NEW DIRECTION: Mr Vegas has found peace with himself as well as his music
IF YOU ARE like me, you will also be shaking you head in disbelief that we are already in April and Easter is just around the corner. Wasn’t it Christmas just a few moments ago?
In my next two columns, I am going to bring you the thoughts and words of two artists that have made an incredible impression on the music that we love.
You can call them icons, stalwarts, legends – all of those apply, but another title which now applies to them is that they are converts to Christ. They are artists who have chosen to give their life to the Lord and project his ways to all in their path. And the first of these artists is Mr Vegas.
Clifford Smith has been actively working as Mr Vegas for nearly 20 years. His initial success came in 1998, and his hits – including Heads High and Jack It Up – were undeniable. A constant stream of activity across the charts, both reggae and international, made him a major dancehall personality.
Last year, he announced that his life had taken a new turn with significant meaning by becoming an active Christian. I was keen to find out why he made this decision so late into his career.
“It’s not me moving to Christ – you have to get the calling. I felt the need to fulfil what my purpose on earth is for. I want to be a better per- son and bring positivity to the world which is so negative at times.”
He speaks with a tone of conviction – one that almost tells you he finally feels he has made a significant personal move in his life.
“Over the past few years, anyone who has followed Mr Vegas will have seen that I speak about the things that affect how we live – whether it be rapists, politicians or liars – but when you do that, you have to have the covering of the almighty, because some people are evil and don’t wish you well.”
He has never been afraid to voice his opinion, and I wondered why he felt that this latest change had surprised so many people.
“It shocks them because there are things that take away the attention that people should be giving to God – social media and such things make people focus on negativity and they then go viral.” So what was the catalyst for his own personal change?
“No man can decide when to turn their life to God – he has to draw us on to Him. We don’t have the power to decide when we get drawn. “Everything you see happening is to fulfil the purpose that we were put here for.”
The power of faith is huge in Jamaica, just like most Caribbean and African countries. However, the content in the world of dancehall isn’t always the purest, so reaching a comfortable level be- tween Gospel and raw dancehall must be tricky.
GROWTH: Mr. Vegas
Vegas explained the processes he went through to strike the right balance. “I‘m very close to brother Stitchie, and he told me of the struggles he faced when he left dancehall to move to gospel music. I feel that having been born in Jamaica, reggae is an important part of who I am, so why should I shun that because I am a Christian?
“The true definition of Christianity is ‘followers of Christ’, and I am one of them. Who is anyone to judge me, and likewise who am I to judge anyone? I am just trying to find a way to feed my family using the God-given talent that I have.
“Sometime you try to be a ‘good Christian’, and we get caught up in religion. You hear it said that Christians are going to heaven and everyone else is going to hell. I can’t agree with that, so I just practice to be a good follower of Christ and His teachings – it’s all about love.”
And it’s not just in his personal life that he’s finding positivity – his latest album, Soul Therapy, has received rave reviews from listeners. “People are appreciating the divine intervention on the album. They seem to like the vocal delivery on it. A lot of the tracks make you reflect on things you are going through and puts you in a state of reverence. I have always wanted to do a gospel album. The album is about being sincere.
“When you listen to some classic Bob Marley or Dennis Brown songs, they are gospel songs at heart. “Listen to Here I Come from Dennis Brown – that is a gospel song! It’s just that people start re-categorising music, and the reality shifts.
“Listen to One Love by Bob Marley – listen to the lyrics – that is a gospel track.” I can feel how real this is to him – the passion that resonates from his voice is stirring. “People are afraid to say they walk with God, and much of the blame for that is because of us Christians ourselves. We have caused that.”
It can be said that some of the dancehall music out at the moment has some dark subject matters, but that shade doesn’t seem to affect Vegas. “I can’t fall out of love with dancehall because it has a habit of purging itself over time. “I’m not saddened by the content, because everything has its place.
“This type of thing has always taken place – when Shabba Ranks became popular, the people who was there before them said he was rubbish! The music around right now may not be for me, but the youths like it and it is made by God – he knows why he is doing it. This is all ordained, it is not for me to point any fingers at anyone.”
It is fascinating to see someone that I have known for years, has seemed to find a sense of inner peace. Vegas is still as opinionated as he has always been – but his motive, movements and articulation of his thoughts now seem to come from a more considered space – and his music is reflecting that.
You can see Mr Vegas this summer at the SSE Arena, Wembley alongside Grammy-winning dancehall legend Shabba Ranks, Barrington Levy and Maxi Priest. Tickets are available now at ticketmaster.co.uk. Watch out for more on this historical show in The Voice over the coming weeks.