Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Aug 3rd 2010 1:30PM by David Dacks
Busy Signal, who boasts a collab with M.I.A. on the new Major Lazer EP, is determined not to follow that path.
"I've learned from their mistakes, " the man born Reanno Gordon tells Spinner. "I try to think outside the box, beyond Jamaica. I mean, we sing gun lyrics here, and burn fire on this and burn fire on that, but that won't bring you to the level that you need to go. I've seen this over and over again with artists from Jamaica. You sing those songs locally, people go crazy, but at the end of the day that won't bring you to the wide level of exposure cause you're probably lashing out against those that would be accepting you."
Busy has managed to create huge domestic hits while pursuing hybrid rhythms and cool foreign collaborations. Nothing in his rapidly growing catalog sounds like the watered-down crossovers of years past, which saw hard-as-nails dancehall artists recording urban radio-baiting slow jams.
His new album 'D.O.B.' (which stands for "Difference of Busy" may contain covers of Phil Collins' 'One More Night' and a one-drop revision of the Commodores' 'Night Shift,' but both versions cut deep and don't feel like blatant sellouts.
Within the rest of the album's context, it's clear these represent just one side of his personality, alongside the Latin-flavoured 'Picante,' the fierce 'Summn a Go Gwaan' with his mentor Bounty Killer, and the digital string flourishes of 'Opera.'
"I'm not just about one track in my entire career," he says. "I sing gun songs -- I sing plenty of them -- and I sing sex lyrics too. I mean, sex sells. I still sing conscious songs -- I even sing a gospel, so I try to keep it well-rounded".
Busy is crossing over differently than previous generations by tapping into the hot electro-tropical scene and spreading the results online, rather than through radio. Poirier remixed Busy's ultra-minimal 'Cool Baby' into an anthemic dancefloor track -- and gave it away as a free download. The African-inspired single 'Jafrican Ting' blew up earlier this year thanks to support from trendspotting magazine The Fader. However, he is best known outside dancehall circles for his work with Diplo's Major Lazer project -- which contributes the bonus track 'Pon Me' to 'D.O.B.' Busy finds great common ground with such producers.
"They fuse stuff and do different types of beats, it's a good experience for me," he observes. "I'm not really trying to change dancehall, it's more trying to fuse it with different styles -- getting a different taste but at the same time keeping it Jamaican dancehall culture, reggae music culture."
More than ever, his approach is paying off, with big names increasingly coming to him. "I'm always in the studio, constantly doing tracks. I did one with Stephen Marley yesterday," he recounts. On the way are vocals for beats supplied by Timbaland, Scott Storch and DJ Khaled.
"I'm lifting the culture on a wider scale of exposure," Busy maintains, stressing once again that his self-directed musical diversity will help him go further. "There are all different types of people in the world. When people can choose, that's always a good thing."