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

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home