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Salute Coppa Stone for the opportunity to talk a bit about myself and Hip Hop in Jamaica for Bass Culture Islands. Read the feature here or click the image above and you'll get some history on the local Hip Hop movement. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 18:18

Now into the month of May in 2015, Jamaica's premier Hip Hop event, Pay Attention, which started in April 2012, has officially passed the third anniversary mark. It has been an interesting journey, to say the least, and I have no regrets about how it has turned out. There has been a lot of progress, lessons learnt, ups and downs and even back-and-forth among my partners as we have worked on creating this one-of-a-kind experience for the local Hip Hop community. We have come a far way and I believe we have achieved much of what we set out to do.

For a movement that the average Jamaican did not know existed, our event alone has captured reasonable attention in the local media. From JamaicansMusic.com (Jamaican Hip Hop artistes leaving you with no option but to pay attention) to the Jamaica Gleaner (Jamaican Hip Hop commanding attention) to The Star to Hype TV (November 2013 Highlights) to CVM at Sunrise to KLAS ESPN 89 FM and Hot 102 FM, we've received exposure in every form of media - print, television, online and radio. It may not be everywhere or in the most popular outlets, but Hip Hop in Jamaica has never gotten so much of a spotlight, and much of it has centred around Pay Attention in recent times. 

We have also succeeded in building a stronger local Hip Hop community over the past three years. Rappers and crews are not as isolated as they once were and they are learning that there is strength in unity. What is beautiful about the unity being developed is that the common thread among all is simply a love for Hip Hop and the shared experience of being a rapper in Jamaica. All sorts of styles, perspectives and personas are welcome; but we endorse microphone skills!

We have seen many amazing performances, a packed venue at times, as well as local celebrities and personalities in attendance. We have connected many people and helped to forge new friendships, collaborative relationships and business partnerships. We have even turned doubters into believers who now profess their love for the movement and their faith in its talent.

This is no time to pat ourselves on the backs, however. We have come a far way, but we still have farther to go - not just Pay Attention as an event, but the local Hip Hop scene as a movement. There is more ground to conquer, locally, and most definitely, internationally.

We need more events that cater to our audience and community for us to truly have a 'scene'. We need more bloggers, photographers, vidoeographers and other people who will play essential roles. And our local Hip Hop artistes also need to put in the work - hone their crafts, study the business and move professionally in branding, marketing and promoting their music. The world is at our fingertips with the internet and much progress can be made if it is used correctly.

Will Pay Attention continue for another three years? Does it need to? Time will tell. But what I do now today is that we have a bright future. And it will take much more work to get there. I'm prepared for it though. Are you?

Let's make the world Pay Attention! 

Last modified on Sunday, 03 May 2015 22:27

This piece was originally published as Thoughts on Jamaican Hip Hop Pt.2, in April 2012. I have revised it slightly and re-posted it on FiveSteez.com as the first entry in the #FirstCoastChronicles as I believe it provides some historical background for the Hip Hop movement in Kingston, Jamaica. In no way is this supposed to be a summary of everything that occurred in the local scene... just my thoughts, particularly as it relates to local Hip Hop shows.   

Just yesterday, I told a female friend of mine about Pay Attention, an upcoming Hip Hop party and showcase series that some friends and I are staging (#PayAttention! - The New Musical Experience, Pree Jamaica). The fact that there would be a Hip Hop party in Jamaica was obviously a surprise to her. She had never heard of such a thing and that is exactly why I am proud to be associated with this event and this movement, in general.

I grew up on Hip Hop. I have two older brothers who listened to a lot of Hip Hop so my introduction to the genre came very early. The older I got, the more I delved into the music. By age 14, I was studying the craft of MC'ing, jotting down punchlines during school hours and recording my verses at home on my family's computer. As much as I loved this art and culture, I fully understood how odd my musical tastes and choices were compared to the majority of my peers, who only listened to what was popular.

Throughout most of high school, I was the only rapper I knew. Fortunately, I connected with Simo-B and later, Nomad Carlos, Shermon Dadz and Sosa when we formed The Bulletproof Army (BP) in late 2002 while we were in 5th Form at St. George's College. Finally, I had friends who were as passionate about the music as I was and I was motivated more than ever to write rhymes and make music.

