Busy Signal is one of the most versatile dancehall artists ever. Since his debut album Step Out he has tried mashing dancehall with different genres and become an artist not bound by musical styles or traditions. To Reggaemani he reveals his passion for 70’s soul, 80’s pop and comments on his friendship with Bounty Killer.
In July, Busy Signal dropped his third album D.O.B, an abbreviation for Difference of Busy Signal, or “Dominance of Busy Signal”, as he puts it when we chat. This album is certainly his most versatile yet. It includes styles such as electronica, latin, ballads and, of course, dancehall. He paved the way with smoldering singles One More Night and Night Shift, but also Smoke, a tune heavily influenced by Madonna’s 80’s monster hit Like A Prayer.
When I reach Busy Signal he’s in Jamaica outside a studio and has just got back from Guadeloupe. He’s in a great mood and stutters a bit when he gets excited. One topic that gets him going is music. Not any kind of music in particular, just music. Maybe that’s why the new album includes so many styles.
− I love all sorts of music and the new album has been received very well. It’s a fusion of genres, he says.
Sings Rick Astley
And D.O.B certainly is big blend. When I ask him about his choice of covers he reveals his passion for pop and soul.
− I have 27 covers lying around. I haven’t released them because I don’t want to flood the market. I love Here and Now with Luther Vandross or Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, he says and starts singing the chorus, and then continues:
− I use to drive around in my car just listening to 70’s and 80’s music. That’s real music. You got to know your roots.
Busy Signal says that he’s not a dancehall artist. He’s a musician eager to learn new music, and gives an example.
− Pon Me with Major Lazer is fresh and new. I want to go beyond dancehall and think outside the box. If you would put all dancehall artists together, I’d differ, he says and gets philosophical:
− Music is a world known language. No one would be illiterate if music was a language.
And he’s not worried that his fans might drop him due to his interest in trying new stuff.
− I think my fans embrace me and what I do, he says and explains:
− When I did These Are the Days I wondered what people might think. But they embraced it.
Always in the studio
Apart from his three albums, Busy Signal has released hundreds of tunes on dozens of rhythms. He seems very productive to say the least.
− I don’t party a lot, he says frankly, and adds:
− I’m always in the studio. I want to do quality work and always try new things. I make music for the middle class, the ghetto people, uptown people, poor people. It’s hard work.
Busy Signal performing live at Uppsala Reggae Festival. Photo by Stefan Gunnarsson/Reggaefoto.se
“Bounty Killer has taught me delivery”
Performing on stage has demanded a great deal of practice. Busy Signal says that he used to be very shy, but that his mentor Bounty Killer has taught him to be more commanding on stage.
− Bounty Killer has taught me delivery, both on record and on stage. You have to sound good on the record, but even better live. He taught me to keep it strong and now I enjoy myself on stage.
Those who have seen Busy Signal live probably agree that Bounty Killer has done a great job in teaching Busy Signal. His performance is energetic and as far from shy as you can get.