Urban Poet - Track by Track by Junior Kelly
10/17/2015 by Gardy Stein
Sometimes, interviews have to be painstakingly prepared to result in interesting facts and exciting information. Sometimes, the same outcome can obviously be secured by asking the interviewee for a simple run through his latest release, as was the case with Junior Kelly on his album Urban Poet. Reggaeville caught up with the artist to get some first-hand information on the 16 tracks included. Unfortunately, the Skype-connection was irretrievably cut before the final question could be asked, and so the circumstances surrounding the awesome naming will remain a mystery for now. Other stories are revealed, however, including the reason for Kelly's long break from the music biz and how a bet can result in a song - enjoy the read:
NO DIG IT UP
Syrix from Irievibrations Records did all of the riddims, except No Dig It Up. I created that myself, with Roughhouse Keith Powell from Germany. We were on tour and I had an idea, I wanted an acoustic feel and we worked it out. I put it on the album because it's a good song. What it talks about? You see, I'm from the ghetto, I'm still living in the ghetto, even though I could live anywhere I choose. But my ties are to these wonderful, beautiful people. A lot of them are youngsters, misguided youths who need help and that's why I'm still here. We have a social fabric that is throwing in a lot of stuff in terms of corruption and politically motivated killings and all of that, so those who have come out of gun violence and domestic violence need help to stay clean and pure and focused on the good sides of life! So, my job is to rehabilitate with music and also to reassure those who are broken through and breaking free from that lifestyle of violence to stay out of it. I think I'm obligated and I owe it to myself and to these communities to help them stay away from gun violence and instill some form of value in their lives, that's how I came about it.
EVERYBODY NEEDS SOMEBODY
This song speaks about isolation, whether it's a self-imposed isolation or you've been isolated for whatever reason. You notice a lot of prisoners who are locked away in solitary confinement go crazy after a while, right? That's because we are human beings, we need human interaction. We gonna lose the ability to communicate and to be a part of society and how to express yourself, so we need human interaction, we need somebody. That's what the song says. Me, I spent a lot of time by myself. Creative people tend to do that. I was by myself thinking about life, concentrating on a project or whatever, thinking about what I can do to make a difference, to instill change. And then sometimes I realize woooh, I've been in the house for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, I need to get out, I need to breathe, I need to interact with other human beings! So, Everybody Needs Somebody is basically a song to tell individuals who find themselves in a situation where they feel lost and alone and helpless, to make them know they are not alone, that there is help and there are people who care. If you really think about it, everybody has somebody, you just need to reach out to them just as much as they reach out to you.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
I got the riddim from Syrix. I was sitting here, playing the riddim and I turned it down real low because I was watching something around a subject matter which causes riots in a particular country. Then I realized that the meaning of a prime minister is "chief servant", that's the real meaning of the words. But in most governments around the world they are serving themselves and the corporations, and not the people, even though it's a democratic country. The vote is important, but after that you are not counted on again until election. That's not the real concept of democracy, the real concept of democracy is serving the people for the greater good of the people. And so it's all twisted and turned backwards now. So, it came to me, the word... some of the time - well, most of the time - it's like magic. Magic is a word used to describe the unexplainable. When you're concentrating on a subject matter, you'll find that more stuff comes to you. The more you dig, the more you find, right? And I realized that power to the people is a very important subject. For the powers to realize their obligation to the state and to the people and the people to realize that they still have control, they still have a voice and they still have a say, and they must make their voice be heard!
NO MORE WAR
You see, I do a lot of research, I'm a historian. I like to go back in time so I can use it to make better decisions moving forward, and one of the things I realized is similar in the Korean War, World War 1 & 2, Gulf War 1 & 2, the Vietnam War and so on. So many lives lost, so many displaced children, so many refugees, and at the end of the day, 80% of these lives are never going back to normal, the places are never the same again. I had to ask myself what did this war accomplish, what did it proof that a bigger country can squash a smaller country, is that the reason to go to war? Is fighting for oil the real reason to got to war? You know, I've been going through tons of material, tons of stuff, and I still can't find the reasons for war! I don't think we have exhausted all diplomatic means, all avenues to make us not reach a state where this is the only way. When you check all these wars and the secret documents that are revealed twenty years later, you'll realize that it was a false flag and it was all smoke and mirrors, it was all in the interest of a handful of people at the detriment and the lives of millions of people. So I realize that it makes no sense, that all we are doing is creating a situation that we can't get out of, by perpetuating war after war after war. We can't use one war to solve another war, cause all this is going to do is putting it on the next generation, they are going to say 'I hate those people over there cause they killed my grandfather and murdered my grandmother.', and it's going to continue and continue and continue and there will be no end to that. We all breathe the same air, we might not speak the same language, but we have the same aspirations for our children and for ourselves, we want better for all our children, we want better for the world. So, war serves no purpose.
