Lady Saw is labeled as the Queen of Dancehall and the first female deejay to win a Grammy. She is known for her vivid sex lyrics and lewd stage shows. But in 2011 her softer alter ego Marion Hall will make her first appearance. Reggaemani got a chat with this outspoken female artist from an airport in Los Angeles.
Lady Saw, born Marion Hall, took her stage name from the late singer Tenor Saw when she started her career on local Jamaican sound systems only 15 years old. Her talent was recognized and in 1994 VP Records put out her debut album Lover Girl.
Since then she has been both criticized and praised for her outspoken and often x-rated lyrics. Some call it girl power, while other labels it as slackness. Song titles such as Pretty Pussy, Best Pum Pum and Tighta are however just as explicit as their titles indicate.
“I started out with clean lyrics but didn’t get any attention. The guys already did it [slackness] so I tried it and it worked,” says Lady Saw on the phone from an airport in Los Angeles, and continues:
“I’m a sexual person. It’s about who I am. To love yourself and to educate females.”
New album My Way
When I reach her she has just gotten off the airplane and is waiting for her bags. The night before she performed in San Francisco.
“It was a great show last night. I met Wu-Tang Clan at the hotel and called them on stage at the show during the Sycamore Tree tune.”
Lady Saw is in the U.S to do three concerts and to promote her latest album My Way, released in September of last year.
She says that she doesn’t keep track of how many copies she’s sold, but that her fans share their favourite tracks with her on Twitter.
Formed her own label
Lady Saw has previously worked with a great number of both reggae artists and artists from other genres. The most successful partnership is probably the one with No Doubt, a collaboration that rendered her a Grammy in 2003. Underneath It All was a smash hit and reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
On My Way – her ninth studio album – she has invited multi-platinum rapper Eve and Jamaican deejay Ding Dong. It is also the first release on her newly formed own imprint Diva Records.
“I had been with VP for much too long. I released eight albums with them. I wanted to go. It was too many years and I wanted to be free. I asked over and over and now I’m independent,” she says, and continues:
“It feels good. I can work when I feel like it. But we still have a good relation. Like Chris [Chin, CEO VP Records] called me on my birthday and such.”
Alter ego appears
On the new album Lady Saw has also worked with a number of different producers, like John John, Ward 21 and Tony Kelly. This album of course offers rude lyrics, but she also shows a different side of herself.
“It’s based on different topics. Like I’m a Woman. It’s uplifting and about how women should be treated with the respect they deserve,” she explains.
And her new side will be even more present in the future. Marion Hall – her real name and alter ego – will probably drop an album this year.
“My next album will be from my alter ego. It will be some jazz, blues and smooth reggae. I’d love to do it this year. I have six tracks already. It shows a new side of me and it’s all live riddims.”
Lady Saw is clear about that she has grown a lot and that she is more than slackness and hardcore dancehall.
“I can swing both sides. One night I could do a jazz performance and the next a hardcore dancehall show. I’m multi-talented. My musical brain has inclined,” she laughs.
These days she is also more than an artist. She could easily put singer, deejay, producer, label owner and writer on her business card.
Listen to the Queen
And she has no problems discussing topics people rarely talk about. One such is the Jamaican music industry and its Payola practices.
“It was much easier back then. Now it’s stupid songs, stupid tracks. Good talents get wasted. I mean what kind of rubbish is that. Many people don’t want to talk about it. People keep their mouth shut about it. It’s been going on for many years,” she says and adds that it’s even harder when the radio DJ’s now also are artists.
And people probably listen to what she says, since she has no problem with her confidence.
“I’m the best. I’m the queen of dancehall. It doesn’t get better than this. I demand respect and you pay attention to me.”
The Queen of Dancehall has spoken.