Busy Signal Interviewed by MTV UK

Marvin Sparks caught up with Jamaican dancehall artist Busy Signal to discuss why he feels underrated, his reception in Europe compared with Jamaica, substance in dancehall music, what inspires his content and musical infulences, and whether he’ll work with foe, Aidionia. All exclusively for The Wrap Up…

Since his explosion on the dancehall scene with the anthem ‘Step Out’ in 2005, Busy Signal has become one of the best-known and most respected dancehall acts internationally. Busy is what his friends used to call him based on his busy body never staying in one place when he snuck out of his house to attend parties with friends as a teenager against his mother’s wishes. Signal was added to complete the stage name. July 2010 saw the release of his third album, ‘D.O.B.’ which stands for ‘Difference Of Busy Signal’ or the ‘Dominance Of Busy Signal,’ aiming to showcase his class and his level as a dancehall artist that thinks outside of the box.

Since his explosion on the dancehall scene with the anthem ‘Step Out’ in 2005, Busy Signal has become one of the best-known and most respected dancehall acts internationally. Busy is what his friends used to call him based on his busy body never staying in one place when he snuck out of his house to attend parties with friends as a teenager against his mother’s wishes. Signal was added to complete the stage name. July 2010 saw the release of his third album, ‘D.O.B.’ which stands for ‘Difference Of Busy Signal’ or the ‘Dominance Of Busy Signal,’ aiming to showcase his class and his level as a dancehall artist that thinks outside of the box.

The Wrap Up: ‘Sweet Love (Night Shift)’ and ‘One More Night’ were the first two songs released from the album. Along with the well-received ‘Automatic’ with Marcia Griffiths, this is a different sound for you in that they are one-drop/lovers rock tunes from a dancehall artist. Were you surprised by the reaction?

Busy Signal: Very surprised. When I was doing those songs, my engineers and the people around me were like, ‘Busy, you are a dancehall artist doing these songs, people may look at you differently.’ I was really surprised that people accepted it and I can add it to my catalogue as something very good.

TWU: ‘One More Night’ samples Phil Collins, the other Lionel Richie and The Commodores. Who would we be surprised to hear on your iPod?

Busy Signal: I’m listening to Enya right now. Just trying to get inspiration from different types of music, so I just listen to a wide range.

TWU: In addition to dancehall and one-drop/lovers rock, you’ve incorporated different influences on the album such as Hispanic genres and soca/calypso…

Busy Signal: The reason behind that is basically DOB; showing the difference and trying to get it out there. I’m a dancehall artist, but I don’t just do dancehall alone. I do music without a name to it. I try to fuse my culture with all these different types of music, trying to get people to relate to it in terms of their genres mixing with my genres.

TWU: There is a song on the album called ‘My Money,’ however you haven’t been able to enter USA for years and recently we’ve seen other big name artists from Jamaica have their visa’s suspended for unclear reasons. How hard is it surviving without the US market?

Busy Signal: The USA is one of the big markets for dancehall, but the world is still open for music. I try to keep it musical, as in music that people will appreciate. That’s why I did ‘One More Night’ and ‘Night Shift’. I do different tracks so people can listen all over mainland Europe, in the UK, in Japan, in Africa, all over the world, even Dubai. I have tours that I do in all of these places lined up where I‘m going to promote dancehall and reggae music, plus the music that I have. America is a wide place for hardcore dancehall, but other places are open for dancehall. Well at least some of the dancehall, stuff with substance and melody.

TWU: Where have you performed recently?

Busy Signal: Well I just came back from Guadeloupe. They speak French and the promoter told me this was the biggest concert for the year. All over the Caribbean, I’ve had shows in Spain, London, Amsterdam, we’ve got 8 shows in Africa and shows lined up in Dubai.

TWU: Do you have a favourite song to perform?

Busy Signal: All of them. Sometimes I’m surprised. Before Guadeloupe, we had the Uppsala Reggae Festival in Sweden, and Geel Reggae Festival in Belguim and it was crazy to see people singing along to the songs. Tracks like ‘Hustlin,’ ‘Wine Pon Me,’ ‘Tie and Dye Face’. It’s just crazy! You’ve got ‘Step Out’ that people still go crazy for like its new.

TWU: Did you ever imagine ‘Step Out’ would have lasted this long?

Busy Signal: Never! ‘Step Out’ is like 5 years old and people treat it like it’s a new song. People have this song like it’s one of the anthems of dancehall and I really appreciate that.

TWU: How does performing in Europe compare with Jamaica?

Busy Signal: In Europe people appreciate your lyrics, work and stage performance more. I guess because they have it a lot in Jamaica they take it for granted. These people in Europe appreciate you more, they appreciate the interviews, autographs, meeting-and-greeting the fans and you being on stage. I have never been on a stage in Jamaica for an hour-and-a-half in my whole life, but I’ve been on stage in Europe for hour-and-a-half to hour-and-forty-five minutes in Europe.

TWU: Why haven’t you been on many of the major riddims recently?

