Solo Banton is a veteran artist in the UK reggae & dancehall scene. In the business for quite a long time he has started his recording career really late. At the end of November 2009 the label Reality Shock Records will release his debut album “Walk Like Rasta”. Find out more about Solo Banton in the interview.
A few days ago I have read an interview with you in the french reggae magazine „Natty Dread”. I was pleased about that. But I have the impression that UK reggae doesn’t get the attention it should get, in general.
Solo Banton: It is very hard as a UK artist, without a doubt. You are always compared to your counter parts in Jamaica or the USA (hip hop artist) and it goes two ways. You either don’t sound as good as them or you sound too much like them so you are fake. For reggae I must say I think it’s getting better as the rest of Europe is really enjoying the UK thing and supporting it. I believe UK artist have more to say lyrically but that’s my opinion.
There a two reasons for me. First, UK reggae is solid since years and doesn’t create as much hypes as the Jamaicans. Second, UK reggae isn’t party music, you really have to engage in it, in the message. Would you agree?
Solo Banton: Yes I do, on the whole the UK thing is more what you have to say then how you say it or at least equal, but it’s always been this way and I wouldn’t change it. In the UK I think many people take it for granted as it’s been around them since they were born. Even the new generations will know reggae from the age of 6 months! Before them born! So it can be and is taken for granted.
You are part of that scene for a long time. How and when did you got into it?
Solo Banton: I got into it many moons ago! Just as a DJ/MC and a selector on sound systems. I used to make riddims as well and produced. It was the hype thing back than, UK MCs were a world force! Hit tunes in Jamaica and around the world. It was the bashment or dancehall of the day and for a while UK set the trend. So everyone got into it trying to mc or sing. UK sound systems run the world at that time! Me say DAT! LOL
Despite your long career you have started quit late as a recording artist. Kris Kemist and Reality Shock Records have played an important role in the process.
Solo Banton: I never really took the idea of recording myself very serious, I loved the dancehall thing and as a UK artist it was the dancehall were you would make it. Just like JA, if you couldn’t deejay or mc inna de dance … who were you? I was producing a track and I asked a young producer/musician called Kris who I had recently met, to play some guitar on the track for me. I think I was putting down or trying to put down some backing vocals and I started to deejay some old lyrics.
Kris didn’t stop: “You should voice, you should voice, I want to voice you!” Kris gave me the confidence and vibes to have a go at voicing. Yeah man … that’s why I can call someone younger than me “Father Kris Kemist”, young body, wise mind. “Big up Father Kemist anywhere you deh! Boooomm!”
At the end of November your debut album „Walk Like Rasta“ will come out on Reality Shock Records. Please tell me more about that.
Solo Banton: I am very pleased with the album, some big big tune on there, Reality Shock productions; a few guest productions (Mafia and Fluxy, Bush Chemists, Disciples, Zion Gate Music). I hope people like it as much as I do. There are a couple of combinations with guest artist (Aqua Livi, Mikey Murka) which are great, and a few subjects on there for people to agree or disagree with. Conversation is the greatest way to learn and come to an overstanding, so to provoke questions and conversation is good.
You have invented the alter ego “Gangsta Ras” for the video of the title tune. Every time I see him I have to laugh like hell. But there is a serious background, I know. Who is “Gangsta Ras”, is there a role model?
Solo Banton: “Gangsta Raass ca me a raaaassssss!” Gangsta Ras is a wannabe artist who has taken his lead from other artist who seem to say two different things, contradictions. Everyone has the right to change their opinion but I personally find it hard to overstand what’s going on. You are all about love but sing violence? Or just portraying one thing and doing the opposite. So Gangsta Ras brings it to the forefront, in maybe a little exaggerated form.
What does it mean for you to walk like a Rasta?
Solo Banton: “Walk Like Rasta, Talk Like Rasta” is saying just that, if you are dressing like a car mechanic then surely you should be able to fix a car? If you are saying you a Rasta artist who speaks of Love, then shouldn’t you do that? If you walk like then talk like.
One last question which could be important for all people, who would like to take part in the REGGAE GOT TALENT contest 2009: What does it need to be a good Deejay?
Solo Banton: I think Confidence in your ability, communication to get your point/story across and people can understand the words, even if they have to search for the meaning. Maybe a few more but what do I know!?
Solo Banton – Walk Like Rasta
The album „Walk Like Rasta“ will be avaible soon on Reality Shock Records with 14 tunes and 5 dub versions. Coming in a heavy UK roots reggae style!
Solo Banton Dubplates
You are interested in Dubplates by Solo Banton or other Reality Shock artists, please check dubs[at]realityshock.com.