Five Steez & Mordecai put in ‘Work’

Kingston, Jamaica’s emcee-producer duo Five Steez & Mordecai are putting all doubters to shame with a new single titled Work, the second offering from their upcoming album, Love N Art.

Over hypnotic piano keys and a military style drum pattern cooked up by Mordecai, Five Steez addresses contemporaries and critics seeking to discredit him. He goes on expressing his belief in self and love for music, then returns to his verbal onslaught against his detractors who remain nameless.

The song’s chorus takes on the form of a chant: “I work, what about you? / You complain all day, not a damn thing you do / We could never par, you not in my crew / You talk too much so I know you not true.”

Five Steez says everyone that has heard Work has had immediate questions. “People ask who upset me. Some ask if it’s a diss song,” he explains while laughing. “But like Jay Z once said, ‘It’s not a diss song, it’s just a real song.’” According to the artist, the track is not directed at anyone in particular, but it is inspired by various interactions and addresses them all.

Mordecai, who is behind all the music on the upcoming album, says, “This is one of the anthems on the project, and although it is more about Steez’ journey, this song will motivate anyone that’s putting in their work in whatever field.”

Work follows True Original, released in September as the first single from Love N Art, which is scheduled for early 2019. The album is the second body of work from Five Steez and Mordecai since the 2016 EP, HeatRockz. Steez calls it his most honest and personal project. “It is also soulful and full of jazz,” he says. “We zoned in on a specific vibe we knew people would relate to and be moved by.”

Since 2010, Five Steez has released many 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 Tuesday, 23 October 2018 05:20

The Council on The Equiknoxx Hour on NTS Live

The Council had the pleasure of linking up with Equiknoxx at their headquarters for The Equiknoxx Hour, aired on Thursday, October 4, on NTS Live. We had a good time. We introduced ourselves, did a cypher over a few beats and Inztinkz dropped a guest mix with some of his productions. Salute to Gavsborg for inviting us, Shanique Marie for hosting and Time Cow for the engineering duties. Listen and enjoy!

Last modified on Saturday, 06 October 2018 20:45

Five Steez & Mordecai are the ‘True Original’

“The essence is here, the true original.”

Hip Hop artist, Five Steez, and producer, Mordecai, have finally returned since their 2016 EP, HeatRockz, to deliver a new song – True Original – from the upcoming album, Love N Art, scheduled for a 2019 release.

With the new single, 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, Five Steez relays his journey of being broke to being underpaid in the working world while fulfilling musical ambitions in spite of industry challenges faced as an independent artist.

“I need management handling my bookings and appearances, getting sample clearances,” raps Five Steez. “So I can be a lyricist, instead I’m running businesses.”

True Original also boasts the hungry wordsmith staking his claim. “A lot of frauds in the game, now it’s my time / they get lost in the fame, there’s a fine line / between the mirage in your brain and your right mind / pause what you saying, check my fly rhymes.”

Five Steez goes on with ease, rhyming circles around any supposed competition, clearly demonstrating he is in a lane and league of his own.

“This song is the opening salvo, but it is far from the typical single,” says Five Steez. “Minus where I let the beat breathe, I went in for 60 bars, without a chorus, bringing people into my current mindset.”

More singles will follow from Love N Art, which is the second body of work from Five Steez and Mordecai. Steez describes it as his most honest and personal project thus far. “It is also soulful and full of jazz,” he says. “The content and the sound is not really new for me, but, on this album, we zoned in on a specific vibe we knew people would relate to and be moved by.”

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 Tuesday, 25 September 2018 05:10

DJ Kool Herc in front of Danielle Mastrion's Mural at 5Pointz, Queens. Photograph by Raymond Hamlin.

Hip Hop, You Don't Stop

Celebrating 45 years of Jamaica-born DJ Kool Herc's contribution

August 11 is widely regarded as the anniversary of Hip Hop’s birth. On that day, 42 years ago, Jamaica-born Clive Campbell (aka DJ Kool Herc), along with his sister Cindy, held their first back-to-school jam inside the building complex at which their family lived on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, New York.

Beginning with a PA system that his father, Keith Campbell, purchased to use for a band, young Clive created the sound system known as The Herculords and gave rise to a genre and culture that has become a multi-billion dollar industry.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 16, 1955, Clive – the eldest of six children – lived on Second Street in Trench Town, the home of Bob Marley and many other Reggae legends. As a child, he came to know the sounds of Prince Buster, U-Roy, Big Youth and The Skatalites. And like most Jamaicans at the time, he was a fan of Motown’s Smoky Robinson, as well as James Brown, who he played much music from as a DJ and, as a result, is the most sampled artiste in Hip Hop.