Beginning in January 2004, BP released frequent mixtapes. At the time, we knew of no other rappers or groups except for a handful with which we had little interaction. By 2005, we began frequenting Gambling House Recording Studio (GH), which has been a 'Mecca' for local Hip Hop, as most Jamaican MC's have worked, passed through or hung out there at some point. At GH, I met Wall$treet, who I learned, saw themselves as the '2nd Generation' of local Hip Hop, being that they were students of Keystone, the first local Hip Hop group I have known to have an album in stores. We, as BP, were the '3rd Generation' of local Hip Hop. I also met the super-producers Damien and Inztinkz (also our elders), who shared a lot of local Hip Hop history with us.

For the first, I felt like I belonged. We felt like we belonged! We found so many other rappers who influenced us and as a result, we formed a new view on Jamaican Hip Hop. No longer were we alone. We were a part of a community.

In 2007, Nomad Carlos and myself attended an event at Up on The Roof in New Kingston, to give out some of our CD's. There we saw a performance by two local rappers. Never before had we seen a performance by local Hip Hop artistes so we knew we had an opportunity at this series of events. We made contact with the promoter and BP was booked for the following month. This was our first performance as a group (Simo-B and myself had performed before) and in my own humble opinion, it was the ushering in of a new era for Jamaican Hip Hop.

Our first show at Up on The Roof went excellent. We brought a much larger crowd to the event than ever before and we closed the show with a bang. Still feeling excited and encouraged, I, and some other rappers, made contact with some organizers of the weekly Tuesday Nite Live, which was held at Village Cafe. The following month, they held a show that incorporated local Hip Hop, including BP. I guess it went better than expected because not too long after, there was a full Hip Hop show! I had never seen Village Cafe so packed in my life! For approximately four months, between Up on The Roof and Village Cafe, there were a total of 4 events that went well, one each month, with the venue alternating every other month.

One of the organizers of Tuesday Nite Live, Julia Vaz Campbell was overwhelmed by the amount of local Hip Hop talent and raw enthusiasm that she witnessed. It wasn't long before she teamed with DJ Boyd (if Jamaica has any true Hip Hop DJ, it is him) to begin a movement they called Da Underground. Julia and Boyd invited numerous rappers to be a part of something and institutionalized regular rehearsals at our designated meeting spot, GH, which was common to so many rappers. They both had a vision to propel our movement into notoriety but could not acquire the sponsorship they desired. One staging of Da Underground was held at Weekenz in 2008 but for various reasons, it never had the impact of previous Hip Hop shows and was never held again. This initiative dissolved not long after.

In 2009, The Sickest Drama (TSD), one of my peers from GH, began working with Two 9 Xclusive, a promotional company that held weekly events on Sundays at Moulin Rouge on Constant Spring Road. Being the MC that he is, he brought in numerous Hip Hop artistes to represent week after week. This weekly event lasted for months but eventually ceased.

In 2010, I began working with the non-profit youth organization, Manifesto|Jamaica, which staged ART'ical Exposure: Rhyme & Reason in September. Dozens of rappers represented on stage and it was surely the biggest local Hip Hop event since the last show at Village Cafe three years earlier (ART'ical Exposure turns to rap, Jamaica Gleaner). Manifesto also showcased Hip Hop artistes such as myself and Shaq the MC on its Festivals of ART'ical Empowerment in both 2010 and 2011 but it is Verse: The Art of Rhyming, of which I am most proud. As a special feature at the monthly Poetry Society of Jamaica fellowship, myself, Shaq the MC and Kabaka Pyramid had a cypher that lasted around an hour, if not more (See Pree Jamaica's highlights Pt1 | Pt2). Nothing like that had ever been done before locally and I can tell that the experience of witnessing that has stuck with some of the people who were there. It must also be noted that Shaq the MC was one of the organizers and the host of Jamaica Vibes, which was a regular live music show that went on for many years at Weekenz during the 2000s. While it was not a Hip Hop show, Shaq would often freestyle on stage and the event featured Hip Hop performers often.

Now in 2012, I am happy to see local Hip Hop artistes, producers and supporters coming together for Pay Attention. Too many times, the organizers of Hip Hop events, or events that include us, have been outsiders and I believe this is why they have not lasted. They were not sustainable in the beginning and first and foremost, there was no community ownership.