Busy Signal: I just choose not to be on the rat race stuff. If you notice, most of my beats are for me. I just have my musicians. The producers get a chance to expose themselves making music and tracks, and be producers. I have nothing to prove, nothing to be neck and neck with like ok, you have 20 songs on that riddim, and you have that one and those three that are the best. Nah, you’ve got just me. My producers just focus on pushing me.

TWU: What are your thoughts on dancehall at the moment; are you a fan?

Busy Signal: Some of them are good. I’m not a fan of all of them. Just like we were talking about Step Out earlier, that is going to be around forever. Buju Banton has songs that can be played in parties for years to come. A lot of these songs right now are for the moment. Sometimes they do have a vibe. And not everybody could work Autotune. People should use it, but learn how to use it.

TWU: Some say that the substance has dropped in dancehall, others argue that it’s a problem across the board in most genres. What do you stand on that?

Busy Signal: Yeah, it’s across the world. It isn’t just dancehall, because I hear some hip-hop and I don’t know what the hell it is. You have a lot of artists doing way better stuff, but I guess it’s about who puts the promotion behind that or sometimes kids tend to gravitate to stuff that’s childish or that‘s like nursery rhyme. Kids play a big part in listening to this stuff. But at the same time the kids tend to be like “What the hell was that I was listening to a month ago?” It’s not just in Jamaica, it’s across the world. I hear the same stuff throughout hip hop and pop or whatever you call it.

TWU: Who do you rate?

Busy Signal: Of the newer artists I listen to Konshens, Demarco, Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor is trying some stuff, Laden, you’ve got Romain Virgo on the reggae side. Assassin [Agent Sasco] is still doing stuff just to name a few. I-Octane also.

TWU: So the social-commentary/conscious aspect is important to you?

Busy Signal: Very important, because that’s what we live by, that’s what’s around me, what I see in the economy, through the politics and what they are doing. I’ve got to be the voice for the people, the less fortunate, and the people that may not have the chance to say anything in public. We’ve got to see what’s going on around us and put it into song form, so we can get it out there, so the people can relate and understand what’s going on. We have to speak for the people. That’s important because we all are living in it, so I’ve got to play my part and show people our point of view and take on this.

TWU: An example of your social-commentary is on the recently released video to ‘Summn’ A Guh Gwaan,’ which features Bounty Killer. What inspired that?

Busy Signal: What was happening in Jamaica with the economy, even the airline – they sold Air Jamaica. It was so stressful. Jamaica was on top at the beginning of this year with Usian Bolt, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser and the rest of the Athletics team winning gold medals and music-wise. People were coming to Jamaica. And then now Jamaica just fell off because of the politicians and the corruption and all the stuff with the people getting extradited, state of emergency, so people had to be in their house by 6 o’clock in the evening. It was so crazy in terms of the transition. I think we were robbed of our rights, because of the politicians and the corruption. It wasn’t fair to the citizens, it has nothing to do with people or the music or sports, it was to do with the corruption. I was just going through that phase when I made that song. I made a song on Drake’s ‘Find Your Love’ beat called ‘Who’s To Blame?’

TWU: Bounty Killer was recently honoured at Reggae SumFest for his contribution to reggae/dancehall music. As a member in his camp, The Alliance, what impact has he had on your career?

Busy Signal: I’ve been around him from before I was an artist. He taught me that if I’m doing music, do it seriously, because music is one of the greatest methods of education. He taught me how to command a crowd on stage, how to deliver on stage and not to be shy. Just go out there and deliver the message in my own style, my lyrical content and my flow.

TWU: Do you feel underrated in the dancehall scene in Jamaica?

Busy Signal: In a lot of ways. Maybe it’s generated from many ways, because I’m not willing to hustle out my music. I’m not going to jump on every riddim, I’m not going to do a show for every promoter, I’m not going to regular out myself just to get a hype, and I’m not going to be fighting down my own brother or competing. People like that stuff on a wide range. If you heard Busy Signal went out there and dissed or is clashing another artist, some people like that, but that doesn’t last. That also has a dark side where people try to choose sides or drag you down. It will be like politics, but in music. People always say I’m in a different class in terms of my respect in dancehall compared to other artists.

TWU: There has been a lot of unity recently; Vybz Kartel has called a truce with Mavado and Wayne Marshall, even Beenie Man and Bounty Killer are friends. I saw interview where a well-known foe, Aidonia, said he’d work with you. Would you work with him?

Busy Signal: If it’s up to the standard of the music that I do, yeah. I’ve raised the bar in my music over the years, I can’t really stoop down. If it’s up to the quality of mine then no problem. It just has to be in the line of respect and quality of music that I do nowadays.

TWU: So there’s no problem between you two?

Busy Signal: There was never a problem. He was trying to rise and doing it the old-fashioned way by calling up my name for hype and probably getting encouraged by people around him at the time. I don’t even know him. I had a lot of different songs at the time and he was an artist trying to get exposure. Him and Vybz Kartel did songs calling my name, but I didn’t pay it any attention. I don’t have to call up people’s names to get exposure so I’ve never done it. If they realise they’ve done the wrong thing, it’s up to them.

Busy Signal: ‘D.O.B’ – is out now.

Original article can be read here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.