In 1967, the Campbells sought a better life and travelled to New York on a British Overseas Airways Corporation flight. On his school’s basketball team, he was called ‘Hercules’ because of his stature, but asked that they just call him ‘Herc’. Herc's sister wanted to make some money in the summer of 1973 so she invested in what would be Hip Hop’s first house party, which quickly exploded into block parties akin to the Jamaican street dance. Kool Herc became known for playing funk records, which the people loved at the time, particularly James Brown.

With James Brown’s ‘Give it Up or Turn it a Loose’ (1969) and the Incredible Bongo Band’s ‘Apache’ (1973), among other records, he developed a style he termed the ‘Merry Go Round’ in which he would isolate and loop an instrumental ‘break’ that made the dancers enjoy themselves. This looping of breaks was carried on by Hip Hop producers, using drum machines and digital samplers rather than turntables. Herc, and his partner, Coke La Rock, also talked over the breaks, rhymed words and gave the crowd instructions.

Sometimes documented as being Jamaican though he was not, Coke La Rock was the first rapper and was a part of The Herculords. These early Hip Hop sessions mirrored the Jamaican dancehall, with a disc jockey playing music and artistes being privileged to take the microphone.

The energy of Kool Herc’s events and sound system spread and influenced other DJs, including Afrika Bambataa who began his own block parties in 1977. Bambataa, born to Jamaican and Barbadian parents in the Bronx, is credited with cementing the term ‘Hip Hop’ – although he did not coin it (Cowboy of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is said to have done so) – and identifying its four elements – DJ’ing, MC’ing (rapping), breakdancing and graffiti art.

Like Bambataa, other DJ’s in the Bronx had competing sound systems and events, but DJ Kool Herc was regarded as the first and became a legend in the streets. Unfortunately, in 1977, he was stabbed at the Electric Playhouse while intervening in an argument at one of his parties. He and Coke La Rock stepped away from the scene after. In an April interview on The Combat Jack Show podcast, he said he still sees his attacker and though he has forgiven him, the man still feels guilt for what he did decades ago.

By 1979, Hip Hop gained mass attention with the release of The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ on Sylvia Robinson’s Sugarhill Records. Not only did the song become popular in America, but it also impacted the world, including Jamaica, as, that same year, Joe Gibbs Music released a cover version by Xanadu and Sweet Lady.

Today, Hip Hop, which was once thought to be a fad, is the global youth culture and has spread to every corner of the world. According to music streaming service Spotify, it is the most played music on the platform. While some modern listeners may not know DJ Kool Herc’s story, he is still revered by fans who know the history and philosophy of Hip Hop.

Kool Herc no longer stages block parties as he once did, but still makes appearances at relevant functions. He never released any music and is often asked how he feels about not being compensated for the success of the culture. In 2013, at an exclusive anniversary screening of ‘Beat Street’ (1984), the first Hollywood movie about Hip Hop which featured him as himself, he said: “When a person says, ‘Herc, I came to your party. I met my wife… I met my husband. This is the son. This is the grandson.’ You can’t pay for that.”

Last modified on Saturday, 11 August 2018 16:33

The Apollo Series continues with Jamaica's brightest talents

Kingston’s newest, most interesting arts event, The Apollo Series, is set to excite again at The Haven, 12 Hillcrest Avenue, on Saturday, June 30, with a fusion of Reggae, Dub and Hip Hop. The featured acts for this third staging are local Hip Hop artiste Dizzy the iLL One and Reggae artistes 5 Star and Aza Lineage.

“We have unearthed a lot of talents since we started in January and we have presented top acts that are currently on the rise,” says Simon the Writer, the host and organiser. “Our line-up for June 30 is no different as these artistes are poised to make their marks on the musical landscape very soon.”

Dizzy the iLL One is regarded as one of the most skilled and versatile rappers in the local Hip Hop fraternity and is preparing to release new music later this year. 5 Star has also made a name for himself as a lyricist and has held his own on recent singles produced by Bobby Digital’s Digital B Records and Kabaka Pyramid. The second Reggae act Aza Lineage is one of the female artistes currently gaining attention on the live scene and is currently working on an album with King Jammy.

Part-showcase, part-open stage, The Apollo Series features three main performers as well as an opportunity for musicians, poets, to take the stage for a maximum of five minutes. The featured acts each perform at two points in the show – a concept called ‘rotating sets’ – with the open stage segments taking place in between their first appearances. They then appear one after the other for the second round.

