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Myself and Inztinkz of The Council during our presentation First Coast: The Jamaican and wider Caribbean involvement in Hip Hop
at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, March 29, 2019. (Photo by Greg Schick)

Hip Hop comes full circle in Jamaica

DJ Kool Herc to be celebrated on the ‘First Coast’

You would have to know me to understand the joy I felt when I caught wind of the upcoming University of the West Indies (UWI) conference The Legacy of DJ Kool Herc: Celebrating the Jamaican Roots of Hip Hop. The event, to be held April 16-18, 2020, is intended to address the gap in scholarship about the local influence on the genre while focusing on its global significance.

DJ Kool Herc has always been of particular importance to the Hip Hop community in Jamaica. Herc, born Clive Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica, is credited as the genre’s forefather, starting with his back-to-school jam in the Bronx, New York, in 1973. Many of us Jamaicans who love Hip Hop and know its history find the local connection very interesting, even assuring and empowering.

This led to The Council, a Kingston and New York-based collective of which I am one-fourth, to coin and spread the term ‘First Coast’. After all, if there was no Kool Herc, perhaps, there may be no Hip Hop as we know it today. Therefore, we argue that Jamaica is the ‘First Coast’.

This piece of history – the influence of Jamaica’s sound system culture on Hip Hop – is not only a point of discussion within our community, but it arises in interactions we have with other people in social, and, definitely, ‘industry’ settings.

I can use my experiences with the media as examples since these are conversations where I am sometimes questioned extensively. I have done countless interviews about my music for every form of media. International outlets are often intrigued by the existence of boom-bap Hip Hop in Jamaica, and, moreso, impressed by the quality. Some local media, especially in the past, would initially question the choice of genre and seem oblivious to the quality and the obvious story in this music being done well in an unexpected location that actually has a strong claim to its foundation.

Naturally, the story of DJ Kool Herc would come up in some interviews with certain local press, as in casual social conversations, and I found that many Jamaicans, including those who should be more knowledgeable about music, really did not know much about the Jamaican contribution to Hip Hop, or the genre in general. Hence, they viewed the music as ‘foreign’ while many of us in the local community have always known it as an extension of our sound system culture and that we have a rightful place in it. ‘First Coast’ is our way of asserting that, educating and reminding people.

DJ Kool Herc sits for an interview with the Jamaica Music Conference in New York on Saturday, January 11, 2020. (Photo by Kwasi Bonsu)

With all of this in mind, you will better understand why I welcome the UWI conference. It is fulfilling to see local academia embrace Hip Hop culture and begin to study DJ Kool Herc and the Jamaican contribution. In March 2019, The Council appeared at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival in Hartford, Connecticut, where we performed and also delivered a presentation titled First Coast: The Jamaican and wider Caribbean involvement in Hip Hop. We have submitted the presentation’s abstract for consideration at UWI’s conference and it would be an honour if we get to speak to our home audience this time. Whether we are invited to present or not, we will definitely be in attendance. Just a week after submitting our abstracts, I came across more exciting news. International Reggae Day, the 24-hour global media festival celebrated every July 1st, will be honouring DJ Kool Herc this year! Coincidence? I think not. This is synchronicity and a sort of ‘holy trinity’ because Herc himself has just been confirmed to attend the Jamaica Music Conference (JMC) on February 13-16!

The JMC is a forum which allows independent music professionals to network and learn best practices. I fully endorse this recurring event and was privileged to be part of it in 2016 when The Council and Canadian rapper Michie Mee had a panel. I’m happy that DJ Kool Herc will be participating and that there will also be a discussion titled The Rise of First Coast: Marketing Jamaica’s Hip Hop. While I am not a panelist, I will surely be present.

So... three events honouring DJ Kool Herc, all in the same year... the JMC, UWI’s conference and International Reggae Day. This is all very exciting to me and I am wondering what it could mean for the future of Hip Hop in Jamaica. Of course, my agenda is to strengthen the culture here and forge a path for the Hip Hop artists from Jamaica. My interest is not merely from an academic or cultural standpoint; it is also artistic and commercial.

