“Remember when, way back then, positivity was the message we send from the root to the stem/its been so so so long we don’t listen to some old reggae songs play the music again, reggae music again.”
Deejay Busy Signal’s rendition of the Commodores’ 1985 hit “Night Shift” transformed a tribute to departed music legends into a romantically crooned reggae come-on, while his sweet, seductive plea for “One More Night” a triumphant one-drop conversion of Phil Collins’ 1985 hit topped numerous reggae charts around the world in 2010. The overwhelming response to both songs prompted a dramatic shift in Busy Signal’s musical course.
Better known for his fast paced, clever rhymes on hardcore dancehall hits like “Tic Toc” and “Wine Pon De Edge”, Busy Signal emerges as a charismatic roots reggae artist on his forthcoming album “Reggae Music Again”, due April 24th on VP Records. A stark departure from the sequenced beats that dominated Busy’s three previous albums, the intricate, multi layered one-drop rhythms heard on “Reggae Music Again” were created by some of Jamaica’s most acclaimed musicians and recorded live at Kingston’s legendary Tuff Gong studios. Busy is confident he will retain his dancehall fan base while recruiting new listeners with this album’s time tested roots rock approach. “This album will shock many people who are used to me just as a deejay,” Busy declares, “but it shows my growth, versatility and the recognition of reggae as the origin of dancehall music.” “Dancehall music alone cannot sustain Jamaica’s music industry,” adds Shane Brown Busy’s manager, the album’s primary producer and engineer. “Reggae has more substance and longevity and Busy is one of those rare artists of his generation who can sing as well as deejay on authentic reggae rhythms.”
Each of the album’s tracks celebrates the uplifting spirit and tightly woven grooves that epitomize Jamaica’s signature rhythm. “Modern Day Slavery”, inspired by the speeches of Jamaican freedom fighter Marcus Garvey, “Kingston Town” portraying the grittier side of Jamaica’s capital and “Run Weh” decrying societal ills such as skin bleaching each offer the profound, provocative commentaries that has distinguished roots reggae from other musical forms since the early 1970s. Reggae’s spiritual strain is heard on the devotional “Jah Love”, while its lover’s rock subgenre is represented on the exquisitely sung “Missing You”, produced by Wayne Unga Thompson and the gently acoustic “Comfort Zone”. “Part of Life” advises the youths to stay focused despite the obstacles they face while “Sweetest Life” urges an appreciation of life’s many blessings. The album’s only cover version “Dream Dream” adapts an upbeat reggae tempo to the Everly Brothers’ 1958 ballad.
Emphasizing the deft chatting skills that initially brought Busy to prominence “119”, produced by Kirk “Kirkledove” Bennett features singer Anthony Red Rose and extended vocal sound effects from Joe Lickshot, all paying homage to a bygone era when deejays would chant their lyrics over drum and bass driven reggae rhythms, prior to the dominance of dancehall’s computerized beats. Busy’s mesmerizing flow and nimble word play ignite the scorching “Fireball”, also produced by Bennett. Each of the varied selections on “Reggae Music Again” underscores a distinctive aspect of a music that has exerted a global influence yet runs the risk of being overshadowed in its birthplace. “Jamaica is the land of reggae but there will be greater opportunity for me to perform these songs outside of Jamaica because dancehall is the thing here,” Busy reasons. “I go to Europe to perform every year and it is my reggae set, not my dancehall set, that people want. I am really proud that I can make a transition from dancehall to reggae.”
Born Reanno Gordon on January 24, 1983 and raised alongside three brothers and a sister by his devoutly Christian mother in the St. Ann’s parish community of Brown’s Town, Busy’s first exposure to music, like so many Jamaican youth, was in the church. While attending services and singing hymns he realized he possessed immense vocal talent and earned his very first encore from the church congregation.
In his early teens Busy’s family relocated to Kingston moving between the garrison communities of Standpipe, Tivoli Gardens and Papine, volatile environments that inspired the gritty depictions heard on his numerous dancehall hits. While attending school Busy would save his lunch money to buy cassettes of popular music, including Madonna, Whitney Houston, Jay Z and Eminem and was repeatedly reprimanded for beating out riddims on his desk. At night, he often snuck out of the house to hear popular sound systems like Renaissance and Bass Odyssey, fascinated by the deejays’ voices that boomed through the towering assemblage of speakers.
Busy made the requisite links with several sound systems in hopes of becoming a recording artist and gained a modicum of studio experience voicing dub plates for Renaissance and Kilimanjaro sounds; his first single “Shake It Fast” was voiced on Renaissance’s Tunda Clap riddim. Busy’s breakthrough arrived in 2005 with the hits “Not Going Down” and the self produced “Step Out”, the title track of his critically acclaimed 2006 debut released on Greensleeves Records. “Step Out” also featured a cadre of guest artists including Bounty Killer who mentored the early stages of Busy’s career and provided the aspiring deejay with his first opportunity to perform before a Jamaican audience as part of the Killer led artists’ consortium called The Alliance. With the release of “Loaded” in September 2008 for VP Records, characterized by its authentic street savvy and mesmerizing vocal stream, Busy’s music was now regarded as the gold standard for a new generation of dancehall artists. “Loaded” included such mega hits as the risqué “Tic Toc” (which ranked at number 70 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Singles of 2008) and “Jail”, a grim recollection of Busy’s brief incarceration in the US on a conspiracy charge. “After that, I knew I didn’t want to be in the streets or in the mixup,” Busy admitted, “I just wanted to do music.”
Busy’s third album “D.O.B.” released in July 2010 on VP incorporated various styles including the Latin flavored “Picante”, an acoustic unity plea “Let Peace Reign” and the tough edged commentary “Summn’ A Guh Gwaan” featuring Bounty Killer. Also included were the aforementioned remakes “Sweet Love (Night Shift)” and “One More Night”, the catalysts for the traditional approach heard on “Reggae Music Again”.
“The reception I got from those songs showed me I had to go in this direction,” Busy reasons. “Being a Jamaican, I feel like it is my duty to highlight and contribute to reggae music, and with the encouragement of management, musicians who played on this record including Dean Fraser who was in this before I was even born, it all came together. This album is like a renaissance for me, a rebirth reggae style.”
With additional production by Kevon “Webbo” Webster on “Running From The Law” and Penthouse Records’ Donovan Germain on the sensual “Royal Night” and the destined to be classic title cut, “Reggae Music Again” is already being hailed as the reggae album of 2012.
Lauded sound system selector and club DJ David Rodigan called “Reggae Music Again” as “a milestone, one of the most impressive reggae albums that I have heard in a long time”. Rodigan cited “Running From The Law” featuring Romain Virgo and Esco Levi as a contemporary “I Shot The Sherrif” and “Wicked Man” as a magnificent take on Junior Byles classic ‘Beat Down Babylon’. “Busy Signal’s work as a lyricist, commentator and performer are truly exceptional, especially his vocal singing skills which have been revealed in more recent times,” Rodigan enthused.
“We made it a point of duty to create a brand new album, not a collection of songs that were previously released; we want to promote this album as if Busy is a new artist because this is a brand new thing for him;” notes Shane Brown. “The title is making a strong statement and hopefully it will be the start for all of us, especially in Jamaica, to embrace reggae music.”