Gates open at 7 p.m. and showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $500.

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

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 00:52

Nomad Carlos ft Five Steez - Back Home (Video)

Independent Hip Hop artist Nomad Carlos makes a phone call in his latest video to find out the happenings Back Home. Currently based in New York, he touches base with fellow member of The Council, Five Steez, out in their stomping grounds of Kingston, Jamaica.

Directed and edited by David ‘Enco’ Dacosta, the music video’s grainy feel complements the eerie sound crafted by producer, Sosa. Carlos and Steez go back and forth, discussing new developments and sniffing out a snake in their circle.

Back Home is featured on The Nomad Carlos Project which was released in early April.

Last modified on Saturday, 19 May 2018 01:47

Hip Hop, Reggae and Poetry find the right balance at The Apollo Series

The new open stage event, The Apollo Series, returns on Saturday, April 28, at The Haven, 12 Hillcrest Avenue, with an eclectic and diverse line-up that fuses different musical genres with poetry. Scheduled to perform on the second staging since its first in January are local rapper Scantana, alongside electronic band Pseudokhule, Reggae songstress Lila Ike and spoken word poet Chereese Lavonne.

Part-showcase, part-open stage, The Apollo Series features three main performers as well as an opportunity for musicians, poets, dancers and comedians to share their talents.

“Our first staging was excellent,” says host and organiser, Simon the Writer. “All of our acts delivered and our open stage revealed a lot of exceptional talent. We were also very pleased with the attendance of our patrons who we must thank for their overwhelming support.”

January’s initial staging of The Apollo Series was headlined by poet Simon the Writer, local Hip Hop collective The Council and Reggae artiste Koro Fyah.

The Apollo Series features what Simon the Writer calls ‘rotating sets’, where the night’s scheduled acts deliver their performances and then return to the stage later to deliver another. In between the headliners’ sets, the stage is open for a short period to willing performers in the audience.

“We saw all types of talents from people at all levels,” says Simon. “Some were already pros who were in attendance and chose to share. For some, it was their first time, and they did well with the encouragement from the crowd.”

On April 28, one can expect the open stage to be just as engaging, as well as see top-notch showings from the night’s featured performers. Scantana, known as the ‘man with the most grammar’, will display his skill over music produced live by Pseudokhule, while Lila Ike, who is part of Protoje’s In.Digg.Nation Collective, will be joined by her musicians for an interesting, acoustic set. The lone poet Chereese Lavonne, who recently started her own open mic series titled Speak, will provide the literary element for the night.

Admission is $500 and showtime is 8PM.

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

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 April 2018 02:30

Five Steez

The 13th Annual Trinity International Hip Hop Festival

What a weekend! I live a blessed life. I was fortunate enough to receive the opportunity to represent, not just for myself, but, for my country and our local Hip Hop movement at the 13th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut on April 6 - 8. Each year, the festival features notable Hip Hop acts from all over the world. This year, I was invited to perform, joining a roster of acts from the US (Noname, Taylor Bennett, Political Animals, Demi Day), Canada (Keysha Freshh), Cuba (David Omni & Esquadron Patriota), the Dominican Republic (Hache ST), Cabo Verde (Old City) and South Africa (Klein Fortuin).

I had known about this festival for some years now, through Clubba Lang of, which has been supporting me since 2010. Clubba was then living in Connecticut, and while he doesn't any more, Dot still does. And Dot and I got to link, which was great. I also knew of the festival through Greg Schick, who could be the most knowledgeable person about the different Hip Hop scenes globally. Greg and I had been in touch for years as well. I had done features for his label Nomadic Wax. Their website gave my 2012 debut album, War for Peace, a favourable review, and his site World Hip Hop Market ranked my 2014 EP, These Kingston Times, as one of the year's best international releases. The Trinity International Hip Hop Festival has a submission process through which independent acts can seek to perform. I had submitted previously but was not selected. At the end of 2017, Greg told me the committee was inviting me to perform. 

It was an honour to be at a festival that has featured the likes of Rakim, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli and MC Lyte. I shared the stage with respected Hip Hop acts from different scenes... quite literally, because the show ended with a cypher featuring all of us trading bars... and I connected with numerous personalities and made new fans and acquaintances who may now become collaborators and friends. 