Earlier, I mentioned my experience speaking with some local media in the past. The response I used to receive from some has changed over time, for many reasons, one being that they have become more familiar with my work and have come to respect it. For a very long time, we, in the local Hip Hop community, have heard that Jamaicans should not rap or cannot rap. Now, in 2020, I cannot remember the last time I heard that. I suspect Hip Hop’s rising popularity, the existence of local rappers all over the island and our most celebrated Dancehall and Reggae artists fusing forms of Hip Hop, from boom-bap to trap, with Jamaica’s traditional sounds, have played a part in what may be a shift in thought for some. There are still people, however, that do not know we exist and there are others that simply ignore or overlook us.

I do not know exactly what the future is for Hip Hop in the traditional Jamaican music industry, or if it will ever have a place there. What I know, however, is that Hip Hop made in Jamaica, will spread further and nothing will stop it. With changing sentiments on the island, and more artists finding international success, particularly through the internet, what’s to stop Hip Hop? Nothing.

Last modified on Friday, 17 January 2020 04:10

Michie Mee & Five Steez to celebrate birthdays at Scorpio Bash

Legendary Canadian Hip Hop artist Michie Mee is staging her annual Scorpio Bash for the first time in Kingston, Jamaica at Dub Gardens, Itopia Life, 10A West King’s House Road on Saturday, November 9. The event, beginning at 6 p.m., will be held to celebrate her birthday, as well as that of Jamaican Hip Hop artist Five Steez, and all other scorpios.

Numerous Hip Hop artists, from both Canada and Jamaica, are slated to perform on the night. From the Canadian contingent are Tonya P, Xentury, Lord Fury, Korexion, Nana and Michie Mee herself. Representing Jamaica will be Inztinkz, The Sickest Drama, Dizzy the Ill One, Iyah Gift and, of course, Five Steez. The event, which will be co-hosted by special guest, Quizz, will feature music by DJ Elmo, Inztinkz and DJ J Niiice of IHeartRadio in Canada.

“I always stage the Scorpio Bash in Toronto each year,” says Michie Mee. “This year, I wanted to take the party home, bring my Canadian friends to Jamaica and have all my Jamaican friends join in on the festivities.”

Five Steez says, “Michie and I been in touch since 2010 when we first met through the Manifesto movement, which is active in both Jamaica and Toronto. I’m happy we can now collaborate, bring our people together and have a major celebration.”

The cost for admission is $500.

Scorpio Bash is sponsored by Generation Hip Hop, the Jamaica Music Conference, Northside Hip Hop and Itopia Life.

Michie Mee is a Jamaica-born artist regarded as one of Hip Hop’s early notable female rappers and a national Hip Hop pioneer in Canada, after becoming the first Hip Hop artist from the country to sign a deal with an American major record label. Five Steez, on the other hand, is a Kingston-based underground Hip Hop act, who has performed at international festivals and staged multiple local events.

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 October 2019 01:53

Five Steez talks Pantone on ZANJ Radio

As always, DJ Zanj Racc had me as a guest on his show World Music Fusion to talk about my latest project, Pantone. It was a great interview because Zanj really listens to the music and asks some very insightful questions. This one is a must-listen for any Five Steez fan. Not only did we talk about Pantone, but we also discussed my entire catalog, with 11 projects to my name to date over a decade, and the legacy I will leave. The show gets into my section in the second hour and the interview begins at 1:12:00.

Last modified on Sunday, 13 October 2019 20:17

Kingston, Jamaica's Five Steez and French beatmaker J-Zen connect for new EP Pantone

Kingston, Jamaica underground Hip Hop staple Five Steez has teamed up with French beatmaker J-Zen for the new EP Pantone, available on all digital platforms and as a free download on Bandcamp. The project features four songs that will get heads nodding, having fun and even reflecting on life and death, all within 15 minutes.

Pantone opens with the track Spesh FX, featuring Nomad Carlos, a fellow MC of Five Steez in the four-member collective The Council. The party starts with What's Your Vibe? - a funky cut with an infectious groove and melody put together by J-Zen. Steez then takes a couple minutes to assert himself over any competition on No Debate. The final song, We Can Never Know, explores life's uncertainty, with Five Steez opening up in his first verse about friend and collaborator France Nooks, who passed in February 2018.

