For a generation of dancehall fans, Shabba represents the epitome of what the music stands for. The double Grammy winner has flown the flag since the mid-80’s and been an icon for the industry. Now he is preparing to come over with some friends to play the iconic venue Wembley Arena.
“We are GIANTS!”, he says with firm authority. “Giants have to play at the venues that fit them. I’ve been here for years and I’ll be here for years to come”.
Lining up alongside him are some notable giants, including Barrington Levy, long time collaborator Maxi Priest and Mr Vegas. This is all gearing up to create something very special on Sunday 1st July.
“I last came to London in 2012 at Brixton Academy – I have made a lot of great music with other artists over the years and on that night many of them came out to be with me on stage. It’s joyful to know that your peers can be alongside you celebrating your works with the fans and supporters of the music. We show love, and we get love in return.”
Anyone who has witnessed the great man as he goes about his work will no doubt agree that there is a certain aura that surrounds him – something I call Shabba-mania! This isn’t anything new, as he has commanded loyal crowds for nearly three decades, and one particular trip to London and encounter with his fans stands out in his mind.
“Round Piccadilly nah good again! We road-blocked Piccadilly! The Queen never saw so many black people in her life! The whole of Brixton came out. We had a signing at Tower Records and the people came out in force. The whole street had to be shut down.
“It showed the power of the music. The people spoke out then showed up to give love.” The episode definitely left an impression on Mr Loverman.
The Nineties dancehall scene was a time of unparalleled success across the world, and with that came the attention of suitors. Shabba himself was signed to Epic Records, while Supercat, Mad Cobra and Patra were all signed to majors too, as were Terror Fabulous, Buju Banton and a few more I could mention.
With that power from the core to the mainstream came a certain amount of respect – for the music, the art and the craft. Sadly, it seems that the over riding feeling is that this respect is lacking in today’s resurfaced mainstream interest in music from Jamaica.
“If Rihanna or Drake do our music, the markets respect it – if we do it, they don’t give it the same amount of respect”, he says with an air of frustration.
“We have to start respecting our things and knowing our worth – we can only be abused if we allow ourselves to be. Know your worth, don’t fall short.”
“I’m in the studio making music – I am always making music. The only thing is now if someone wants to put my music out they had better come and cut me a cheque or know that they are going into business with me. This is all about business, so they have to come correct.”
“The people around right now act like they don’t want to do business. I would need a distribution deal to put out my music how I want, but they don’t want to approach Shabba like they approach them stars like Jay Z and Kanye West, so it isn’t happening right now.” The forthrightness and business acumen is on point – he isn’t selling his property on the cheap.
“When I started off the only thing I had was integrity and morality – now in 2017 I still have those things – nothing has changed – I am the same person as to what I was in 1990.”
So five years since his last visit to the UK and Shabba is gearing up to cause havoc on a British stage once again. Why has he left it so long before gracing us again?
“You know them real superstars? They don’t move like no everyday people. You don’t see them so easy walking up and down the street – it’s a special moment when they come out. I’m one of them people. I’m not telling anyone how to do their thing – I’m just telling people how I do my thing.”
Twenty-five years after his first Grammy and the times when he would parade around stages worldwide, can we expect to see Shabba putting in the stage work on 1st July?
“I’m 51 years old – I don’t have a training regime – I just look after myself and know what I put in my system. I cook 98% of the time, eating vegetables and I swim a lot. Tell the ladies of of London I’m coming! Just because I have a wife that doesn’t mean I don’t need you in my life!!”
Said like a bonafide Loverman.