Inevitably, I may leave out someone with whom I interacted, and for that, I apologize. Special respect goes out to Minister Server, who hosted Saturday's stage show and even 'served' as my hypeman. Also, Dr. Jesse Benjamin, who dropped a lot of knowledge in his panel and blessed me with a Walter Rodney T-Shirt. My favourite panel was Brian Coleman, Pete Nice of 3rd Bass and Stretch Armstrong of the legendary Stretch & Bobbito show chronicling the history of Hip Hop through party flyers and party stories dating from the 70s up into the 90s. I got to speak to both Pete and Stretch after the panel. Pete reminded me that 3rd Bass DJ, Richie Rich aka Daddy Rich, was born in Jamaica. When I told Stretch I was from Jamaica, he told me a little known story about how his show got started, assisted by his now best friend, Dylan Powe, a Jamaican in the industry who had gotten Inner Circle and Garnett Silk their record deals with Atlantic Records. The Jamaican involvement in Hip Hop has always been deep. Pete even said that DJ Kool Herc was hosting jams before the famed August 11, 1973 back-to-school jam. He said that was an epic night which is great to start the folklore, but Herc was doing stuff from as early as 1971. Emile YX from South Africa's Black Noise, as well as MC Pous and Dana Burton of China also had another interesting panel about free speech and censorship in their respective countries. Emile took us through his experience of protesting Apartheid in his music while Pous and Dana shattered Western misconceptions of Chinese government and society.

Outside of panels, the festival also featured a dance competition on the Friday night, graffiti walls and a patio showcase on Saturday afternoon. Sunday was the DJ and producer showcase of which I caught a part before heading to the airport with Keysha Freshh and one of the festival's organisers. I missed the graffiti in the park, however, which was happening simultaneously. 

Saturday night was the big show. And by all accounts, I rocked the place. I had a lot of fun and got a lot of love from the crowd, especially the front row, which was super-energetic and excited. Due to sound check getting off on a bad foot, as the engineer explained it to me, there wasn't any more time for me to do mine, although the headliners and the bands that were playing did theirs. That evening, I was back-and-forth between a studio on campus and the show venue, attempting to do my sound check and an interview with Rene John-Sandy and DJ Sabotage for the Global Love Warming podcast all in the same time frame. At least, I got the interview done, making me the first act to return to the podcast. We also got some great visual content as the show was also filmed.

As for sound check, I was assured by the engineer that there would be no issues, and there were none that occurred that weren't addressed immediately on the fly. The sound team did a good job and so did DJ Boo, who added the extra flair to my set, without us doing any rehearsal, sound check or having any real discussion about what we were going to do. That's how pros work. What was crazy was Minister Server, chilling in the background, working the crowd as my hypeman on the mic. I think I did a good set. I opened up with songs from These Kingston Times (Deadly & Welcome) and then went into Dirty Couch from HeatRockz. I then performed Encore for the first time. I also did songs like Rebel Music and a piece of Slaving on the Plantation. I ended my set with some high energy thanks to True School, and I topped it off with a short freestyle at the end, bigging up Trinity College and my DJ for the night. 

I was well received on the night and it was love all around, from patrons to fellow performers. Maximum respect also to Matthew, DJ Trouble Kidd, Cody, Giselle and Akayla who made sure I was good, helping me get around and showing me the place.

I was happy to have finally made it to this festival. I see it as an acknowledgement of my work over the years and also a recognition of the Hip Hop community in Jamaica. Given the significant contribution of Jamaica and Jamaicans to Hip Hop culture, I feel it is only right for us to have a seat at the 'Hip Hop United Nations', if you get my drift. I am the first Jamaican act that has appeared at the festival. I hope I return again, but I also hope I'm not the last or the only. Hopefully, next time, it will be The Council at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival. 

Photos by Thomas De Los Santos

Five Steez

Five Steez

Five Steez 

Five Steez

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 April 2018 05:32

Five Steez at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival

I will be live at the 13th annual Trinity International Hip Hop Festival on Saturday, April 7 at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut! I have wanted to appear at this festival for at least the past five years. It is now a reality. Major respect goes out to Magee, Greg Schick, the students and faculty at Trinity College and everyone else involved! I hope to have a fun time and put on a good show. Highlights will surely be shared here on the site. 


Last modified on Thursday, 05 April 2018 05:39

The Quarter Inch Kings x Five Steez - Get Props

"The most dangerous, ya guaranteed favourite..." Five Steez is an emcee's emcee for anyone that needs reminding that lyrics matter. A true school lyricist representing 1/4 of Kingston Jamaica's The Council, the talented wordsmith shows grit in his penmanship guaranteed to 'Get Props' on this latest installment produced and manufactured by Toronto producers, The Quarter Inch Kings. 

Last modified on Monday, 26 March 2018 00:41