Music: Toasting the many moods of Beenie Man

Beenie Man is the king of the reggae rappers. But will he forsake his roots and go mainstream?

Jennifer Rodgers tries

to find out.

Beenie Man took his MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) `Best International Reggae Act', and playfully sang "MOBO, MOBO, MOBO," by way of a rhythmical acceptance speech.

At the Jamaican Embassy in London last week, the audience was given a sample of his witty and relaxed freestyle poetry-aka toasting which has won him Jamaica's reggae dancehall class for four consecutive years. Hailed as the new Bob Marley, Beenie Man is actually many musical moods removed. His spiritual message is measured out in post-Marley ragga and R'n'B. Generated from the infamous dancehall scene in Jamaica, he has attracted attention further afield thanks to the acclaimed current album Many Moods of Moses.

"Toasting is like what you call dj-ing except it has no plans whatsoever what you gonna do. You write out nothing, you have nothing on your mind. You go on stage, how's the world doing, the world is sick, the world is crazy, the world is jumping up and down. You feed off the vibes you getting from them. That is toasting," he says describing a unique showmanship with is completed with videos and lurid colours. It's a bit like an intimate Notting Hill Carnival.

Beenie keeps spirituality as constant and though his album traditionally name-checks Rastafarianism and hails Selassie, by putting Bob Marley and Steve Biko together Beenie makes a socio-cultural comment on the present. It was not always like this, progressing from teeny-bop hits from the age of eight to mould his broken voice to uncompromising gun lyrics.

"I am a father. I am a father and you can't have your kids singing aggressive music," says Beenie, and concedes, "I was trying to get listeners, and in them times the people were listening to those kind of music."

Describing the lyrics of this reggae-rap hybrid as violent and sex-obsessed is a well-worn accusation thanks to the outspoken nature of a few like Shabba Ranks who declared that homosexuals deserve crucifixion on television. Beenie won't be drawn into the debate. "You should wipe the matter from your eyes before looking at someone else's eyes. It's just straightforward and they can't deal with straightforward. It ain't only vaginas and penises they talk about, they speak about brain and education and history and all that."

At the award ceremony the Jamaican ambassador pointed to the distinction between the coverage of the relatively short-lived but metropolitan based drum'n'bass embraced by mainstream media and that of dancehall which is more likely to be found under shooting headlines. Beenie signals a change: it is the first time that the Embassy has been involved in such direct promotion of Jamaican music, and Beenie made reggae music history while teaming with Chevelle Franklyn on VH-1 music channel as the first dancehall artistes to do a live interview on this mainstream channel.

There is resistance from the mainstream because dancehall is hard to pin down, resting somewhere between sing-a-long harmonies and rapping (even the MOBO Awards confused reggae purists by giving Finley Quayle the award as Best Reggae Act). Beenie Man's music is not ganja-fuelled reggae which used to dominate the charts in the 1980s, but a more gentle and radio-friendly combination of reggae and rap.

"Reggae of the Eighties and now, there is not a lot of difference," differs Beenie. "It is just because we now in the third generation have three more beats and they had two. At one of my concerts people are screaming, jumping all night, raving. Quite crazy. It's like one time they used to sing," he breaks off into a rendition of Bob Marley's "I want to love you, and treat you right". "So it's like going faster. It's just because things in time are changed because back in the days of English music, back in the days the music was like this, `BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, My girl lollipop'. But now it's like faster all across all across the world. But in Jamaica you have still got guys that sing that one beat, do the older stuff because we have got to go over and keep the older songs alive. It's principle because you respect your elders."

Reverence to musical heritage is a constant element and Many Moods of Moses samples and covers songs unashamedly. It is probably not a coincidence that as dance music has become acceptable, the stain of plagiarism or lack of originality has been removed. A logical progression from this is the blurring of hierarchies within. "It's a family," says Beenie. "The star is the person who writes the song and sings. The drummer has its own respect, it's not like you alone is the big man.

"All you got to do is do it. If you is a cross-over artist and you want to please your cross-over fans just give them their music, or with your hardcore fans, given them theirs.

"The future for me I can't see 'cos you can't see the future, tomorrow comes tomorrow."

Beenie is on MTV Base, Sunday 8pm

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

    Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Coordinator

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent