Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Busy Signal - Loaded interview

Busy Signal has been travelling from Jamaica to Japan promoting his highly anticipated album ‘Loaded’. Marvin Sparks caught up with the MOBO Reggae award nominee during his time in the UK to discuss his sophomore effort, all the controversy, his current top 5 Dancehall artists and gives us the exclusive on a Mavado and Busy Signal duo album.

Marvin Sparks: First off we have to start with Beijing.
Busy Signal: [Laughs] I’m really proud of the athletes and the whole of Jamaica are so happy with the athletes. It’s looking really good. Jamaica have been highlighted in this Olympics, dominated the Olympics.

Marvin Sparks: Did you watch the victories anywhere special?
Busy Signal: Nah I was just in my house and one time I was in Half Way Tree celebrating with the big screen; we were having a big celebration. The bus drivers and taxi men all stopped and everyone was getting off the bus and looking at the big screen. Even the Prime Minister was celebrating with us.

Marvin Sparks: We’ve seen Elephant Man, Konshens and many others do a tribute song, will you be recording one?
Busy Signal: Nah. We just celebrate through the songs I have done like “Jamaica which part we born and grow” and “Jamaica, we’re not going down” and all these songs. Everybody is running to do a song. I’m not really into the rat race but I’m still celebrating.

Marvin Sparks: Your new album’s finally going to be in stores, how you feeling about that?
Busy Signal: I’m very grateful and looking forward to it. It’s my second professional album, ‘Loaded’ the 23rd of September. We’re just hoping that the fans go out there and everyone gets the message, the concepts and the melodies.

Marvin Sparks: Is there a particular reason for the title ‘Loaded’?
Busy Signal: It’s a got a wide variety of tracks. I mean it hasn’t got 100 tracks but it’s loaded with different, different stuff.

Marvin Sparks: How have you changed as an artist since Step Out, which came out in 2006?
Busy Signal: Through growth I would say; it’s more of a grown type of music now. I’m just trying to be better at what I do and this album is going to show that through the collaborations. I’ve got collaboration’s with Marcia Griffiths, Alborosie and Mykal Rose. These people don’t do tracks with Dancehall artists but through the growth; and they see that I’m trying to do make something different still being a Dancehall artist it’s really a different thing. This one is definitely different from Step Out.

Marvin Sparks: How did you manage to get Marcia to feature? I haven’t heard her feature with a Dancehall artist since Cutty Ranks in the early 90s.
Busy Signal: [Laughs] She said she was just home listening to my work and she liked my vibe as a Dancehall act. I was just so happy because she used to be with Bob Marley [as part of the I-Three’s/backing vocalist] way before I was even born. I was so overwhelmed and so grateful to collaborate with her so it was a great achievement for me. And knowing that she approached me with the offer is really different because I‘ve always wanted to do work with her and I‘ve always wanted to do work with lots of different artists but when I get the offer from them it seals the dream.

Marvin Sparks: You’ve recorded ‘Serious’ with Sean Paul and Busta Rhymes, and you were called up on stage by G-Unit at Reggae SumFest. Are there any forthcoming collab’s with international other artists?
Busy Signal: We definitely have plans. I mean right now we’re meant to be hearing back from Lil` Wayne and Young Jeezy about some collab’s and some remixes. Even Booba from France we did some work with. So I’m just trying to get the exposure and get Dancehall some exposure.

Marvin Sparks: Over 70,000 viewers have seen the video of Lloyd and yourself going back-to-back on Westwood’s show via YouTube and many more over various sites and forums. In a recent interview Lloyd was quoted saying: “It makes me laugh when I see someone like Busy Signal because he is so incredibly talented.” Is there any work in the pipeline?
Busy Signal:
We just spoke about working together on doing some collab’s together. There will definitely be something in the pipeline. We haven’t settled on a track yet but we’ve got things in the pipeline working. We should be coming up with something very soon because we are actually going through things right now.

Lloyd is very talented; the girls love him and the men rate him. The way he sings is smooth and people feel it and know that he comes across very well. Dancehall really needs the exposure so I wouldn’t mind doing it and I’d have no objections to that. It would give both of us good exposure and push Dancehall further; it would be great!

Marvin Sparks: On the track Face Life, you say: “Mi coulda loot or shoot but mi choose music over Mac-10.” Was there a lot of temptation to take the wrong route? Busy Signal: It was hard but I still stayed positive and tried to keep it musical. We as Jamaicans, nah, throughout the world a lot of temptation is out there for us to lose focus and go on the wrong side. But being blessed with musical talent I just stick to music and try to stay out of problems, stay away from getting caught up with the law.I’ve been involved with the law before that’s why I sing, “Mi nah go a jail again.” That’s a true story, not just a song. I don’t want to be like that again, I’m just trying to show growth. Everyday that goes I’m getting older so I got to think older. That’s one of the things that keep me focused and out of all these tings.

Marvin Sparks: Dancehall and music in general gets blamed for violence. What are your thoughts on this?
Busy Signal: Garbage. Rubbish. It’s all lies. People just try to blame Dancehall and make peoples heads turn towards Dancehall. Dancehall is not to blame for violence; violence is to be blamed by lack of jobs, lack of money, poverty and politics. Music brings people together and makes them gather. Politics separates people; it makes you choose a side. You have Obama and McCain; you have people on this side and people over on that side. It automatically makes you hate the other side. But if you have a party, like for instance the Notting Hill Carnival, you’re going to see everybody there in one venue. So music combines people not divide.

Marvin Sparks: Going right back to the beginning, Step Out was your first big tune. Busy Signal: Step Out was my first major hit. It was just so fast, I couldn’t believe it.

Marvin Sparks: When did you first realise you had a hit on your hands? The first time you heard it back?
Busy Signal: Late ‘05. It was actually recorded in late ‘04. Then it dominated throughout ‘05 in Jamaica.

Marvin Sparks: Following Step Out and a few other hits you went quiet. Was there a reason behind it?
Busy Signal: There was a lot of feuding in the music at the point and I refuse to go into feud with my music. I just started writing. I went back to the drawing board and coming up with different topics. Then I did a stack of songs and started putting them out one-by-one. I started with ‘These Are The Days,’ followed by ‘Jail,’ ‘People So Evil’ and then ‘Unknown Number’. I try to go around all of that.

I’m not interested in feud and people trying to compete; I’m way beyond that. I don’t try to compete with my music at all; I try to stand out so right now there isn’t any competition. The concepts and topics are so different from the stereotype and the typical Dancehall artist. You’ll hear different concepts and topics with my work.

Marvin Sparks: Speaking of feuds most famously you had one with Aidonia in late ‘06. During this time people wrote off Busy whilst hailing Aidonia and thought your career was over. How did you feel at that time?
Busy Signal: He had a feud, I didn’t have a feud, I wasn’t interested. He was out there on stage calling out my name, doing songs with my name. Even [Vybz] Cartel was out there and those two were just trying to get rid of me, trying to flush me out and look who’s flushed out. The real is the real; the fake won’t be around forever. People across the world see that. I don’t need to self-praise about that. Just search on the Internet or go to the shows you see Busy Signal, the real.

Marvin Sparks: On the back of ‘These Are The Days’ success ensued. Busy was the man once again. In a fast-paced industry like Dancehall would you say it’s harder to get to the top or stay at the top?
Busy Signal: Maintaining is definitely harder because you have to stay pleasing the fans. You’ve got to keep it fresh all the time so I try to do that through creativity and melodies and not repeating myself in any songs. I do quite a lot of songs but I never repeat myself or keep it with the same monotonous flow. If you listen to 30 Busy Signal songs you’ll hear 30 different songs, no verse being repeated.

Marvin Sparks: Yeah ‘cause your flow’s ever-changing except for Double Rhyme but that flow is crazy.
Busy Signal: [Laughs] Yeah Bounty Killer was like [impersonating Bounty Killer] Yow yout’ dat ah one’a di baddis songs inna di worl’ [Laughs]

Marvin Sparks: ‘These are the Days’ is a very controversial song, a song most didn’t expect from you. What made you record and release that?
Busy Signal: I want to be way beyond the typical. Way beyond the typical artist. Way beyond the typical Dancehall artist. I want to be deeper and something more substantial. Something that’s going to last longer than a song. Not one that’s going to be here for a week or a moment.

Like you asked me earlier about the song for the Olympics and it’s just going to be for that moment. I want to have songs that last longer than that, way beyond that. I want to have songs that my kids can grow up and sing and grandkids can listen to. You have Junior Gong [Damian Marley] listening to songs from his father, I want to have more of those deep songs because those are the true songs that last and have substance.

Marvin Sparks: Apart from the controversial tunes you also have songs like ‘Pon Di Edge’.
Busy Signal: Yeah man, the girls. [Sings intro of ‘Pon Di Edge’] Ain`t gonna leave the girls. We have to represent for the girls. I’m born from a woman so it’s self-explanatory. In music you have to have something for the girls. There isn’t anything like hearing girls scream when you walk out on to the stage anywhere in the world. Yeah the gangsta’s and the hot head’s them can [make noise] but when the girls are louder and more dominant it’s more overwhelming.

Marvin Sparks: What you think of the London ladies?
Busy Signal: Yo, them crazy. Beg you a London girl number? Mi want an English girl inna mi life star! I really like the accent and everything. It gives me a nice feeling and nice mood.

Marvin Sparks: A few of the songs on the album got to number 1. Which ones were they?
Busy Signal: ‘Unknown Number,’ ‘These Are The Days,’ ‘People So Evil,’ ‘Mr Death’ [‘No Escape‘] and ‘Jail’.

Marvin Sparks: We have to talk about ‘No Escape’. What was the concept behind it? Also tell us how on earth you managed to pull off the rapid-fire delivery and write that song?
Busy Signal: I was just thinking it through like a storyline. I don’t write songs, I just put the headphones on and spit. Demarco made that beat and he was the one that engineered it. He was there laughing the whole time because I was just talking and talking the whole time. Talking for like a minute and a half just telling the story then it reaches the point where [knocking on glass table] “Mister Death comes knocking at you door,” then the whole thing just starts again. It’s very creative.

