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Jahdan Blakkamore

Jahdan Blakkamore

Interviewed by
Martyn Pepperell
Wednesday 10th October, 2012 12:52PM

Born in Guyana [in South America] but raised in New York, Jahdan Blakkamoore is one of the more interesting dancehall reggae and ragga vocalists operating within the global commercial underground. Worldly and open minded, while Jahdan got his start on the New York reggae sound system circuit, since entering the music scene, he has since also been seen active within the genres of hip-hop, jungle, grime and dubstep.

During his journey, Jahdan has collaborated with respected names like DJ Premier, Smif-n-Wesson, Dead Prez, Lee Scratch Perry, Lutan Fyah, Major Laser, Snoop Dogg and the Dutty Artz crew. A musical workaholic, he has also maintained membership in his Noble Society and continued to regularly record and write alongside the likes of Andrew Moon, DJ Child, Matt Shadetek and Lion Dub. You may already recognise him from songs such as 'Cash Flow' with Major Lazer, 'The General' and Sound Bwoy Bureill’ with Smiff-n-Wesson.

This month, Jahdan will bring his eclectic, yet always cohesive aesthetics, rich expressive voice and intricate lyricism to New Zealand and Australia for the first time ever. Late in September I caught up with him via Skype to have a wide ranging chat. Topics we discussed included his philosophy towards music, the pros and cons of being a stickler for paperwork in the music industry, the work rate required to succeed as a lasting independent artist and beyond.

Well, it's taken awhile, but you're finally coming to New Zealand!

Yeah man. I got to thank you guys for the support and everything, nah mean!

Sometimes it just takes awhile. Not everyone is an overnight success, and a lot of those overnight successes, well, here today, gone tomorrow right?

Yeah. I've been blessed bredren, really blessed. I've been getting a lot of support from my peoples out in California, Vermont and them places. Rhode Island and them places. You know? Europe too, you know? I've got a lot of supporters out in Geneva and France and them places. Even though I'm still relatively underground and the mainstream here and in Jamaica don't really know about me like that, the people that know have been really supportive. I'm very thankful and I feel very blessed. I try to stay consistent so that the people who do know of me know that I deliver a particular thing, you know?

And that is the mad thing right, cause you do deliver a particular thing, but you deliver it across a wide range of genres.

Seen! Sure man. Dubstep, reggae, jungle, grime, hip-hop, dancehall, a little bit of everything. Those are the music genres that I am interested in right now. I gravitate towards that automatically.

You were an early adopter in stepping out of the worlds of dancehall, reggae and hip-hop and becoming part of dubstep. Nowadays that sort of crossover is pretty mainstream. You got Skrillex and Damian Marley working on songs together these days, but why do you think you were able to embrace that transition ahead of the wave?

Yo! Thanks man! I'm really humbled when you put it like that man. I've been into that shit for a minute now and it's been good man. A lot of people who love dubstep music, they know me through that now. They know me from 'The General' and Buzzrock Warrior and them tunes. It is a great feeling still. I didn't get the right marketing and promotion a major label signed artist would get, but you know, people feel it man. That is why I am doing this. That is why I am still doing it.

Now, you followed up your dubstep, grime and tropical bass album Buzzrock Warrior (2009) album by doing Babylon Nightmare (2010) which was a full reggae record...

Hold up man...Hold up a minute. I got to put on some i-pod headphones. I'm at my bredren's studio. You see the subwoofer behind me? Some [reggae] artists have come here to voice (read: record) and do ting like that. I'm here at Bombsteppa studio in Brooklyn. So there is a lot happening. I record here a lot of times, you know what I mean?

Now, back to Buzzrock Warrior and Babylon Nightmare?

During that time I was recording with Matt Shadetek from Dutty Artz. I actually started Babylon Nightmare in 2005, 2006 even. We did a few songs which ended up on a compilation from DJ Child out in Oakland called Calling all Jah Children. The first tune I recorded with Moon, Andrew Moon, who produced Babylon Nightmare, was called 'Beauty & The Beast'. So Andrew Moon ended up jumping on with me. He was producing Midnite, he was producing Turbulence out of Jamaica, and he was producing Norris Man. All of that took precedent over my project, whenever we found time we would work on my project. So it took us a few years to really put the album together.

