It is an amazing project that deejay Sugar Roy and his singing partner Conrad Crystal have realized during the last year. The new album “Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal And The Great Reggae Icons” is a tribute to the reggae foundation with guests like U Roy, Big Youth and Dennis Brown. In the interview Suga Roy and Conrad Crystal talking about their album, what the foundation years were like and why the reggae youth of today need some more roots education.
Both of you grew up in the time of roots reggae at the beginning of the 1970s. Can you remember those days?
Suga Roy: As a child growing up I can remember listening to Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and many more foundation artist. These were the artist my parents use to play in our house so that is why I grow to love the foundation part of the reggae music.
Conrad Crystal: As a youth I use to listen to artists like Stranger Cole, Ernie Smith, Toots And The Maytals, Max Romeo just to name a few. As a youth I use to stand outside of the bar to hear the music from the juke box. It was fun and sound system in those days played from tube amps and steel horns; you could hear the music from far far far.
You have witnessed the birth of dancehall, too.
Suga Roy: I used to sneak out of my parents house to go to the dance to listen to Stereo Gav with Josey Wales, U Roy, Charlie Chaplin, Little Twitch, Brigadier Jerry and Sister Nancy and also Killamanjaro Sound with Earlie B, Super Cat, Dirty Harry. Those days dancehall used to nice people could enjoy themselves from night straight back to day light.
Conrad Crystal: I use to listen to sounds like Gemini Disco, Virgo, Metro Media, Love Injection and in the 1980s eighty two Chishom Avenue in Kingston was one of the hot spots in those day where most of the sound system played with lots of dancehall artist, artist like Barrington Levy, Beenie Man, Little John, Rankin Toyan, Burro Banton, Peter Metro, Welton Irie , General Echo and many more.
I have read that you teamed up because of the love for each other’s masterful work. Please tell me more about that.
Suga Roy: From our first combination “True Love Will Never Die” (in the year 2002) the support that we got from the fans gives us the courage to continue our career along this path as a duo. Most of our songs as a duo has been a major hits in Jamaica and very popular overseas.
Your new album is called “Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal And The Great Reggae Icons”. What is it about?
Suga Roy: This album is all about showing my respect to all the foundation artists who paved the way for us to play a part in the reggae music industry. So I think it is a good thing to honour some of these artist in life before death and also those who past away. It is also for the lovers of reggae music around the world. I think all the reggae music fans should go a buy a copy at the record stores.
How did you come up with the idea?
Suga Roy: Me and Conrad Crystal were on tour in Europe the first time with Irie Ites from France in 2007. While on tour I got up one morning with this great inspiration from the Most High Jah that when I leave this tour and return to Jamaica I should do this album with all these great Icons in the reggae music.
So I got a piece of paper and wrote down the foundation artists that I want to appear on the album. As an artist and producer when I came back to Jamaica I go straight to the studio and start to play some riddims and then I start to contact the artist that I want on the album.
You have guests like Beenie Man, U Roy, Big Youth, Barrington Levy, Mighty Diamonds, just to name a few of the big reggae stars. In my opinion, Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal taking a back seat on their own album.
Suga Roy: Why do you say we are taking a back seat on the album? Is it because it is our album Suga Roy/ Conrad Crystal and most of the tracks we did not start them? To me I don’t see nothing wrong with them starting the track. It is not about competition or about who wants to take a front seat or a back seat. It is about the good message and the respect of these great Icons in reggae music.
I don’t want anyone to believe that I try to do an album like this to get recognition in the music industry. Because we sing a lot of positive songs and people already know the name Suga Roy / Conrad Crystal. So when we come with a good album like this everyone should embrace it and show us the respect for our great works and no one should say anything negative about an album like this.
This album shows where the root of reggae music is coming from and if some of the new generation artist did know where the roots is coming from they would not be doing negative music to destroy the reggae industry.
Would you say that the reggae generation of today has lost the contact to the foundation and needs more education about the roots?
Suga Roy: Am glad you hit that point, me know that and you know that and I which some more journalist would speak out on issues likes this, some of the new generation artist has lost contact with the foundation which is the positive side of the music. I can’t so how an artist is going sing a song say: “Man fe shoot out head back and kill baby weh just born”.
These words are like doing crime, they should be lock up and serving time. This really shows that some of the new generation has lost there way and these are the artist they’re pushing up front and saying they are big artist. So all the producers and promoters who are promoting those artists have also lost there roots.
Back to your album: How did you get the parts of all the artists? Have you been to the studio with all of them, except Dennis Brown?
Suga Roy: I have been to the studio with the artists except Dennis Brown, Inna Circle and Lil Mo. Every artist I have contacted was glad to be a part of this project because as a new generation to approach them with this great idea everyone was exited about it. For Inna Circle I send the riddim to them in Miami and told them of the idea I want on the riddim and they voiced it and send back the track to me in Jamaica. Me, Conrad Crystal and Toots did the track and send it to Lil Mo in New York and she did her part and sends back the track to me in Jamaica.
Where did you get the part of Dennis Brown from?
Suga Roy: I got the Dennis Brown track from his producer, his name is Leggo. I know Dennis Brown put out a lot of good works and that he is a great Icon in the business. So that is why I had to find his producer and told him about my idea of the album that I was working on. He was exited to give me a Dennis Brown track.
So he carry me to the studio and let me listen to a lot of Dennis Brown songs and this is the one that I choose, “Jah Can Do It”, and when I got the track I take it to another studio and call some musicians like Wilburn „Squidly“ Cole, Chris Murdock and Bongo Herman and play over back the riddim live because the first riddim that the song was on it was a computer riddim and I wanted to create a live riddim around his voice.
You have recorded a tribute to the great reggae band Culture, a remake of their tune “Jah Jah See Dem”. How important were they for you?
Suga Roy: This song “Jah Jah See Dem by Culture” is one of my favourite song from Culture and if Culture did not past away I would approach him and ask him to sing over the song for me on this album but because Gyptian have a sound like Culture I make him sing it over and make it a tribute to Culture.
Are there plans to go on a tour with some of your album guests?
Conrad Crystal: We have no plans with artist on the album right now but in the future we know that will happen because all the artist are please with the works on the album so anything is possible.
Trackliste: Suga Roy & Conrad Crystal and the Great Reggae Icons
- God Bless You (feat.Toots & The Maytals / Lil’Mo)
- Police And Bad Boy Strap (feat. Mighty Diamonds)
- Harder They Come (feat. Hopeton James)
- Jah Jah See Dem (feat. Gyptian) (Tribute To Culture)
- Girl You Rock My World (feat. Chakademus & Pliers)
- Make The World Better (feat. Inna Circle)
- She Call Mi Phone (feat. Barrington Levy / Beenie Man)
- Youths Dem A Cry
- Jah Can Do It (feat. Dennis Brown)
- Cocane Round There Brain (feat. Dillinger)
- Rock Steady (feat. Alton Rock)
- High Grade (feat. U Roy)
- Disney Land (feat. Eek A Mouse)
- Chant Rasta (feat. Max Romeo)
- Glory (feat. Congos)
- Mama Say (feat. Marcia Griffiths / Tashina)
- Reggae (feat. Lee Scratch Perry)
- Early This Morning (feat. Big Youth)