Marvin Sparks: Was there a particular sound you were going for? Stephen McGregor and Don Corleon are 2 of the most championed producers but sometimes get criticised for sounding like a Hip-Hop and Dancehall hybrid. The producers you worked make closer to what Dancehall purists class as authentic Dancehall with heavy bass lines and a slower tempo. Was that the sound you were aiming for?
Busy Signal: Yeah at the time that was the sound I was going for and they delivered that sound. I don’t try to be on every riddim. You won’t hear me on every Dancehall riddim. You will hear me standing out on some exclusives or standing out on some dancehall riddims that isn’t packed with garbage. I worked with SSMG, Demarco, Daseca, and some other young producers like Low Disturbance and Colombian. You’ve also got John John on there who has produced a lot of tunes. He produced that tune with me and Mykal Rose [Real Jamaican].

Marvin Sparks: Who were influences growing up?
Busy Signal: Bounty Killer. No doubt about that. He’s my artist. You have Beenie Man; his stage performance has always been good. Buju Banton, Sizzla, Capleton. The energy of Capleton and Elephant Man; I always look at that and try to put that in my performance. I can’t be like them but I can add to what I do.

Marvin Sparks: There are a lot of new artists coming through now. Excluding the likes of Beenie Man, Sizzla, Buju and that generation which 5 would you say are the leading artists?
Busy Signal: As well as me you have Demarco bringing some new styles to the game. Mavado who has only been around since ‘06. Serani and Bugle also bringing a new style, and you still have Cartel [rapping]. Some people just repeat the same thing over and over again but you’ve got people standing out.

[Someone in the room says Assassin] Marvin Sparks: I was about to say, you get compared to Assassin a lot.
Busy Signal: Yeah Assassin is my [friend]. Even the sound, a lot people say ‘You know Assassin sound like you’ and vice-versa but you know it’s just the vibe. The vocals are strong and Assassin has been out there since 2001 but he just doesn’t get the justice. I don’t know why but he is a good artist. The lyrical content plus the melody is just there.

Marvin Sparks: Yeah I definitely hear that. The ‘Line Fi Line’ tune is confusing.
Busy Signal: [laughs] Everybody was like “Which part you say and which part Assassin say?” I start it and you check from there.

Marvin Sparks: Tic Toc is the new single. Tell us a bit about that.
Busy Signal
: Well you know the girls are going to go crazy again. We just finished the video. When you see the video, it’s crazy. I just tried to do it with a difference. You have the ‘Tic tic tic tic toc’ then you have ‘Toc toc toc toc tic’ and it’s like reversing it. Tash, the girl who sung that part and the voice just stays in your ear and I put my flavour to it.

Marvin Sparks: When you recorded it did you have in mind you were going to release that song as a single?
Busy Signal: Definitely. I didn’t want to be the regular. I do music so why not do music that fits into other genres of music? Different varieties? When SSMG made it I heard it and thought it was a track that I could work with and put my creativity to. It’s not your average Jamaican song but it’s by a Jamaican artist and Jamaican producers so I took it as an exclusive and put my creativity to it.

Marvin Sparks: Looking to the future we heard a couple of leaked songs earlier this year but nothing else. Can you let off any information about the Alliance album with you Bounty Killer, Bling Dawg, Wayne Marshall and Mavado?
Busy Signal
: Bounty Killer would be the best one to ask about that. Well you know VP bought Greensleeves so a lot of companies aren’t there, so on a business level it depends on the Grung Gad [Bounty Killer] himself.

Marvin Sparks: From a personal point of view you and Mavado work well both on stage and in the studio. Have you two ever thought of doing an album?
Busy Signal:
We have some more collab’s coming out. Me and Mavado are talking - this is an exclusive right now because it’s the first time I‘m releasing information like this. Me and my gangsta brother want to do an album together of just collab’s. We’re trying to create something right now and put it out on my label. We just want to get it out there and let the people enjoy the music. You know how music is these day when it comes to CD’s and albums, but at the end of the day getting the message out is way more important than just trying to sell some CD’s. We just want the people to hear the work.

But at the end of the day me and my gangsta brother still got some songs to come out. And as I said, the exclusive which you got earlier on, the collab’s that I’m trying to sort out with him. It will come out on the Network record label. We’re just doing our thing as some garrison, gully youth‘s from the trench trying to get it out there for the people to enjoy.

Marvin Sparks: Lastly, you once said ‘Testing 1, 3 we nah test 2 what about you’. In accordance with that which 3 words would you use to describe Busy Signal?
Busy Signal:
Hard-working, focused and vibrant.

Marvin Sparks: Thank you for your time and the exclusive.
Busy Signal: Thank you. Big up all my fans and everyone who has supported. Busy Signal returning to the UK in 2009

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