"J-Zen and I did these songs between late 2017 and early 2018," says Five Steez. "Now, our schedules have given us the time to wrap things up and share it with the world. I'm excited about this project because it's the same true school boom bap Hip Hop people know me for, but it's a very different groove, sound and texture from anything I've ever released."

J-Zen says, "I had been following Five Steez for a while and had heard his EP HeatRockz with Mordecai. I knew he was an artist I wanted to work with so I reached out and we made it happen. I'm proud to now present Pantone to the people and I hope they enjoy the music as much as we enjoyed making it."

Pantone is the second release in 2019 from Five Steez, who dropped the album Love N Art with Mordecai in February. The EP is the first release from J-Zen since the June 2018 beat tape Agave. Five Steez made his debut with his 2012 album War for Peace, following up with 2014’s EP These Kingston Times. HeatRockz was released in 2016, and, in 2017, he featured heavily on The Council's album Nothing Else Matters.

J-Zen, who is signed to French independent label Dooinit Music, made his debut on the beatmaking scene with his first beat tape Breakfast in 2009, and became more known to the public with 2010's Guilty Pleasure, which was distributed internationally by Fatbeats, Jazzy Sport and Pusher. Other notable releases include the 2012 single God Music and the 2015 album Managua.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 October 2019 02:09

Life Goes On for SpaceAge Rasta and The Council

Life goes on despite struggle and tragedy. This is the message on a new single from SpaceAge Rasta as well as Inztinkz and The Sickest Drama of The Council. The song, appopriately titled Life Goes On, is now available on all digital platforms and is accompanied by a music video also on Youtube. The track, produced by Fada Scur, is translated to the screen with cinematic visuals shot by Robin Chin and edited by Kadean Dunbar.

Life Goes On begins dramatically with speech by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, followed by SpaceAge Rasta's wailing chorus. Inztinkz kicks off the first verse, rapping intricately about the ills of Jamaican society and the wider world. The Sickest Drama then carries the baton with the second verse, injecting geo-politics and concerns about modern technology. The song closes with more audio from an interview with the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I. The music video, which was shot entirely in the Kingston community of Cockburn Gardens, shows snapshots into the daily life within Jamaica's inner cities.

Life Goes On is the first release from an upcoming collaborative project with The Council, NRG and Eeesah. The Council is the Kingston and New York-based Hip Hop supergroup comprising Inztinkz, The Sickest Drama, Nomad Carlos and Five Steez, while NRG (short for New Reggae Generation) consists of Makonnen the SpaceAge Rasta, rapper Iyah Gift and Houston, Texas-based dancehall artist, Rseenal.

SpaceAge Rasta, who shares the executive producer role with Fada Scur, says, “This was just the first song that we did together, but we have more and we are continuing to work. We just wanted to let people know what is happening so they can look forward to all the epic music we have in store.” The ongoing project is currently untitled, but more singles will be released in time, before any release date is announced. The next single fans can look forward to is Streets of Jamaica, which features Eesah, Five Steez, SpaceAge Rasta, Nomad Carlos and The Sickest Drama.

Last modified on Tuesday, 09 July 2019 13:04

Five Steez & Mordecai release ‘True Original’ music video

Five Steez & Mordecai have unveiled a music video for True Original from their album Love N Art, released in February on all digital platforms. The mostly black-and-white visual, shot and directed by Scotty Dreamkiller, features colourful illustrations that complement Five Steez in his animated mode of performance.

“Scotty has been working with me and Mordecai since 2016’s HeatRockz and we always try to push the envelope a bit with how we represent the music visually,” says Five Steez. “We did different things with previous videos like Dirty Couch and True School, so we wanted to try something new with True Original as well.” While Five Steez has released a barrage of content on social media recently, True Original is the first official music video. It is also the first single, which was released in September, from Love N Art.

On True Original, Five Steez shares his reality of balancing life and music while pursuing his destiny. Backed by rugged drums and trance-like music laced with female vocals, Steez relays his journey in fulfilling his musical ambitions. The hungry wordsmith also stakes his claim to the game, clearly demonstrating he is in a lane and league of his own.

