Marcus Thompson redefining normality of productions Image

by Biko Kennedy

When it comes to rhythm production, some producers conform to what is expected and accepted easily by the masses. Then there are other producers that possess a mental map of a song from all angles aside from the sound itself that'll pull the best out of any artiste. Marcus 'Ras'I' Thompson is one such producer.

Son of the Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths, and veteran Jamaican disc jockey and radio personality, Errol "ET" Thompson, Marcus clearly has a strong musical background with his musical talents transcending a plethora of genres while fascinating a global audience. It's evident whenever you hear any of his productions but there is so much more to his character just awaiting the perfect moment to sweep the musical lithosphere. We recently caught up with him, discussing everything from his initial touch of music to his label Aleada Records.

Jamaicansmusic: How do you think your childhood characteristics are being reflected in your current status in the industry today?

Marcus Thompson: Growing up this way has given me a solid musical background. From a very young age, I learned to appreciate a wide variety of musical styles. Aside from my brothers playing and singing, my parents often had their records playing in the house as well. This gave me an appreciation for many artists that would have otherwise been before my time. Music has had a profound impact on me. It is my greatest love, and has been a part of my life ever since I was a small child. I suppose I'd have to say that I inherited my passion for music from my mother and father.

JAmusic: With a musical lineage such as yours do you think music was an inevitable choice?

MT: Yes. Just by me being exposed to such a musically environment made me appreciate music to higher accord, and then I developed a love for it. We often had rehearsals at our house or friends' house, so I was always surrounded by music and musicians as a child. Even when she [Marcia Griffiths] wasn't playing with the group [The I-Threes], she often spent hours singing on her own.

JAmusic: Before entering in the word of music, what life events framed the path of your professional journey?

MT: Well, I think being that on all sides of the family there was always something played and sang, which made our family gatherings musical events as well. So I guess you could say that I came by it honestly. I played around with the piano a lot from a very tender age, since my oldest brother had taught me to. But naturally being out at stage shows and growing seeing my family was so deeply rooted to music basically frame the path.

JAmusic: When you got into the music business where did you think you'd be today or where did you see yourself fitting in at the moment?

MT: Well I would of hoped to be working with some of the greats, but still have high hopes of reaching there. Everything is slowly falling into its place right now.

JAmusic: When you look at your sound (in terms of your production) how have outside producers and musicians impacted your sound?

MT: They (outisders) keep me on my toes [indirectly] inspiring and helping me to create different vibrations of music. I try and observe and stay consistent with change. I see how versatile artists are becoming [today by] blending all the different genres of music... but I never forget my influences from my upbringing and culture.

JAmusic: Could you talk a bit on some of your previous work and possibly a few projects you're currently working on/ promoting?

MT: Well I released the 'Icycle Riddim' in 2010 featuring : Wayne Marshall, Esco, Fyakin, Voicemail, Ward 21, Rholin X etc. then the Loony Toonz Riddim which I co-produced with Camar aka F lava Unit with artistes like ICandy, ZJ Liquid, Busy signal, just to name a few... Then the most recent is 'Seekout Riddim' which features the likes of Wayne Marshall, I Wayne, Fyakin, Esco, Erup etc. I'm actually working on a new single featuring 'Fyakin' and working on other singles with various artistes and I'm also working on a new project for the summer as well. So do stay tuned!

JAmusic: What insight can you give on music and its ability to communicate certain messages verbally and non-verbally?

MT: Ever heard the expression: what I can't tell you I can sing in song. It's already been proven by the greats for example Bob Marley. He definitely expressed and communicated messages that reached worldwide. Musicians represent themselves through their music, incorporating their personalities, their experiences, and their cultures. Always just try to keep the music positive.

JAmusic: It is said that musicians communicate best through their instruments, it's really the language for them; could you talk a bit on why this is noted as such.

MT: You are in control. Your instrument is in your grasp. I think when you get to play an instrumental in there becomes a real connection between you and the instrument, and music gives us a pathway in which we can express ourselves freely.

JAmusic: When and why did you decide to put together Aleada Records?

MT: I decided to put Aleada Records together in about 2009. Myself and Loren Chin decided to become Aleada Records because we realized we had talent and a good ear for music/production. So we decided to take it seriously and either make something of it or not. Then pretty much everything just started to fall in place.

JAmusic: How do you go about starting a project? Say you found an important topic or you're in a particular mood, do you just play around with varying sounds or you have a clear path as to how you want your work to come out before you begin?

MT: Well for me I pretty much start anywhere, if it's a sample or drum or guitar...but it depends, normally I would just play around with sounds, but if I already have an idea, then I'll just start there and build on that. Sometimes when I watch space movies I get crazy ideas (laughs) I would like to score a movie one day.

JAmusic: Every producer has their unique style of composition from Swiss Beats and Timbaland to Stephen McGregor and Rvssian; what element is Marcus' key ingredient?

MT: No key ingredients really, but rather many ingredients and a lot of spices. I have to keep doing what I love and sounds good to me and hopefully people will fall into my flavour (laughs). But through all the years, and all the variations in style, one ingredient has remained constant is my respect and love for reggae!

JAmusic: Fans of Dancehall music in the States love it when they hear it playing but probably couldn't properly describe what it encompasses. How would you describe Dancehall music as?

MT: I would say it's a combination of Drum, bass, Guitar and Organ and Synthesizers and samples that came from Reggae, Rocksteady, a little R&B that came about sometime around 1970. But to keep it simple, it's basically a male/female voicing over beats that can entrap you and make you get in the zone with the vibes. Honestly our failure to define what we have created in Dancehall has also allowed other top international artists such as R Kelly, Rihanna, Beyoncé and others to perform our musical genre and call it pop and/or R&B.

JAmusic: Do you think Dancehall is in a slump right now and needs a helping hand? Especially with the rise of the Reggae Revival movement.

MT: I agree that Jamaica has had a very rich tradition in popular music that has gained the attention of people all over the world. Over the past 60 years our music has evolved, primarily through African, Rastafarian and North American influences, all the way to Hawaii - to create recognizable genres such as Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae and arguably now Dancehall. Still...we have failed to take the lead in clearly defining our musical forms, resulting in today's confusion about what is Dancehall. I even read where someone described all Jamaican music created over the past 60 years as Dancehall music.

JAmusic: Discuss this statement "a good artiste with a great song will rock it to the top but a great artiste with a good song can have a 25 year long career."

MT: You have to put your best out there, music that can play through on the that can transform...becoming timeless

JAmusic: Seeing that songs usually mirrors an artiste's or producer's personality; what are your productions saying about you?

MT: To sum up, I would have to say that when it comes to music, I am a lover of the art no matter what form it takes. It truly is all things to me. It is my joy, my peace, the comfort in my pain, the outlet for my anger and frustration. It is the companion that I can always depend on to be there; the one that will never leave me alone. In my eyes, it will always be the perfect medicine for whatever ails me. It will continue to be a major force in my life for as long as I draw breath. I will keep playing, listening and enjoying for as long as God chooses to give me!

Image A music aficionado redefining possibilities while pushing the limits of success...
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