cussing) and gun tunes, he'll be on the good road. He has more credibility than Bugle through association and is a bigger name, once again, through association than Konshens.
Shit vid, unmixed instro but the tune knocks. Feeling the concept/message, vocal arrangement and the hook is a winner.
Once again, feeling the concept/message, beat isn't your typical dancehall (it's Hip-hop) but knocks and hook is a winner. One of the songs you play at the beginning of the set to get an easy forward.
Ok I lied, I feel this is the best of the 3. Well not lied, I've changed my mind (I don't love you no mo' (random)) The emotion of the beat coupled with the concept go together better than OJ and the glove.
'Member I told you
30 years of Hip-hop is being celebrated on BBC 1Xtra, and during the Trevor and Gemma breakfast show this song has been the bed (underneath them when talking). As a result, it has been in my head all day. What a banging beat! Them shattering snares that defined that period do it for me moreso than the kicks. The sax, sample rings off etc. Jsut a great *radio edit* ufckin beat
Been pumpin this for the past week or so. Riddim is called the Indiscretion, also has a big cut by Peetah Morgan called 'Secrets' where he talks about cheating. Love how Busy stays true to the socio-commentary roots of dancehall. Busy + Roots Reggae riddim = winner. Big up man like Shane Brown. Which reminds me I'm gonna post up my interview with Shane Brown to here by mid-next week.
Went to the Anthony Hamilton concert last night. Amazing! Was everything a real performance should be; incrdible vocalists (both leading and backing), crowd interaction without the generic "When I say... you say..." played out from the 90s (this is 00s now) bullshwichit (mum could be reading)that lacks imagination and a nice stage setting (stage had velvet curtains). This song came on and helped me realise why I initially held Mr. Hamilton in such high regards.
So much better than the Crookers remix. If I could spit, I would freestyle over this beat for my mixtape. If I'm honest, I do give it a go in the comfort of my own room. I resort to spittin in my head if anyone's in a reasonable proximity. When the bass kicks in straight vibesin ting. Who wants to tell me the vid isn't up there in top 5of the best in the past 3 years? That's right, nunaya!
Watched this like four times yesterday. Original is classic, feelin' the voice and she's got that adorable/cute type factor. Oh and the concept is big.
And an original song by the singer in the above video, that I like. Video is big! Feeling the use of stills
Thursday, 2 April 2009
The video for Vybz Kartel's celebratory song 'Don't Run (Last Man Standing)' dedicated to his victory over Mavado at Sting was released couple hours ago. Song was originally recorded within 5 hours of the clash ending back in the early hours of 27th December'08. Within this time, the song has gained extreme popularity from those who seh Gaza, so much so it is the number 1 song in many Dancehall charts.
This is sure to rub even more salt into the wounds of Alliance followers, question is with all the International touring and promoting Mavado is doing for his commerical release 'Mr Brooks... a better tomorrow", does he care?Anyway nice vid, and the song still knocks.
Fans of the song from day will notice the lyrics have changed. "Why?" I hear you ask. It has to be fit for radio play (obviously), but more interestingly, due to the law the Broadcasting Commission passed couple months back, radio will not play songs with beep's, hence the rewording.
If you haven't seen the clash, you don't have to "log on pon YouTube watch di damn flim" here it is
And a hilarious spoof war for your listening pleasure (warning: if you don't know the background, you won't find it funny):