Pay Attention is owned and organized by members of the community for the entire local Hip Hop scene. I hope to see this event prosper and flourish to become the meeting point for all lovers of Hip Hop music and culture. In due time, I would love to see more events like it and many more opportunities for local Hip Hop artistes.

It's time... Peace!

Last modified on Sunday, 03 May 2015 22:26

Derrick Ashong, entrepreneur and founder of Amp.It, interviewed me as part of the Take Back the Mic: World Cup of Hip Hop. In the 4-minute feature, I tell my story, while chatting to Ashong at Gambling House Recording Studio and my old high school, St. George's College.

Five Steez inside Gambling House Recording Studio

Five Steez inside Gambling House Recording Studio

Last modified on Saturday, 25 April 2015 19:14

Want to see me represent Jamaica in the first World Cup of Hip Hop? Well, go to http://www.amp.it/u/fivesteez, login with Facebook, listen to some songs & click 'Amp It'!'

Listening to a song gives me 5 points while 'amping' it or my page gives me 10 points. You have until April 9 to 'amp' before the finalists are announced on April 10. You have 5 amps per day, but you may listen to as many songs as you like. So listen and 'amp' as much as you can.

The finalists for each country (Jamaica, Brazil and Colombia) will perform at the competition's finale in Miami this May. Let's get me over there!

Last modified on Monday, 16 March 2015 05:01

Pay Attention starts 2015 with banging musical fusion

Kingston, Jamaica’s premier Hip Hop party and artiste showcase series, Pay Attention, returns for the New Year on Saturday, January 31 at C&C South Beach, 2 Brompton Road. The event will feature music by resident DJ, Inztinkz, and Deadline Sound; as well as performances by Hip Hop artistes, Five Steez and Gully Ca$h, Dancehall/Reggae artiste, Rseenal, and singer, Jane Macgizmo.

Five Steez is expected to deliver songs from his 2012 album ‘War for Peace’ and his ‘These Kingston Times’ EP, released last October. Additionally, Gully Ca$h, who also released his free mixtape, ‘Trillinayaad’, in October, is slated to perform his newest music.

Rseenal, who is known in underground Dancehall and live Reggae circles, will be performing a special Hip Hop-flavoured set, while Jane MacGizmo will treat listeners to her eclectic dubtronica sound as heard in her singles, ‘Babylon’ and ‘Black Skin’.

“Anyone who has attended Pay Attention before knows that we always bring the best underground talent that Jamaica has to offer and there is an energy that is unparalleled at our event,” says host and organiser, TSD. “As usual, we have that real Hip Hop, which is about dope beats and rhymes, and we mix it up with other genres, which are all a part of the same family, from acts who have that Hip Hop flair.”

Admission to Pay Attention is $1,000 and ladies are two-for-one until showtime at 10:30PM. Gates open at 9PM. Pre-sold tickets are $600 and persons may contact the organisers to purchase them via the event’s social media accounts.

The event’s partners include Hype TV, JAE Magazine, Now Playing JA, Rebel by King, Electro-Tech and Hot 102. Follow @PayAttentionJA on Twitter or visit on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/PayAttentionJA for more info.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 16:29

I will be performing live at I-Revolt on Saturday, December 27! This show will be held at Comfitanya Sports Bar, Restaurant and Lounge, 1 Crieffe Road, Kingston 3. Also featured are Torch, Mortimer McPherson and Dan Giovanni. Showtime is 9PM and admission is free!

Music will be provided by Supa Nova and Sage will be the host. Blak IWA TV will be providing a live stream so be sure to tune in if you cannot make it!

Join the Facebook event here for more info:- https://www.facebook.com/events/813367012038692/

Last modified on Monday, 22 December 2014 02:11

Pree Jamaica has covered the Jamaican Hip Hop movement since 2010 when they first featured Manifesto Jamaica's ART'ical Exposure, an event at which I performed and also helped in organizing. Most recently, they asked me some interesting questions about my music and my life. Read the interview here - http://www.preejamaica.com/?p=6730

Last modified on Sunday, 16 November 2014 16:58

There’s an 'I' in 'Five Steez', but even though you see my name on my EP, in no way was it I alone that made it a reality.

I like to pride myself on being an independent artiste. I am my own label. I am even my own manager and executive producer. These are many hats to wear, and it can be tiresome, but I do have help – more than I ever had.

