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Spragga Benz: 'Dancehall is my playground'

DIFFERENT OUTLOOK: With a career now in its third decade, Spragga Benz shows no signs of slowing down, and his latest project is recording an album entirely in the UK with collaborations from Hype & Fever and General Levy

OVER the last few months I have been getting random call from a family member of a dancehall artist that I have always had a lot of respect for since start of his career in the mid-90s.

The call always consisted of a similar message – “Spragga Deh Ya!” This happened several times. It got to the point where I had to ask, “Doin’ what?”

Then I got the call from the man himself. You may ask, “Why didn’t you just call him?” But Spragga Benz is not the kind of artist that you bother in that manner.

He has always been a man of very few words, to the point it throws me off when he does open up. His quiet character does not match the onslaught of lyrics that you hear from him in his recordings. He was always the “lyrical artist” out of the 90s and has continued that into this era.

When we did finally speak, a few months ago, he told me about a project that he has been involved in that brought him to the UK.

“Seani, I’m doing a complete album here in the UK,” he told me.

“What?!” I thought. How did I not here about this on the grapevine?

I’ve been playing the first release from the project – Spread Out – on my radio show. He teams up with Hype & Fever, two brothers of Jamaican and Indian heritage whose bass-heavy, genre-smashing approach has seen them appear everywhere from Glastonbury to Serbia’s Exit festival, and it sounds like classic Spragga Benz to me.

“That’s what it’s supposed to be,” he exclaims confidently.

“The album is called Chiliagon, which means an object with a thousand sides, so you will get many different angles, but all of it will be classic Spragga”, he continues. “Different genres, but still my own delivery and my own approach.”

He has always done things his own way. His career has spanned over 20 years, including signing for a major label, and developing Red Square music, which has been a home and development hub for his team. It hasn’t just been music that has bought him acclaim. His legendary role alongside Ky-Mani Marley in Shottas saw him take centre stage on film, and opened him up to a whole new audience. The new album also commemorates 70 years of Windrush, and I was keen to know what Spragga knew about the whole situation.

“Well I don’t know about it from the English side, but I know my mother had a chance to come to England and she couldn’t be bothered with all that. I also know my grandfather went to fight in the Second World War and lost both of his legs in battle, and nobody tried to help him – not the army, not any English people. He just lay down in bed until he passed. So I know about Windrush from the Jamaican side. “

Reading history I know this needs to be represented because of the contribution that the Caribbean people had on English culture and life.

“The latest problems that the children of Windrush have been having shows that it is all corrupt.

“From when they realise they don’t need us, we serve no purpose.

“The UK has always been important to me – we always tour over there for years, even on our own money without a promoter and we make sure we come over and represent. “I know we need to maintain that presence.”

His knowledge of the UK music scene is even more impressive: “I’ve known of Rodney P [executive producer of the album] for many years, and remember when he used to do shows at The Temple Club.” (Strong local references there, Spragga!)

“When we decided we wanted to do this project I had to ensure that I got General Levy on it, because I have listened to him for a long time and that was good to have got that together.”

So as an elder, how does he feel about the genre in 2018? Many things have been said by people about the quality of the music, but Spragga is resolute in his thoughts.

“Dancehall is my playground and there will always be new things introduced to it because it is a forerunner of new things.

“When I was coming up many of the elders said what we were making was trash and music in their day was better – now I can’t be one of them who says the same thing about the new generation. Technology has changes, and that means the music will change, too, just as before. The band keeps playing and dancehall keeps rolling with it.”

We fully endorse that outlook.

Catch Spragga Benz at the launch of his new album on August 8 at Camden Assembly, London. For tickets go to camdenassembly.com

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