Love N Art is the second project from Five Steez & Mordecai, with the first being HeatRockz. The two have since operated as a rapper and producer duo. Steez describes Love N Art, which features 9 tracks of jazzy and soulful boom-bap Hip Hop, as his most honest and personal project. “I believe it is my best body of work thus far and the music is very universal because of the sound and the message,” he says.

Since 2010, Five Steez has released a variety of mixtapes, albums and EPs, including the three-volume Momentum mixtape series with DJ Ready Cee, 2012’s War for Peace, 2014’s These Kingston Times and 2016’s HeatRockz. In 2017, he featured heavily on the album Nothing Else Matters as part of the four-member Kingston and New York-based collective, The Council, which also comprises Nomad Carlos, The Sickest Drama and Inztinkz.

Last modified on Friday, 17 May 2019 12:15

Five Steez & Mordecai on Southern Vangard Radio

Me & Mordecai finally got to chop it up with DJ Jon Doe and Eddie Meeks over at Southern Vangard Radio. These guys have been playing our music since we released HeatRockz in 2016 and their podcast has become one of the most respected in the underground scene. We spoke about the new album as well as Jamaica... Eddie had actually went on his honeymoon here and had some funny stories. Hopefully, we can make the connection out here in the future. As well as in Atlanta!

Last modified on Friday, 03 May 2019 01:00

The Apollo Series continues to fuse musical genres, art forms

The artiste showcase and open stage event The Apollo Series is back on Saturday, May 25, at The Haven, 12 Hillcrest Avenue. This sixth staging of the event, which was first held in January 2018, will feature Reggae artistes Giark and Blvk H3ro as well as the rapper and producer duo Five Steez and Mordecai.

Giark, the son of legendary Reggae producer Bobby Digital, has moved from behind the mixing board into the recording booth and onto the stage as he has been releasing his own music, the most recent single being a track called So Facetious. Blvk H3ro has also been riding a wave since the release of his debut album The Immortal Steppa, which has been carving a lane for him as one of Jamaica’s future rockers. Also on his own wave is Five Steez who recently appeared at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival in Connecticut as part of The Council and will be performing songs from his new album Love N Art with Mordecai.

One of the most unique features of The Apollo Series is that each headlining act performs twice in what is referred to as ‘rotating sets’. Event host and organiser Simon the Writer says, “The rotating sets allow people to catch the act they came to see. It also allows the acts to make two presentations to the audience.”

The open stage is another signature feature of The Apollo Series. In addition to poets, singers, deejays, rappers and musicians of any kind, the event also accommodates dancers and just about any art form. These individuals are given five minutes each to showcase their talent and the persons usually vary from amateurs performing for the first time to seasoned veterans. “We would love to even have live painting on stage one day,” says Simon the Writer. “For now, we have a lot of artistes and poets that show interest.”

The Apollo Series prides itself on exposing, developing and unearthing Jamaica’s freshest talent. In the past, the event has featured acts such as Koro Fyah, The Council, Lila Ike and Aza Lineage. Gates for The Apollo Series open at 7 p.m. and show time is 8 p.m. Admission is only $500.

The Apollo Series is presented by A.C.T.I.O.N. Jamaica and is sponsored by The Haven, Main Event Entertainment Group and Marketing Plus Communications.

Last modified on Friday, 03 May 2019 00:47

The Love N Art Private Show Highlights

It was an incredible feeling being able to perform Love N Art for the first time! Like I said to someone on the night, everyone present gave a fuck. Which is what mattered to me. I wanted my core audience and people that matter the most to me to share in this experience. We achieved our target of 50-60 persons and everyone enjoyed themselves. It was also the first time I've staged an event with myself as the sole performer. Thanks to everyone that came out! Big up to Jik Reuben for the photo coverage, as well as Simon the Writer / A.C.T.I.O.N. Jamaica and Lynky. Check out some highlights!

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 April 2019 00:29

Love N Art Merchandise

CDs & T-Shirts for Love N Art are finally here! Orders within Jamaica may be placed by making contact with me or Mordecai while international orders are handled online. CDs ship worldwide via Bandcamp and T-Shirts also ship worldwide via Big Cartel. Get yours now!

Last modified on Monday, 08 April 2019 02:30
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