Interview: Macka B Image

by Federico Di Puma

With an immense catalogue of tunes he is definitely one of people responsible for the growth and the explosion of the UK reggae scene, and he has surely taken to school a few generations of DJs and singers. His first album, produced by Mad Professor in the Ariwa studio dates back to 1986 and he is going to release a new work this September. We had the opportunity to sit with him after his show on the Main Stage of Rototom Sunsplash 2015.

JAmusic: Greetings Macka B, how did you feel on stage?

MB: Yah man, irie stage! Short time, but the energy was there, the vibe was there so we give thanks.

JAmusic: You are going to release a new album soon, tell us something about that.

MB: Yes, it’s called Never Played a 45, so that tune it’s on it, Medical Marijuana it’s on it and Rasta Tell Them it’s on it, the rest will be new tunes. It will be out on the 25th of September and It’s on the Peckings Label, so it’s mostly on those old riddims like Studio One and Treasure Isle kind of riddims. Vpal is going to distribute it so it’s going to be available on download, cd and vinyl as well. 

JAmusic: Let’s talk about your two tunes on the Number One Station riddim, Lef Wi Yard and Cyarry Di Box, were those a way to tell us your story alongside the story of the reggae movement in England?

MB: Yes that was the idea, to put together the story of sound systems and the story of the Jamaicans who came to England in the 50s and 60s, because that’s the same story, the two things are intertwined and linked together. And the riddim was not long enough so I had to do two versions to tell the whole story.

JAmusic: If you had to sing a part three what would that be on?

MB: Well I tried to put everything in two tunes but I missed out many things and many sounds. There are too many sounds you know? So part three would be on the rest of the sounds.

JAmusic: Who was your inspiration when you started deejaying?

MB: I Roy. I really loved I Roy’s lyrical content, I think he was ahead of his time on that. Other deejays like U Roy or Big Youth had the style, but for me I Roy was the main inspiration.

JAmusic: You are very well known for your lyrics, what do you think of the lyrical content of contemporary Jamaican music?

MB: I think the lyrical content is gone down a bit, or maybe a lot. Now it’s just gimmicks, and for most of the song it’s just a chorus and a punchline, there’s no lyrics in that at all. I come from a time when no matter if I was playing with a band or on a sound I could stop the music and just talk on the mic and mash up di place with lyrics alone you know? and lot of Jamaican artists, they can’t do that right now. I think we should go back to the lyrics craft, I come from the era of sound systems, an era when we have to talk all night on sound systems and every time we had to bring new lyrics to talk about what was happening in the world and in the community, while nowadays it’s just studio time, the artists go straight to the studio and they can simply do line by line and it’s easier. But sound system is like apprentice, and you should go to your apprentice first. Sound system is a school so we should bring the deejays back on the sounds and then you’ll see the lyrical content getting better.

JAmusic: What is your point of view on the reggae scene in England?

MB: Well some good young artists are coming up, like Randy Valentine and some more, which is good. But in England they know that reggae is so powerful and the media try to really keep it down, they are afraid that England goes back to 70s, when it was the most relevant place for reggae all over the world: Marley’s Exodus was there, Dennis Brown was there, Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor they all were there. So the media know England has the potential to be that powerful again but they don’t want reggae to rule because reggae is the people’s music, reggae make people think and when the people start thinking they are no longer like sheep, you can’t control them so easily any more so they rather push grime and other more negative music towards the youths instead of the positive uplifting music. But it’s coming through, ‘cause you can’t stop positivity, no matter how they try they can never stop it.

JAmusic: What do you think of the different processes of legalization of marijuana that are happening around the world? Do you see something like that happening in England anytime soon?

MB: Yes, it’s a must! America is doing it and they say that when America sneezes England catches a cold (laughs), so anything that happens in America soon or later is going to happen in England. And a few weeks ago a chief constable in one of the counties in England said that they don’t want to prosecute people for a small amount of marijuana and that if it was for him he would even let people grow their own. They told him to be quiet but it’s out in the open and it’s been talked about. But it’s obvious, a hundred years ago marijuana was legal, totally legal you know?, and since the beginning of time it was legal. So it was only politics making it illegal. But they are realizing that cannabis is medicine so all the countries are going to come round to it, some people will keep on fighting it, but they are going to come round to it because in the end it’s only a herb.

JAmusic: In few songs you have talked about the condition of women in the dancehall, what do you think is the situation now?

MB: Well personally I respect women totally: my mother, my empress, my daughter, my granddaughter, I give thanks to have all of them. But, within dancehall women are still objects, and they are pushing the fact that all the dancehall women have to be in a certain way, dress in a certain way, behave in a certain way but not everybody can be in the same way. All these things bring a negative vibration, especially if you think about the youths; the youths tend to imitate what they see, and if they keep on imitating what they see in the dancehall they are going to have sex earlier, because these things have been pushed to their mind, or you will find big guys preying on little girls, sexually transmitted diseases are going to be rampant, so we have to realize and Jamaica most of all has to realize the direction in which they are heading now. It might seem that it’s fun but everything fun can have a negative outcome: sugar is sweet but sugar gives you diabetes and it’s bad for your teeth, it’s a dangerous thing, it’s like poison, but it’s sweet and it makes you happy and that’s the same with what happens in dancehall, it might look nice to some people but what are you doing  for the women? What are you doing for the portrayal of women? A woman is not a sex machine that’s what I’ve always been singing in my songs, it’s a human being so we must allow women to be free to be who they are, not just a sexual object.

JAmusic: Over the years you have done two songs on football, Pam Pam Cameroon (1994) and Allez The Reggae Boyz (1998), are you a football fan?  Do you play?

MB: (Laughs) Yeah man! I like football very much,  I used to play. I was a very good defender, nobody could pass Macka B!

JAmusic: Which team do you support?

MB: I don’t support any team. When I was a youth I used to support Leeds United, but I’m a big man now and I just watch. So if I’m watching I decide at a time who I want to win, and if they lose it’s no big deal. I see some people, friends, they get very upset. If their team loses you cannot talk to them, you cannot talk to them for the rest of the day! They feel sick you know? To me it can’t be like this, it’s only football. I like to play it and I like to watch it but it’s only football, it’s only a game.

JAmusic: Who is the most underrated reggae artist in your opinion?

MB: Bwoy that’s hard, that’s a very hard question. There’s probably many, because we have many overrated artists. And sometimes is the media, they push who they want to push and there are other factors as well. There’s a lot of good artists, maybe some of the cultural ones are underrated, but underrated just by the media, because by the people they are rated and by Jah they are rated and that’s good enough.

JAmusic: Who is your favourite reggae artist?

MB: Man that’s too hard too! There are so many, too many. I love Burning Spear, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, I Roy, U Roy, Big Youth, The Abyssinians, there’s too many. And even now I love Chronixx and Jah Cure, Sizzla, Capleton, Anthony B, the list is too long (laughs)! And  I still buy music, you know, that’s the thing. ‘Cause since I was a little youth I’ve been buying music, I used to buy vinyl, that’s why I love vinyl so much, I used to spend all my money on vinyl. And now we have reached a stage where we don’t buy music anymore so sometimes you have to think about karma, if you don’t buy it people are not going to buy it from you, so I buy music and give thanks and support the artists.

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