The Love Songs: IN LOVE, STAY WITH ME, SNEAK PEEK, FALSE PRETENDER
Well, some people don't call False Pretender a love song, but it is in a certain aspect. It's about the bitter underbelly of love, it's a part of reality and we have to deal with it. You know, sometimes things don't go the way we want them to go, so we just have to pick up the pieces and try to listen to each other and see how best we can solve the situation and live amicably. False Pretender is also part of that, and then we have In Love, Stay With Me and Sneak Peek.
Bear in mind, I have no problem with experiments, I've been experimenting all my life. Let me tell you about the spirit of music and the science of music, the science of orchestration. Your mood, your vibe, your energy... you know, when you listen to a music that was released 20 years ago, it triggers your memory, it sends you back as if you are in a time capsule and you remember exactly what you were doing at that time. Music for me, when it comes to me it comes in a flash, in a burst, like a volcano erupting, and when it comes in that form I do not suppress it. I deal with it in the form, the spiritual angel, the musical angel came and give it to me as a gift of god. I continue down that line and I created based on that melody, that voice tone, that sweetness that it's coming from... also it's not like I'm consciously trying to bend and twist my voice and do all these amazing things, no! It just comes natural and in the form that it comes I create, based upon that form. Or put another way, I create based upon the formula it came to me in.
Ah, this is about me. A lot of people misunderstand what Junior Kelly stands for, and in the past misunderstood how I am, what makes me tick. For instance, a lot of good producers are out of the business because they are not making any money. They are still doing quality music, their record is impeccable when it comes to quality music, but they stop making money from their music cause people are stealing their intellectual property. And so they are out of the business, and what fills the gaps, who fills those gaps are individuals who are nervous, who don't know the business and who want to be producers. And they find themselves with some capital and come in the business and don't know the science of the music, don't know how to produce a production, and so the music gets substandard and inferior because a lot of emphasis is not being laid on good production and strong lyrical content and beautiful melodies, and I never wanted to be part a of that. So what happened is I stayed away form those producers because they can't represent me properly and what the music stands for and I'm not going to destroy what took so long to build. So I stayed away for a little while and when I did that, it was like... I never heard "Oh it's over for Junior Kelly" no, I never heard that. What I've heard is "Where have you been? We love you, why are you doing this to us, we want your music, your music helps us! What's going on, why are we not hearing from you? Were you incarcerated?" (laughs) You know, all these different questions as to why is there such a slump, why are we not hearing your music, we love your music... sometimes I cannot bother to go through the details to tell my fans and people that I meet on the street everyday, so I hope this interview can clear the air. But back to the point. The music High Hopes… a lot of times people think that you are washed up and done and sometimes they will belittle what you stand for and the work you have done, and I wanted to reassure not only myself but people who are going through stuff like this, that listen, just continue to stick to your principles and your values and continue to hold your head, doing good work. It will be accounted, it will be noted, it will be recognized and it will be loved and appreciated. No care how long you suffered... this is the arts. A lot of painters of beautiful masterpieces, some of the times it's when they are dead that they are recognized, you know, so I know the sacrifices. High Hopes is really to strengthen me and others like myself, to hold you steadfast and don't break from what has kept you so blessed and so wonderful over the years, so don't give in to peer pressure, don't start doing stuff that you might regret.
NO ONE IS HIGHER
I call it Raspel (laughs) cause I'm a Rasta man. I grew up listening to Gospel, so in my home we played a lot of music in my family. Gospel is a big part of who I am. I love Gospel because there are so many melodies, so many changes and so many different keys and dimensions to the music, it's amazing and inspiring.
