Mad, sick, head nuh good.” “Ah weddy, weddy, weddy.” “Out an’ bad.” “Shizzle.” The moment Elephant Man’s voice comes on over a microphone with these phrases, the audience in any stadium will know that things are good to go. The era of happy music has re-emerged, says Jamaica’s ‘Energy God’, and he is not about to let it pass without making sure dancehall is included in the mix. Inspired first by the dance moves and lyrical styling of the King of Pop Michael Jackson, Elephant Man, born Oneal Bryan, shares that there was no other direction that his career could have taken. “Looking back at Michael Jackson’s classic Thriller with video production and choreography, all the people in the streets across the world wanted to be doing that – to show off that they had those skills to make people want to dance and sweat without care. I was and still am one of those people,” Elephant Man tells The Gleaner. “As a matter of fact, a turning point of my career was performing with his sister Janet in 2004 on the BET stage and receiving a phone call from the man himself to say congrats.” Now he has returned with a new single that he expects will continue his legacy of happy music in dancehall, and he is ready to rub shoulders with all entertainers who are willing to work. Check out what Elephant Man has to add to the new generation of dancehall in this week’s Five Questions With …
With the release of your latest single, ‘Find It’, persons have described it as a resurgence of the ‘Energy God’ … but resurgence aside, what sentimental meaning does this single hold for you?
It signifies a lot for me because ‘do it for the dancehall’ is my number-one motto, and bringing the new project alive with the contribution of Downsound Records and just seeing the love it is getting from the fans shows me I am doing the work for a reason. It makes me want to live in the studio, work, work, work non-stop, and put out more so that the people in the dancehall can experience that authentic energy and keep on going like we running on Duracell. My expectations from the partnership with DSR (Downsound Records) is to bring hits on top of hits to the table, and I am excited to be around people who allow me to exercise my creativity and who are all for the cause to make dancehall better.
The visuals that accompany the single are being created to tell a story and represent something bigger; what is that?
It is saying veteran dancers meet nowadays dancers. What that means to show is unity because as the saying goes, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. With dancehall in Jamaica on the brink of extinction, we need to rise above to show that love is still there within us and the music because if we don’t do that, the energy of our music on the global stages going to drop. When they see people rubbing shoulders together, the picture it paints is nothing but positive unification. Although all dancers and artistes who do dance or dancing music could not be part of it, it still represents the realness and what happens when great minds at work, work together.
Your children are at an age where they can really understand your music and the legacy you have created. What is the interaction like with them?
The more you grow, the more you learn, and my children, all 15 of them, understand because a me grow them. Even the ones I don’t live with, from them hear seh Elephant Man a dem father, dem down with the career. Every child loves to dance, so all a dem come prove who a di best dancer, and we deh all ‘bout creating memories from hotel trips, and I try taking on that positive role because you know, once your children love and respect you, anything bad them hear will stress them, so I avoid that too.
The other thing children love is ice cream. What is your favourite ice cream, and do you have any childhood memories at Devon House that stand out in your mind?
Well, my favourite flavour ice cream is grapenut, but I also love rum and raisin and pistachio … Shizzle! And me never have nuh rich family to carry me go to Devon House, but I remember one time, when me inna Scare Dem Crew, me ride me scooter go over deh and security run me down and me did have to cut fast. I guess you can call it memorable.
What is a first date like with Elephant Man, and what is the corniest pick-up line you would use on the female?
God know, baby, yuh look good enuh (he laughs). Seriously though, a first date with Elephant Man is something a woman not going to forget because she is going to see a next side of me – the charming, kind gentleman that treats her to a fancy meal of lobster and wine. I am going to wipe her mouth with the napkin, be there … looking in her eyes and holding hands, no shy thing. And our teeth will clash to how me have her a smile.