Busy Signal is the famed dancehall artist from Jamaica. His exposure to music from a young age came from the church where he would go with his Mother a devout Christian. This is where he realised he possessed great vocal talent, singing hymns, and received his first encore from the church congregation. Moving to Kingston in his early teens, Busy would sneak out of the house at night to hear the sound systems of Bass Odyssey and Renaissance. He made several links in the hope of becoming a recording artist, voicing several dub plates. Busy Signal’s break through came in 2005 with ‘Not Going Down’, and the self produced ‘Step Out’, along with his debut album ‘Step Out’, in 2006. Fast forward to 2012 and Busy Signal releases his album ‘Reggae Reggae Again,’ a tribute to reggae music. (Please note the interview happened before his current legal issues.
How was it like being raised in Jamaica? What was your childhood like?
My childhood was very strict, and my mum was a Christian. I’d go with my mother, grandfather and grandmother to the church. I’d have a love for the music since I used to go to the church when I was a little kid. When I was growing up, it wasn’t easy but I loved music, and I was the most brilliant student at school.
How did you get into music, was it a progression or something you had always wanted to do?
I’ve always wanted to do music since I was little, something musical, I was always interested in having the microphone. I DJ’d at competitions after school. My first professional start was with a record label in Jamaica, I met DJ Kareem and Super Hype, and from there it was non-stop.
Where does the name Busy Signal come from?
My friends at the time, I always used to go out with people older than me. Almost every time we went out to a Dancehall or something I’m always all over the place, trying to go over there, or look at this, see this or whatever, they were like ‘Yo your too busy, your all over the place,’ and that’s how it really came about. So I’ve always been busy, I added signal to it when I started out professionally.
What reggae artists did you look up to when you were growing up?
A lot of them I looked up to, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley, a lot of them, there’s even reggae artists that aren’t from Jamaica like UB40, they do music really well. I had a lot of reggae artists to look up too when I was growing up.
How did Bounty Killer aid your career?
When I started out doing Dancehall, he was there to guide me, and taught me how to deliver my lyrics on stage, and how to have that presence that people recognise as soon as I stepped in a room. How to get that commanding voice performing in front of the fans I learnt a lot of that from him. He really delivers and commands the crowd when he is performing. You feel like you’re a part of it and you’re the one on the stage. I learnt a lot of that from him.
What was the best advice that he gave to you?
Not to give up, never to give up. The dancehall crowd is Jamaica is a tough crowd, and to get past the level in Jamaica where people recognise you and that you’re an artist and they accept you, to get to that level is not easy to do. Jamaica is like a tug of war, in terms of when you’re trying to rise, there’s always someone trying to track you down. The best advice he gave me was to continue doing what I’m doing and focus.
You are considered as one of the leading artists in the dancehall movement. This is quite an achievement. What do you think about this statement?
That seems like a very good statement. In terms of a deserved statement I give thanks for it. I just feel honoured to be in Dancehall and be able to represent the real music. It’s definitely a good thing to me personally.
What do you think about the dancehall scene in the UK?
The UK Dancehall scene I definitely enjoyed and love it. I came here about a month ago and hooked up with a couple of artists out there as well and did some tracks. The UK style of Dancehall is really different to here in Jamaica, even the way they talk. The UK has the biggest connection to Jamaica to me, and the Jamaican culture a lot. I love the broken English type of flow and everything, I event tried it sometimes in different styles when I do different flows.
What has been your biggest hit to date?
‘One more night’, ‘Step Up’, I never perform anywhere where I can’t do these songs. Those songs really stand out. These songs keep going and that’s the good thing about it.
You’ve recently released your album ‘Reggae Music Again.’ Why did you decide on this name?
Reggae music is one of our biggest exports out of Jamaica and one of our biggest genres of music. We have like 4 or 5 genres of music here in Jamaica and reggae is one of the biggest and the best. I do Dancehall and I love Dancehall it’s my first love, but I just paid respect to reggae music. We even had the leading track the title track as ‘Reggae Music Again’ as well. It’s just meant to represent reggae music, it’s been a long time and people haven’t really got the real authentic reggae music like this. It was showing respect to reggae music, and as an artist to play my part in terms of doing great reggae music. It’s my first reggae album, but its real authentic reggae music.
The themes for some of the singles discuss quite powerful issues. Tell us more about this and where the inspiration came from?
Where I get the inspirations from is definitely everyday life. Everyday life and the things that I read about, and things that I see on the news all over the world. I listen to the news a lot and I read a lot, I try to be knowledge about life. That is my inspiration everyday life, things that are around me, and things that I see on the TV on the news. I put in in musical form.
If people around me try to sell their race out or are ashamed of their skin tone I can’t be around or associate myself with them types of people.
What is your opinion on the whole bleaching skin issue?
Its just people selling out their race basically, and they can’t really do that. You can’t sell out your race like that. I accept myself, I love myself, I love my kids I love the people around me, my whole team. If people around me try to sell their race out or are ashamed of their skin tone I can’t be around or associate myself with them types of people. Its never going to last because its not real, you don’t just put something away and try to hide from yourself. Are you ashamed of yourself? Or are you trying to rub away yourself? The real you is still here coming out in person in personality not just skin. You got to be proud of yourself and what God made.
Can we see something different from you in this album…how have you matured as an artist?
The way I meditate and come through with different wordplay and metaphor. Just the whole musically what I’m doing. Just to come up with the concept and everything and putting it into music form with my team. ‘Reggae Music Again’ is a different album for me, not really expected, some fans didn’t really expect this one. It’s always a challenge to do more and do something that you haven’t yet done. I don’t think I should just do dancehall music, or just one music, I think I should just do what I want to do in music as long as I’m doing it the right way.
What’s going to be next for you?
A whole bunch of tours and promotional stuff, getting this thing out there, giving it the proper promotion and exposure that it really needs. In this time real, authentic reggae music is really missing, that real authentic vibe. There’s me and other artists doing it now, and we’re doing something special, but we definitely need help like with this interview right now. We need exposure and more promotion with delivering the music there. I got tours coming out and different things coming up.