I grew up & came of age, for the
better part of my life, on a little island in the Caribbean not more than 70 nautical
miles southwest of Puerto Rico, & 1200 miles south-east of Miami, Fl.
This island is known as Cruz
to the people who live there, who are also known as Cruzans or
Crucians. St. Croix is the
globally known name of this place and what an interesting place it is.
Imagine a place where watches are of the
least importance, while learning to be where youre at takes utmost
importance. Relax. Just cool. Soon
these are the very terms that come closest, quickest, to explaining for a
foreigner what to expect when you reach this vibes out island.
Music is key to the history and life of
the people of the Virgin islands
from the calypsonians of yesteryear, to the soca
monarchs & road march champions
to the upful reggae vibrations that can
currently be heard resonating the whole world over, music has always been, and will always
be a large reason the islands are the way they are.
But dont get it twisted, struggle
and fighting brutal oppression are an even bigger reason why St. Croix is such a powerful
place. Kings and queens, emperors and
empresses abound, and its the lineage of these royalty whom we have to site up when
giving thanks for who we are today. Nothing
comes easy in life, and if it does you should check it twice. In the Caribbean its no different, people
struggle, people hustle, people go hungry and people rob and worse. What do you expect a man to do who has children
but no food to feed them? Lie down & die? Of course not
and since the bloodline of the
virgin islanders is that which runs as a mirror image to west African bloodlines of
yesteryear, you must know the men are lions and the women lionesses. The
colonialists learned very early on that those held captive had explosive rebellious
abilities. That is why the Caribbean freed
itself from the oppressors a long time before its American counterparts. Everything must have balance, and St. Croix has a
long history of both triumph and oppression. Go
site up the discussion board for some very captivating stories of Virgin Islanders who
have helped to shape world history.
But lets get back to the music,
since I am a musician and thats why youre here, to hear music. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, but the
order of what caught my attention goes like this; 1st I listened to my parents
old records, blues, jazz, rock, reggae and everything in between. When I was around 11 I started getting into soca
music, the likes of Arrow, the mighty Sparrow, Byron Lee
& the dragonaires. Then when I was
12 I had this craving for all things Bob. I
went around to all my parents fren dem and recorded as many Marley cassettes as I
could get my hands on. Then I got into hip
hop. From about 13 to 15 I was really into rap, collecting over 100 cassettes and reciting
my favorite tunes and writing the lyrics down until I remembered them on my own. Then I tired of the bragadocia of the American
streets and returned to the reggae which courses thru my veins. I picked up Ninjaman, went to Shabba ranks, Mad
Cobra, Maxi priest, Ziggy Marley shows when they passed thru the island...I listened to my
fathers steel pulse vibes, of course Robert Nesta, Peter, Bunny. By 10th grade I was back deep into
reggae music, moved by the foundation but even more interested in the dancehall djs
who ripped microphones to pieces with rapid fyah deliveries. Shabba ranks was a big time
reggae artist, and I have to site up his style as a major influence in those early years. When Garnett silk was at the top of his game, when
Pinchers came out with Bandelero, When Tony Rebel did
Nazarite Vow, when Ed Robinson
did knocking on heavens door..yu can be sure I was right there in my
bedroom..listening to the late night reggae jam with Kenny cool J, recording every thing
that appealed to me
Shelly Thunder, Ninja Man, Super Cyat, Nardo ranks, Cobra,
Capleton..the whole ah dem.
Fast forward to 1995, when I left the
island to pursue a college education. I ended
up in North Carolina of all places. Why? Because when the guidance counselor asked me where
I wanted to go to college I didnt have a clue
so I closed my eyes, and blindly
pointed somewhere on the map
when I looked I was pointing directly on top of
Charlotte, NC..and so thats where I went. Stayed there 1 year in which time I found
out that the south has a funny way of dealing with race.
They just dont deal with it. Whereas
in the islands, everyone pretty much represents to the fullest, the south united states is
still living in the 1960s. After
jumping on stage with Pato Banton in North Carolina, I moved back down to St. Croix and
enrolled in college there for the summer. Once
that was done I headed to Orlando fl
and after doing one year at a college there I
finally came to rest in Tallahassee, fl. It
was here that I really began taking music seriously.
I must hail up X-facta and none other than Jah Indika for giving I & I
the opportunity to take music to the higher levels. I
was the mic man on a 5-person soundsystem representing the Virgin islands. 2 of us were from St. Croix, while 3 were from St.