MILE IN MY SHOE
The strangest thing about that song... when I got that riddim I loved it, because it's a kind of Funk, Motown kind of thing. It's wonderful, but as a Reggae artist I imprinted on the riddim my style, a style that depicts my genre. If you notice the lyrics, it's all consciousness, it's all about life... (sings). It's about life, about holding on, about letting go, about thinking of the future but not in the sense of doom and gloom. You know, we have so much potential, so I incorporate the roots on a classical motownish type of riddim, so it's a clash, a joining between that era and a Reggae artist of this era which came out beautiful because of the words I'm saying. I call it pop culture (laughs), because it's a pop beat and I imprinted my style, my culture, my genre and I intertwine it on the beat.
TO GET BY
It's near and dear to me. Why? Because I still live in a country that is regarded as a third world country. We still owe IMF a lot of money, and when you go to IMF as a state to borrow money they send individuals here to assess your state to see what you have to get rid of, what is burdening you and what they have to do before they can approve of loaning you this money. We have a serious unemployment problem in Jamaica and we still see people going to Western Union and Money Gram, begging money from their family members all over the world, whether it's 20 Euro, 20 American Dollars, 20 Pounds... whatever, to buy food. Food is extremely expensive around the world, but even more so in a third world country. I spend up to 60.000 JA Dollars on groceries. And that is about probably 450 Euros. That's a whole lot of money to spend on groceries that only last for two, three weeks. And I sometimes go on the street and I give money, sometimes I give everything and I don't have for myself when I give away, because my mother and father brought me up charitably. I've seen my mother give away everything to the poor. And I've seen my father do the same, and I am from their loins and I'm doing the same now. So it's really hard, it brings tears to my eyes, that's the only reason why I don't watch the news sometimes because it makes me really emotional about these things that are happening internationally, when I see those people coming from the Middle East over to Europe because they are running from war and persecution. And also when I see so many youths coming out of university in Jamaica and cannot find a job and have to go to Canada or so. We have a serious problem when most of our bright and brilliant students are living in England, in Canada and in America because there is no job placement in Jamaica. And those who are here are under-qualified, so there are no jobs for them also. So I see poverty, I see stress, I see depression on so many faces, and sometimes the only thing that can stop me from crying and feeling that pain in my heart, in my chest, is to write about it. Cause sometimes I don't know what to do! I want to change the subject, because it's emotional for me...
PUT IT PON YOU
This one, it was a bet. Somebody said: "I bet you can't create a music which is provocative but which is still clean, which is pushing the envelope right below the margin of unacceptance. And just within the boundaries of acceptance." So I challenged it and said I can always do music like that, I just don't get the opportunity to do that as much, I can do it but it's not my first love. So, I won that bet! I won a good laugh… The song is fun and people love it, it's not raunchy, it's sweet and melodious, it's funny and witty and it's beautiful writing skill, at least that's what I heard. Let's put it this way, acceptable writing skill (laughs).
HOOKED ON MARY
I love that about me, my ability to listen to a beat. I never want to sound or be like anybody, but I never went out of my way not wanting to sound like anybody else. So this is just my way and I am happy and comfortable with who I am and my abilities and my contribution, my endless contribution toward the greater good of this music.
A good writer writes about what happened in his life, but a great writer writes about aspects of life that he hasn't experienced personally yet. I've seen individuals who've been through it and who are still in it, because part of writing is observation and the ability to extract verbal commentary from what you have seen. It is based upon two individuals, several individuals in my community that I love, and sometimes they can't stand each other. But when they are away from each other, nothing is more fulfilling and heart-warming than meeting and greeting and being around that person, that's why I use that term "When it rains, it brings back memories." Good memories rekindle love, emotion, the desire to be with you even more. So I've observed that from many angles in my community.
It's not just to stay alive, but we've got to stay alive. Because the children need us, we still need to educate them and to teach them how to deal with the future. Ok, they are way ahead of us when it comes to the gadgets and computers and all of these different means of communication, they are already born computer literate, right, they are born in the gadget world. I remember a time when we had to go and take a computer course, not so long ago. They are born in a different era, I would call it a less social era. The human interaction, they are losing it, and without us to educate them on that they are losing it forever. Staying alive means not just in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense, in the mental sense, all of that is staying alive as well, staying healthy in the mental sense of interacting with people, going out in the woods with no phone, no electricity, and listen to nature, listen to the birds... stay in contact with nature is staying alive also. So you need not only physical food to stay alive but spiritual food as well! It keeps you aware spiritually, connected to nature and God and the earth and the universe!