The new Omar album, Love In Beats, took three years to make. This is a short time as far as Omar is concerned. The one prior to it, The Man, took more than twice as long – some seven years. So when you consider that on Love In Beats we have a rather impressive line-up of guests – Robert Glasper, Natasha Watts, Ty, Leon Ware, The Floacist, Mayra Andrade and Jean Michel Rotin, not to mention his own young daughters and their mum – what we’re soon to be experiencing [the album is officially released on Freestyle Records towards the end of January] is Omar in overdrive. Or maybe we should say, ‘Omar and The Scratch Professor’, because, as the artist freely acknowledges, a lot of important creative work on this new project can be put down to his brother. The two have worked hard on this together.
“Actually,” says Omar, “when I think of all the tracks we built, Scratch was on more of them than ended up on the album. As it is, even after I whittled it down to what you hear, he’s on about half of it… ”
A little over a year ago, Carolyn Malachi discovered some tapes of her great grandfather, the jazz pianist John Malachi, talking at length about his life and career. He’d had an interesting time of it, in the 1940s playing behind Trummy Young and Billy Eckstine [Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were contemporary members of the latter’s big band], and with vocalists Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, and sax giants Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet and Sonny Stitt during the ‘50s. For the rest of his life he taught at Howard University as a Professor Of Jazz, where his students included such as Geri Allen, Billy Hart and Wallace Roney. One of his many tales, says Carolyn, fitted an idea she’d had for own latest album, Rise: Story 1.
“It’s the story that gave me the title to Chapter Two on the album, what I call Bring Me A Pretty Woman… ”
With three series under his belt and a fourth hitting screens next year, he’s key to giving the series enough proper insider detail to make it more than a cheap UK garage piss-take, and enough genuine laughs for viewers who tune in simply to see a comedy of cluelessness. When we caught up with him, just to add an extra meta layer to the interview, he was in character as Grindah.
How did he get approached to be part of this documentary series?
“Back in the day, it was YouTube. They was always on my case, saying, ‘Can we film you? Can we film you?’ So we done things for them, and after that the big boy BBC was saying, ‘We want the best MC on our TV show – we’ll give you bare money’. Still waiting on the money, they never paid us. But it seems to be going well… ”
We’re living in a world of instant celebrity, but dancehall music has always been like that. To call it fiercely competitive would be an understatement. A deejay will come along with something fresh and everything else is forgotten. The thirst for what’s new is relentless, and there’s little sympathy for anything past its sell by date. Even established stars with big reputations are judged on present form, rather than on what they did before.
Beenie Man’s career stretches back to 1979. Born and raised in West Kingston, he recorded his first single aged nine, and his debut album a year later. To say that he grew up in the dancehalls is no exaggeration. He performed on many of the top Jamaican sound-systems as a youth and finally became a fully-fledged star in the early nineties. I doubt there’s been an issue of Echoes that hasn’t mentioned his name since, since no other reggae artist has been able to remain ‘current’ for that long and continue having so many hits. No wonder he’s called his latest album Unstoppable, because the description fits him perfectly…