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GANGSTA FOR LIFE - MAVADO'S SMPHONY

Davina Morris, The Voice


Gangsta For Life: The Symphony Of David Brooks is out now on VP Records

Ask Mavado one too many questions about his music's violent content, and he becomes somewhat defensive.

Strange really, as he branded himself as a gangster, earned fame on the back of bad-man hits such as Last Night and Top Shotta, and originally rose to prominence with hit single, Real McKoy, which rode on a riddim, aptly titled - wait for it - Anger Management! (Ok, that one was just a coincidence.)

As a result, the Jamaican deejay - who recently performed a sell- out show at London's Stratford Rex - has earned his fair share of criticism from those who have been unimpressed by the tales of gun-toting and varying degrees of violence that feature on his debut album, Gangsta For Life: The Symphony Of David Brooks. Still, the popular artiste - real name David Constantine Brooks - remains unfazed.

Critics

"I have a whole heap of critics, but I don't really watch them things," he says. "This business is a journey and once you're going up, people will want to bring you down. But if anyone feels that my music is too violent, they don't have to listen to it. The reason I call myself a 'gangster for life' is because I've come through some terrible things. So many of my friends died along the way, but I made it through. I don't call myself a gangster because I go around killing people! I just mean that I've come through a lot of struggles - I spent time in jail - and I made it through."

Protest

He declined to reveal why he spent time in jail, but continued: "What I talk about in my music is real. But some people just don't like dancehall coz they know that is we from the gully who created it. They don't like the fact that dancehall allows people from the ghetto to prosper."

Granted, recent years have seen somewhat of an anti-dancehall climate. With numerous reggae shows being cancelled at the eleventh hour, either by officials who feared violence amongst concert-goers, or as a result of protesters who campaigned to stop shows going ahead, some dancehall fans may well feel that the music gets an unnecessarily hard time.

But even Mavado can't deny that much of his music - or at least, the tunes that have earned him notoriety so far- have possessed a gangster-driven lyrical content. Nevertheless, he refutes the suggestion that his music encourages violence.

"Nah, there's no truth inna that, babes. Some films and TV shows feature violence. Surely they must be more influential than the content of any song? But nobody complains about gangster films. I'm not the first person to come and sing gangster songs and I certainly don't encourage any violence. I don't see why people wanna talk negatively about my lyrics, but gangster films get promoted on big billboards so that everybody knows about them. Music is about enjoyment and entertainment, just like a good film."

I'm a good person

He goes on: "If you really wanna know about Mavado, you need to listen to my album and you'll hear what I'm about. I'm a good person. People try and make me out to be a bad person and they don't even know me. My music isn't all gangster lyrics. I do songs for different

people because music doesn't have any limits. I make songs for gangsters, for the streets, for the girls."

Ah yes. How could I forget about his album track, Squeeze Breast? In this particular ode to women, Mavado sings of a girl who wants him to "squeeze her breast dem like di trigger of my gun." Who said romance was dead?

"The whole ah di girls love that song," Mavado laughs. "It's not about telling girls to do anything bad. It's just about squeezing up the girl dem breast and having sex. There's nothing wrong with that."

Romance?

Yes Mavado, but really: squeeze her breasts like the trigger of your gun? Couldn't you come up with a more appropriate simile? Where is the love?

He laughs, "What about Heartbeat? That's a love song. I do love the ladies, but I'm not really a romance kind of artist."

We gathered. But yes, Heartbeat is a pleasant song, free of expletives and any violent content. And as he reveals that there is a "special lady" in his life, the father-of-two is also somewhat of a family man. Do his seven-year-old daughter and six-year-old son listen to his music?

"Yeah, but not so much. I don't let them listen to all of it. I more make sure they deal with their school work."

Evidently it's important for Mavado to try and steer his children in the right path. With that in mind, one wonders what his mother makes of her son's career path.

"My mum goes to church- but she knows I do my music and she doesn't mind. She knows I'm not hurting anybody."

Still, Mavado is all too aware that with fame, comes haters. This is what drove him to pen the album track, Don't Cry. A dedication to his mother, the song sees him singing, "Mama even if dem kill me, don't cry."

He explains: "There are bad-mind people out there- people who don't like to see others achieve. But I've never feared for my life. My life is in Jah's hands, so when it's my time, it's my time."

Well, according to him, he's not in any war with anybody. Quite something really, considering he's part of Bounty Killer's Alliance crew- and Killer's career has seen him involved in feuds with many artists, including Merciless, Baby Cham and Beenie Man.

Father figure

"Bounty Killer has people that he doesn't have a good relationship with, but I don't have a problem with them- and it's not a problem. For example, Bounty Killer and Baby Cham aren't really friends. But me and Baby Cham are very good friends. Bounty Killer has never told me who I can and can't be friends with. But he knows I'm a loyal person. Killer is like my father. I've been around him for like 12 years. But likewise, me and Baby Cham have been friends for a long time too. Something like that isn't a problem. But if someone disrespects Killer, I'll see that as my problem as well, because of my loyalty to him."

Insisting that he "didn't get involved" with Killer's long-running feud with Beenie Man, Mavado becomes a comedian as he sums up his disdain for warfare amongst artists.

"I could never really be in a beef with anyone. I'm a Rasta - I don't eat beef."

 
December 6, 2007
 

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