Thomas. We started off small but before we
knew it we were packing venues on the regular, making classic reggae mix cds and
gaining a following we like to call the X-facta Army. It was this same army
that made it known to the Jamaican sounds who would come to clash us that they weren't
dealing wid no lickle tin pan sound. It was
then that I recorded my 1st actual songs, the 1st being a freestyle
for X-facta that was recorded in a dorm room, and the second a collaboration
with another Virgin islands artist which ended up as track #12 on our roots vibe mix
.we were linking with Bunny Ruggs of Third World, Michael Rose of Black Uhuru
fame, up & comers out of Orlando who all would cut us some huge dubplates for our
collection. All these things just added to
our ability to slew the ice cream sounds who would come try fi test we
and also these
experiences only solidified in my mind that music was going to be a large part of I &
I livity same way.
When I Graduated in 2001, instead of
being able to head in the direction of securing a job and pursuing success, I man got
caught up in the Babylon system, the same one which holds over 2 million sistren &
bredren as you read this. Of course the
meditative herb was the reason, and though they tried to crush I upfulness, man an
man was able to go in and come out in a very short matter of time.
Once released from underneath mystery
Babylon system, I decided to join a college friend in Washington DC area and work for her
parents, and in doing so
prepped myself for climbing another rung on the ladder of
About 1 month into my stay there I met
Chris Romero Singh (you might remember the Big Pun video that was
done all in computer graphics which Romero created) who had a label called
Insomnia Records. He wasnt even interested in hearing what I had at 1st,
he was just passing thru to check my friend. But
when she said that he should really listen to my music he obliged her, and we went in his
big body benz to bump some Binghi ghost tunes. He
was talking and looking at me really suspect, and all I had was a cassette tape recording
of some of the X-facta recordings, which made him even more suspect. But when the tune started playing, he turned to me
immediately and was like Is that you?! yeah,
thats me I said. The one & only. Basically, to make a long story short, we were in
the studio the next night, recording what would turn out to be my 1st real
demo, a 4 song cd, recorded in a studio &
mixed down by an engineer. I must hail up Dj Arsonal for providing the beats that to this
day still make people jump. And of course to
Ro for giving I & I the opportunity to shine. At present, Arsonal is still making bangers for
the hip hop industry and some of which he has sent my way to record on, and we will
continue to work together and make the cross country connection. Ro is doing big things too, with the
creation of a record company called Capital Gains Records and an artist named
Blyss who has been slated to be the king of hip hop coming out of the DC area.
From DC I went to NYC for a month and
though I found it to be exuberant and full of things for me to get into, it was too much
hustle & bustle for a Ras.
I booked a flight for California, the bay
area, East Oakland to be exact, and almost 3 yrs later, thats where I reside.
Since touching down here I have made some
huge connections thru music and have made even bigger steps with the recording of
material. About 2 yrs ago I ran into someone
by random chance occurrence who would be key in introducing me to the vibrant musical
community that exists in this Bay area.
and I met up one day thru a mutual friend, and he had just finished some new tunes, and I
had my cd on me. We went and lisntened to
music and not more than 3 days later I was getting the call from none other than the boss
man himself, Sergio Monleon, to come in and record a verse on a reggae track that he and
YP(young precise... www.streetscholars.net)
were recording. It seems they had someone coming in to do it, but the person never showed,
Kinda like how Tim Duncan (fellow Virgin Islander) got the chance to play at wake
forest because their starting forward was injured, so was
Binghi ghost introduced into the Streetscholars camp.
1 year, 50+ shows and 30+ recorded tracks
later, we are going strong and continue to pump out tunes, do shows, radio, tv, and drop
albums. Relics album is
finished and dropping on sept 11th, my album is finished as well, and dropping
in late September, to be followed by the release of a breddren who does many works with us
and then to cap it off, a next Streetscholars artist, YP, will be releasing
his solo project. Check out the above
mentioned websites for more info and to hear the breddrens works.
I have started work on my 2nd
album and am gathering some outstanding production for this effort. Look for a solid, studio album, with some
heavyweight special guests on this 2nd project.
And remember, I & I have material wha longah den rope, so yu can expect a slew
of albums to come out one after the other.
Before I end this, I just wanted to site
up Rastafari for the I-tinual guidance which has been provided, listened to & learned
from. Rastafari livity is about a loving
livity. Learning to just exist, to be in
harmony with naturality, to live
most of all, to love. RAAASSSSSTTTTAAAAAFFFFFAAAARRRRRIIIII.
GUIDANCE & BLESSED LOVE.