By Shelah Moody
This month’s featured artist, King i, comes from Boston, MA via Trinidad and Tobago. The emerging producer, entertainer and visual artist, aka Keno Sampson Sankofa, recently spoke with Island Stage about the craft of building dancehall riddims.
Island Stage: Tell us about the reggae scene in Boston.
King i : Well, I think that every artist has to put in work when it comes to the relationship with their fans. We also have to make connections and form relationships with the DJs. The more you put into it; the more you get out. .
IS: How did your Trinidadian background influence your sound?
KI: Well, in Trinidad, when it’s carnival time, it’s calypso and soca; but in between it’s reggae and dancehall, so I just naturally got to hear that music. It was definitely a part of me, so there were no ifs, buts or maybes about it. I either would have been a soca artist or a reggae artist.
IS: Growing up in Trinidad, what artists influenced you?
KI: I listened to Blueboy, Lord Kitchener Mighty Sparrow. Mostly Calypso. Of course, I listened to Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
IS: In your opinion, what are the similarities between reggae and Calypso:
KI: Where they came from. Reggae and Calypso derived from one people, from Africa. The (slave ships) dropped us off in may places in the West Indies. Jamaicans, Haitians, Trinidadians–we are one people with different names. Before these names, what were we called?
IS: Tell us about the new riddim that you have out and the artists you have on it.
KI: It’s called the Bricks riddim. We have Khari Kill on it; Khari Kill is a well known Trinidadian reggae artist. His song is called “Too Loud.” And there’s Monika, my wife; this is her first single. She is definitely getting some good vibes from it. Her song is called “Top Shelf.” She’s not Trinidadian, she’s American, but she likes the music. My song is called “Not Perfect.” My song is about relationships and knowing the reality of relationships. In reality, we are not perfect and we make mistakes. That song is just a reminder to tell people in relationships not to forget that we are all learning and we are all growing; we may make some mistakes, we are all human. Khari Kill’s song is a ganja song. He is singing about the natural herb, and his song touches on relationships, too. A girl met him and she smelled the herb on him and she said it’s too loud.
IS: How would you describe the Bricks riddim?
KI: It’s definitely dancehall. I put both old and new dancehall vibes together; a slightly older sound combined with a modern sound of dancehall and I bring a positivity to the dancehall riddim. Those are the things that we need, also, because when you say dancehall, some people think of slack music; not overstanding that dancehall can be positive, conscious, reality based music. I also produced this riddim, too; this is the first riddim I ever put out. I’ve been studying producing for a few years now, and this is the fruit. I do many things in the arts; not just singing and producing. I also do airbrush work. I put faces on T-shirts and jackets, very realistic art. I also do graphic design and animation; all for the music.
IS: As an independent producer, what do you think of the current state of reggae and dancehall music?
KI: It is changing; like anything on this earth. The music is changing. It’s moving. A simple computer in your house can be a very powerful tool. People can express themselves much more and they don’t need a big studio to go to. People can make miracles right in their rooms now. I really appreciate this. That’s where you see a lot of the music in Jamaica changing, because people may not have the money to hire a band to go into the studio, so they create it in their room, and it comes out very good. Why? Because they are learning the craft. It’s not easy to do. All of these major producers who used to master for Michael Jackson and Prince are going in the box, meaning they are going on their computer and mixing and mastering and adjusting everything. A lot of them have crossed over because it’s more manageable. We are seeing more producers and more singers coming out now and we are seeing a difference in the production of the music. People say that anyone can sit down and build a riddim. It’s true but it’s not true. You have to study and know what you are doing when it comes to the craft of building music. The state of the music is in a good place. Some people do get sensitive because it’s changing so fast. It’s good to know and to overstand the history of music and see that it has changed drastically over the years. We have the power now as entertainers. We don’t have to wait on a producer. We have the power within our hands; we just have to know that and believe in ourselves and do what we have to do.
The Bricks Riddim is under King I Music label 77 Star Rise and is distributed by Tuff Gong International.