Head of Prodigal Entertainment, Dylan Powe is a stalwart of the Jamaican music scene – from working on legendary Kingston street party, Passa Passa, to managing one of the island’s brightest talents, Natalie Storm. Last year he produced and released the innovative Showa Eski, the first in a trilogy of riddims designed to (re-)unite West Kingston with London – featuring 6 vocals from Jamaica and the UK – namely Wiley, Lady Chann and Ward 21. A year later, the second installment, Global Gangsta, is just about ready to go and is undoubtedly set to build on the solid foundation of Showa Eski, tying together the threads of Jamaican influence worldwide.
Over G-chat, I asked Dylan a few questions about the thinking behind the trilogy and his vision for Prodigal:
Mixpak: So how are things looking for Global Gangsta – do you have a date for release yet?
Prodigal: The track is finished and ready to go, we’re just waiting for the video to be edited.
Right – and by the looks of the promo video you got everyone into your studio in Jamaica to record?
All except for Joel Ortiz, he did his voicing in the States.
Why did you choose him as the US representative?
Well I am partial to Brooklyn spitters. And for this particular track I wanted people who could just really spit. Not necessarily those with the best hooks, cause I knew I was going to bring in someone for the hook [Wayne Marshall]. But i wanted people who represented these 3 streams of the same river to the fullest. To me Wiley is the best UK spitter ever. Stein is definitely top 3 in Jamaica as far as being able to come up with off the top of his head shit and spit in studio in 10-15 minutes. Joel is a rapper’s rapper. He’s not really selling millions but everyone knows Ortiz spit game is top as far as the newer group of rappers outta the US.
So the idea was more a kind of lineage and overall musical project rather than a business decision?
Yeah. And that’s why its taken forever. I wanted to do it proper. It’s all part of this Showa trilogy of which Showa Eski was the first installment. It’s basically showing all the different strains of urban music that have all evolved from our area in Jamaica: West Kingston. For instance, hip hop=Kool Herc=West Kingston. Wiley=grime=jamaican dancehall=West Kingston. Stein and Marshall obviously are from there. And the track is dubsteppy which is West Kingston too.
So do you feel like West Kingston’s influence is something that’s ignored as far as music history goes?
Well… just that there are a lot of parts of the story which people aren’t aware of, so if this makes them more aware, that’s cool.
Definitely. Why did you choose the name ‘Global Gangsta’?
Hmmm, I just felt like it. Sonically it makes sense. And it also is about how how a Jamaican music form from a ghetto was able to go global and infiltrate all areas of the world.
The riddim has got some very dark overtones to it, as did the first…
Deliberately. It was a dark time; a lot of people were killed by the state, from a community that means a lot to me and a community that gave Jamaica its biggest export: reggae music. So none of [the riddims] are really happy happy. The last one is not so dark, that will drop in April, the Showa Cabin.
Have you decided what artists you’ll be working with for the Showa Cabin?
Not yet. Only Natalie Storm so far. I have two other artists in mind but we’ll see…
How did the Showa Eski go down in Jamaica…cos in the UK i’ve heard it mash up some grime and dancehall raves…
I prolly heard it once on radio, and once in an upscale club, an uptown ting. It had no real impact here. It wasn’t really made for Jamaica or with a Jamaican audience in mind. But it did well in the UK, got good love in Canada and some pockets in the US. Tempo wise and sonically, the Showa Eski and Showa Step are not in the vein of current Jamaican music. And that’s deliberate.
It’s deliberate in terms of production but in terms of your audience, why do you not mind skipping out Jamaica?
I want to show how our music is exportable and how it can blend with outside acts, markets and sounds. I don’t mind skipping jamaica because “success” here is not really a mark of real success to me. Jamaican music has become insular and inaccessible to the fans who loved it before. It’s cool, and it is great to hear your music killing dances, but when you know the process that makes that happen…like it’s not really hard to spend $20 US on a selector at a dance and have him play a track for 20 minutes so people can feel like you have a “big” tune. So it tempers your approach…I tend to look at the big picture. And music is just one angle of that.
So do you see collaboration as a fundamental stage in that?
Always, on some level at least: musicians, art work, video editors, writers, cinematographers. With how the world is now, one is foolish not to work with the best people you can, who understand your vision. I model Chris Blackwell. I think to myself, what would Blackwell do? Most times I can’t afford to do it, but I want to try and have his vision for Jamaican culture and music.
What, then, is your vision for prodigal?
A global Jamaican brand, along the lines of a 21st century Island Records. A whole aesthetic that starts with music, but ends up anywhere.
In terms of production then are you working alone?
Yes and no. There’s lots of collaboration there too – I will get someone to do drums, and then someone else does keys, and I may then get a UK person to mix, and a German friend to master. I just try to put the stuff in place to get a sound or feel that I like, sometimes it’s all me or all Jamaican, other times it’s not.
Seeing as you seem to be focussing a lot on what’s going on outside Jamaica, is there any music out there in JA that you like at the moment?
I like some Proteje stuff, I like Ward 21 stuff generally. I’m listening to a bit of that west coast Cali reggae band stuff, some of that is good. But I dont really love love most of the stuff that I heard this summer.
Do you think now with mavado in the US and things taking off a bit for Island pop more generally across the globe, that maybe JA/UK/US links will strengthen in the coming years?
Maybe. The world is a lot smaller. Wherever the hits are, people will find them.
Did it work out well for you working with people from across the globe?
Not anymore difficult than working with Jamaicans right here. It was actually easier for the most part. I’m down to work with anyone, so long as it works out and moves our objectives forward.
Showa Step will be out soon, followed by Showa Cabin in 2012. Dylan is also on the look out for a Jamaican-music loving intern who would like to get on board with Prodigal Entertainment. Contact him for further info: firstname.lastname@example.org