UNRULY BERT - Legal luminary talks about music, and his ‘nephew’ Popcaan
Sitting in his offices on Duke Street in Kingston, Bert Samuels is the look and sound of a successful legal luminary. His polished tones and sartorial demeanour would naturally place him somewhere in that upper echelons of UPT (uptown) society, which is quite cognisant and protective of the great divide that exists between them and "below Cross Roads".
But things are not always what they seem, and while Samuels may fit somewhat into all the above-mentioned categories, he is also the quintessential Afrocentric black man, who is first and foremost conscious of who he is and where he is from.
For this reason, he has visited the Motherland, Africa, on more than one occasion and he has also taken his children with him on this journey. Also, and quite importantly too, when it comes to his musical tastes, Samuels is, unexpectedly, quite Unruly.
As a teenager in the '70s, a young Bert was attracted to reggae music with its message of protest and anti-establishment ethos. Burning Spear, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Big Youth were numbered among his musical heroes.
"The song, Revolution, by Dennis Brown really ran through our veins. We were children of the '70s. The black power movement, the pro-Rasta feelings that we had about the victimisation of Rastas. As a teenager, I found that reggae spoke to that," he told THE WEEKEND STAR.
It was this fascination with the music that fuelled Samuels' desire to be in the same space as them. "Once you love the music, you are going to be around artistes. There are artistes that I would have known from dem was begging mic," he told THE WEEKEND STAR, and he proudly references Big Yard, on Mannings Hill Road, a place that is known for its reggae artiste connections.
This synergy with Samuels, the music and the artistes/musicians has led to him becoming the go-to lawyer for industry players. In fact, the list of singing groups, producers and engineers who he has done work for over his 40 years as a lawyer reads like a Who's Who in Entertainment, and this fact is certainly not lost on him.
Popcaan, Inner Circle, Hugh Mundell, Bunny Wailer, Shabba Ranks, Bloodfire Posse, Tamlins, Cutty Ranks, Edi Fitzroy, Anthony B, Agostos Pablo, Earl 16, Bongo Herman, Mr Vegas, Tommy Lee, Jah Cure, Sting (the event), Merciless, Bobby Digital, Pamputtae, D'Angel, Kartel, Shawn Storm, Quada, and Ruff Kut Band are all listed among his clientele.
"Mi see some lickle lawyer a come up now and a defend and a run dung artiste," he said, sounding very much like a deejay, and then rattled off the punchline, "Dem nuh know artiste like me."
While it would not be fair to call this erudite upholder of the law an unruly person, Samuels is nonetheless unruly by association, and a tad bit more. Actually, the Unruly Boss, himself, Popcaan, refers to Samuels very respectfully as 'Uncle Bert'. And if 'family' pictures, jovial conversations and name-tagging dubplate specials are a good measure of amity, then these two seem to be fast friends.
A cell phone conversation goes something like this:
"Uncle Bert, the man mi see pon TV di other day, ah yuh bredda?
"Yeah, man, a mi big bredda. Mi haffi show him respek."
"Him look like yuh, Uncle Bert."
"Wha yuh a seh Poppi? Mi better looking dan him!"
(They laugh) "Poppi, a journalist deh yah an interview mi and she nuh believe seh me a part a di crew."
"How she fi nuh believe yuh? It hurt if yuh don't check Bert."
(Again, they laugh)
He later says that Poppy is his nephew and showed a picture of the two of them hanging out with a three-wheeler, which he rides sometimes. "How yuh mean? Mi a part a di crew. Mi haffi ride it," he said, reacting as if to a silly question.
"What yuh notice about this picture?" he asked, looking as happy as a kid in a candy store. Well, it looks like him and Popcaan and, oh yeah, they both have on khaki shorts and white tees, and they are even wearing the same getting-ready-to-conquer-the-world expression.
So, did Unruly Bert and the Unruly Boss plan the similar dress code?
"Unruly Bert," he said, savouring it and grinning. "You see! It's the same protest I was telling you about." But no, it wasn't planned. Him just come check me at home and we both had on what you see in the picture," Samuels said casually. "I keep telling you, we are family."