Busy Signal is the versatile dancehall deejay that this year changed course and dropped the acclaimed album Reggae Music Again, recorded with real musicians and under the guidance of veteran performers such as Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Dean Fraser. Reggaemani got a chat with him during a recording session break in Jamaica.
Two years ago dancehall superstar Busy Signal – with the massive hardcore hits Tic Toc and Wine Pon De Edge – released his third album D.O.B, a more varied set compared to his previous albums Step Out and Loaded. It included the Latin flavored Picante and Busy Latino, the acoustic unity plea Let Peace Reign and two reggae songs – a romantic rendition of the Commodores’ Night Shift and a seductive version of Phil Collins’ One More Night.
Shifts musical direction
The response he received from those two songs prompted a dramatic shift in his musical course, and in a press release he says he had to go in this musical direction, partly because he felt it was his duty to highlight and contribute to reggae music.
“This is the first time I do a reggae album with real instruments and proper guidance from Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths and Dean Fraser. I want to show respect to real reggae music,” declares a humble Busy Signal when I reach him on the phone outside of a studio in Jamaica, and continues:
“It’s the greatest genre and I want to be true to my own culture and show versatility.”
Busy also makes it clear that Reggae Music Again is not recorded and released to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. This album is to celebrate Jamaica’s musical heritage and it was finished last year.
Introduced to reggae
The man who taught him all he needs to know about reggae is his manager and producer Shane C. Brown, son of legendary mixing engineer Errol Brown. They met in March 2007 and nowadays work as a team.
“He mostly does one drop reggae, and I introduced him to dancehall. We’re a good team,” he explains.
The roots reggae album Reggae Music Again is a brand new set, not a collection of previously released songs, and currently holds the ninth spot in the Billboard Reggae Chart.
It’s a stark departure from the relentless computerized beats that have dominated Busy Signal’s three earlier albums. The tough, multi layered one-drop rhythms on Reggae Music Again were crafted by some of Jamaica’s most acclaimed musicians and recorded live at Kingston studios Tuff Gong and Penthouse.
Celebrates reggae through music and lyrics
The album clearly shows an artist that has managed to grow and believes in versatility. Reggae Music Again is also Busy Signal’s way of highlighting the origin of dancehall music.
“I’m still doing dancehall and it still means a lot to me,” he explains.
Through both music and lyrics he celebrates the uplifting spirit and tightly woven grooves that epitomize Jamaica. Commentaries such as Modern Day Slavery, Jah Love and Run Weh show his concerns for culture, religion and societal ills, themes that have distinguished roots reggae from other musical forms since the early 1970’s.
But Busy Signal can also be heard as a devoted singing lover on Missing You and the smooth acoustic Comfort Zone.
Imitating Joe Lickshot
His deejay skills are shown in the sparse and dark hip-hop inspired 119 with guest artists Anthony Red Rose and Joe Lickshot, a legendary ‘hype man’ as well as an introduction and sound effect specialist.
It turns out that Busy Signal is a huge fan of Joe Lickshot’s work, and he tried many, many times to do the vocal effects by himself, but didn’t like what he heard.
“I listened to him on Youtube and I listened to him for hours when driving around in my car, but didn’t manage to get it right,” explains Busy Signal, and continues:
“He has his own style, that raspy, vintage sound. I couldn’t get it right myself, and I really knew what I wanted.”
The solution was to find the man himself, which turned out to be easier said than done. Busy googled him, but didn’t find any contacts, so Shane C. Brown had to help out, and eventually came in contact with him.
Spreading reggae to a wider audience
With Reggae Music Again Busy Signal is also able to spread reggae music to a wider audience, since his following is mostly into dancehall. Making the transition from dancehall to reggae also demands talent, skills and versatility, a quality he often comes back to in the interview.
“I’m just doing music, no matter what genre. Music to roll to and music to dance to. I’m fusing a lot of styles,” he says, and concludes:
“I would think of do more reggae. The feedback I get is just great and right now I just feel overwhelmed.”