In the meantime though... I'm a real workaholic Martyn. I can't stop doing music. I'm always in the studio. So, Matt Shadetek and the started introducing me to all this dubstep and stuff. They were like, yo, we got to get your vocals on some of these tracks. We should put out a mixtape. So Buzzrock Warrior started out as a mixtape. We were going to release it in the UK and Europe, just to get people out there to feel it. Shadetek had spent a lot of time over there and he knew the circuit. After five sessions the stuff was sounding so wicked that we started using original beats. Shadetek was like yo, this is going to end up being an album. We were really on it, the momentum was really building. We got a small licensing deal with a label in Europe and went for it.

This was all while Moon was doing his various different things. We were all just working. We are all independent artists, so we are all always working. So there was a lot of stopping and starting, but I was always like, alright, go do your thing, go get your money. By the time you come back I'll have five more songs. Then we ended up dropping Babylon Nightmare.

How did you go from these projects to recording 'Cash Flow' for Diplo and Switch as part of Major Lazer?

That project came about through a good friend of mine DJ Gravy. He is a DJ and a producer and a party promoter. He has been telling me about this guy Diplo for a long time. I first met Diplo in 2005. This was before his big fame that came later. When I met him I didn't really know who he was. Gravy kept telling me I should work with this bredren though because he is going places and he is going to do some big things. So he arranged for us to get some tracks from him. They were putting together this album Major Lazer and they had singers like Mr Lexxus, Jovi Rockwell and a few other people on it. I was like, alright, Ricky Blaze is on it. I thought cool, they got some New York locals as well, I will do it. I ended up doing it and I didn't really realise how big it was going to be. I didn't really know the real gravity of Diplo at that point.

My song was supposed to actually be released with a video, but I was so hard headed when it came to the business. They wanted to make my song a single, but I wanted to get my business straight. You get me? My lawyers were like, yo Jahdan, you need to just fall back and do this. But I was like nah man! The money has to be right, you know? I had the lawyers in deliberations for so long that they ended up cutting a video with another group, Nina Sky, to get that buzz out there and get stuff going.

In the meantime I started realising that I was maybe a little too hard headed. It was a great thing anyway, because 'Cash Flow' is my most popular song. More popular than 'The General'.

It's funny isn't it, because even though 'Cash Flow' wasn't a single, us DJs around the world were still playing it like a single.

Yeah. People would remove it from the project and DJ it. People who knew me were putting it on their blogs or mix cds or whatever. So, you know, my publishing cheques are crazy from just that song.

That is what all musicians need really, one big song. Where would Jr Reid be without 'One Blood'?

Exactly. You get me! They exposed me to their audience, which was great.

And you just went out to Jamaica with Diplo and the team and worked on the Snoop Lion album as a songwriter? How was that man?

Oh yeah man. That is the biggest thing on my plate right now. I'm really happy about that. We went down there in March. Me doing 'Cash Flow' lead to me doing a few songs with them for the new Major Lazer album. That got put on hold because they got offered the Snoop Lion project. So I had written some songs for them, but we ended up putting that on the backburner. This project was big. One thing lead to another and they called me and Moon on the team to do writing, because Moon is my partner when it comes to writing and producing. We ended up going down there and doing all that. They have about twenty songs now and they're working towards getting that released. We squared away our business with them and that was cool. I'm looking forward to seeing this Reincarnated man. I'm a fan of Snoop like crazy. I love Snoop.

What was it like to songwrite for an artist who you're a fan of on that level?

It was amazing. I couldn't believe it. Myself and Moon, we were in the studio with Diplo and Ariel and them. We were actually coaching Snoop. So we were writing and performing. I performed a lot of the stuff as well. So he had to go over a lot of my vocals. So it ended up that we were actually coaching him and making sure it was coming out right. You know, too my surprise, Snoop can actually sing. We pushed the bar for him a lot. We raised the bar for him. This project is gonna be humongous. I can feel it. I respect that man and I see what he is doing. He is coming closer to being a king.

No doubt.

I've been blessed Martyn. I've been blessed. And now I am coming to Australia and New Zealand! To the land down under!


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