My recording engineer, Stephen Bravo, has been very accommodating, patient and diligent in his work with me. He helped to bring out the best in me as a recording artiste, paid great attention to detail and made the process easier for me to simply focus on being an MC in the booth.

Capish handled the mixing from thousands of miles away and it was easy working with him and getting the final product to sound the way I envisioned.

While hardly involved in the creative process of this latest project, my studio partners deserve their own recognition. Inztinkz, TSD, Bravo, Kid, Massy and I have been managing Gambling House Recording Studio, and without them being on board, I would not have that space available to do these recordings. K. John gave us the green light and we've been running the studio since February of this year.

One of the first things people are likely to encounter from this project, especially online, is its artwork. Lauren Watkis did an excellent job with the ‘War for Peace’ artwork and she was still kind enough to use her talents in creating the visuals for ‘These Kingston Times’.

This website, through which I now communicate with you, is also an essential part of the movement. It was designed by Gynelle Findlay, of Hybrid E-Solutions, who taught me everything I needed to know to continuously update this site.

Also, thanks to Nathan Cowan, the director of ‘Welcome’, who is also the man behind Nomad Carlos’ ‘BP Meets UC’, which is the very first official music video in which I appeared. We have a history working together and hanging out so it made sense to have him direct the first music video for ‘These Kingston Times’.

As for the music itself, I could not have done it without the producers – Bravo, DJ Crooks, Symbo Science, The Patents, Truck Julius, OneMan Beats and Phil Chronics. They made the beats that inspired me and brought out these rhymes. K. John, Kash Kapri, France Nooks and Nomad Carlos all did their thing on ‘The Starting Five', making it a classic. I even prefer all their verses over mine.

Last but not least, give thanks to the universe, which has allowed me to conceive this project, complete it and now, release it. I’m always guided by signs and seemingly random occurrences and I’m satisfied and grateful this journey I embarked upon with this EP turned out this way.

I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 October 2014 19:19

 

Independent rapper Five Steez has released his new digital 8-track EP, ‘These Kingston Times’, on Bandcamp, iTunes and other outlets. The project, which captures the modern tale of the Jamaican capital, Kingston, comes after the release of two singles this past summer – ‘Deadly’ and ‘Welcome’ – the latter having its music video launched online in September.

These Kingston Times’ begins with the appropriately titled single, ‘Welcome’, on which Five Steez introduces the uninitiated listener to ‘yard’ over an uptempo head-nodding beat with a Jamaican sample used in the scratch hook. On the title track, ‘These Kingston Times’, he recalls some of the city’s fallen dons – figures legitimized by legal business interests and powerful political connections.

Wild West Indies’ follows and Steez, accompanied by some haunting music, takes aim at not only his country’s weak leadership, but also forces, past and present, that have exploited his nation and the wider Caribbean. The tone changes somewhat on ‘From the Ground Up’ as he rallies the troops with some fiery lyrics supported by a dusty and grimy instrumental.

The Starting Five’, the EP’s fifth track, is the only song with guest appearances, featuring four other rappers from Kingston – K. John, Kash Kapri, France Nooks and Nomad Carlos – all delivering verses one after the other. On ‘Deadly’, Five Steez lets everyone know he’s ready for the stage, over a classic breakbeat mixed with a vintage Reggae flavour and signature Dancehall chant.

The project nears its end with ‘Night Streets’, which features Steez, with a light jazz backdrop, pondering his own life in Kingston and his mission in music. ‘These Kingston Times’ finally closes with ‘Untold Stories 2’, the dramatic sequel to a stellar narrative on the artist’s 2012 debut album, ‘War for Peace’. Steez continues the tale, injecting more suspense and action, while leaving the listener with just as much mystery at the end as he did with the first.

“I wanted to paint my city the way I see it, and in a way I've never heard the story told before in music,” says Five Steez. “Since Hip Hop’s genesis with DJ Kool Herc, there has always been a Jamaican influence and involvement in the genre, but you've never heard about actual life here in ‘yard’, as we affectionately call it. It's a new perspective in Hip Hop, but parallel to that of urban environments worldwide.”

These Kingston Times’ is available for purchase on Bandcamp (http://bit.ly/KGNBandcamp), iTunes (http://bit.ly/KGNiTunes) and other digital outlets. Persons may visit the artiste’s website at http://www.fivesteez.com, which will provide updates.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 05:06
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