This was a big week for Maxi Priest and NYC. He kicked of the opening of the new Coney Island Amphitheatre with fellow artists, Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse & Ed Robinson. He was then headed a few days later to headline a show at BB King’s in Time Square. We caught up with him between sets as he was watching the Euro Cup and talked about his latest album, performing in NYC and the positivity he brings through reggae music.
RN: Reggae In NYC
MP: Maxi Priest
RN: Last year you were able to be a part of the Jamrock Reggae Cruise. This is a new venue for reggae music, very different from your average show. What was that like?
MP: Oh, it was a fabulous experience. It was just excitement from day one when we boarded the boat to when we left. It was just sheer enjoyment and excitement, the performances, the artists, everyone that was on board. It was a wonderful experience.
RN: One of the great things about that venue is that it creates a special interaction between the artists and their fans.
MP: Yeah, because there is nowhere else to go. You can’t go nowhere, so everybody is around. As you said, it really gives the audience an opportunity to hang out close with the artists. It is a cool thing from an artist’s point of view as well. It gives us an opportunity to meet some of the people that have truly supported the business, especially the music. At the same time it is always nice to keep a little mystique going.
RN: A major venue just opened for NYC the Coney Island Amphitheatre and they choose reggae to kick it off, how was it participating in that show?
MP: Excellent, fabulous show, Steel Pulse, Ziggy Marley and Ed Robinson. It was such a wonderful day and the audience was just fabulous. They were so fabulous. It was great, a great day.
RN: It’s big for reggae music too that they choose that as their debut show and are hosting a lot of reggae over the coming year.
MP: For me this ain’t no new thing. It's a good thing in one way and I just hope that we have a continuation of being a part of these venues that we kick off. Because a lot of these venues kick off with us and we don't always end up being there afterwards for whatever reason. So it is a great thing in one way and I hope that it continues and we continue to be a part of it.
“Over they years I have seen us be a part of things that people just tend to use it and then move onto something else."
RN: Be a part of their mainstream music choices?
MP: Listen, I love all music and I have such an appreciation for all music, because I know what it takes to create music. I know what it takes to be an artist and what it takes to be in the music scene, especially today. You know I have an appreciation for all different genres of music. Over they years I have seen us be a part of things that people just tend to use it and then move onto something else. We find ourselves going “hey, remember we were kinda here before?”
RN: Let’s talk about the music, VP Records just released a tribute album entitled, We Remember Dennis Brown, with the song, ‘Love Me Always’ that you covered for it. How was that?
MP: For me personally it was a joy and an honor to be able to participate in anything pertaining to Dennis Brown. He has been my idol for a very long time and somebody that I have so much admiration and appreciation for. When they came and asked me to be a part of it or sing one of his songs, it was a no-brainer for me.
RN: Hopefully it can introduce the younger generation of reggae listeners to Dennis Brown as one of the forefathers of reggae music.
MP: Yeah, definitely. It’s up to establishments like VP, our folks and the people that support the music, to play a part in keeping that great mans whole vibe alive.
RN: Easy To Love dropped in July 2014 in the U.S. When you have described this album you said, “This album is about time, and a moment.” What did you mean by that?
MP: I think at the time I was saying that because it was that time and that moment when we started it. I think as time goes by every album becomes a time and a moment that you either experienced at the time or you experience after the time, what that time and that moment was. It was an enjoyable experience. It was actually the first time that we officially worked to create an album, myself and VP (Records). With the participation of all the other producers that played a part in creating the album, it was a joy. It was an honor.
RN: Easy To Love dropped just about two years ago, is there any new music in the works that we can look forward to?
MP: Yes sir. We are always creating new music, always building new things. But you know, the album has only been out a year or so, so there is still space for it. Let it breath a little bit and we will have something out towards the end of this year or the early part of next year. For me it’s more quality than quantity. Trying to keep a foot hold on that. The internet seems to dictate a lot of things coming and going fast.
RN: It’s changed the pace of how we expect music to be created.
MP: Yeah, it’s fast, you know. You can put something out today and its gone tomorrow. I am trying to just kinda keep somethings going for a little while longer.
RN: Tell me about the track ‘None a Jah Jah Children No Cry.’ You have this album of Lovers Rock and then a final track that is heavy with Rastafari. How did you choose that to end the album?
MP: I think you just said it. It’s my culture. It’s my life. It’s my vibe and you can’t leave it out. It has to be. It’s always a part of me and wherever possible we utter that sound, you know?
RN: You have been labeled as reggae fusion because you have done chart toping reggae and worked with people outside the reggae establishment. One of the things we are trying to do at Reggae In NYC is to bring together the various genres within reggae music. Do you have any advice for those up and coming bands that want to expand and bring reggae mainstream?
MP: I’m with you on that. I’m with bringing things together and that’s why they may say that I have this fusion. I have an appreciation for all genres of music. I was brought up with gospel music. I was brought up with R&B music. Brought up with country western music and brought up with reggae music. I’ve been blessed to have a talent of being able to sing and express myself through music. With the respect I have for all these different genres of music, I don’t see why we can’t use these genres of music, learn from them, take pieces from them and create something that is fresh or new or try to venture into something new.
All of it comes under the umbrella of music. You know what I am saying? People enjoy music in so many different ways. As you said, lovers rock, people have cultural, some people have political, some people just want it as background. Music is all under this one umbrella and people have to appreciate it and enjoy it.
RN: I know you started off your career working with Tippertone HiFi & Saxon Studio International sound systems?
MP: What they call dancehall. Grew up with all of that, but at the end of the day it is very difficult to do music when you are broke. I started out as a carpenter before I did music professionally and I soon very much realized that some one has got to pay the rent. You also have to understand that there is a broad range of people out there that appreciate music as I said, in different forms and you have to be able create something that can pay bills as well. I do music because I love it and I do music to also allow other people to do what they enjoy.
RN: The sound system culture has expanded so much over the past 20 years. Do you follow any of the new sound systems today?
MP: I do dubplates, regular. Because it's a part of my culture. I try to indulge and participate in all parts of my culture and my music. And life. How I am, how I move how I do my music is also how I live my life, I love the world.
"I do dubplates, regular."
RN: I think we can hear that expressed through your music.
MP: Yeah, I love all cultures, all color, class and race of people and I understand that some people bounce on the one, some people bounce on the two, some bounce on the three and the four.
RN: That could be the best description of diversity I have heard.
MP: I have the capability of singing and I don't see why I should restrict my art in one box. That is why I am not really keen on this pigeon hole of being labeled by anything. Reggae, R&B, Pop, whatever. I just want to be known as an artist. I think way before they developed all these charts and all these king of things, you were known as an artist.
RN: It starts to box people in.
MP: Yeah, I think it brings such a limitation to everything. To the progression of the artist, to progression of where I am from culturally, everything, Why not spread your wings and fly.
RN: All those other genres have been influenced by and have influenced reggae.
MP: Exactly. We stand here and we talk about reggae and a lot of pop music today is massive with reggae influence. A lot of where it’s coming from is not being credited. They are talking about “Caribbean beats” with the songs by Rihanna and Sean Paul. People are trying to label it “Caribbean music”. It’s dancehall music. That’s where it came from. I don’t see why these guys shouldn't be credited. A lot of that Major Lazer stuff, it all came out of the Caribbean.
RN: If you look at early Rihanna there is a heavy reggae influence.
MP: But even today. ‘Work, Work, Work’, that is straight up dancehall. It’s just fact, money, fact and promotional and marketing, I know that. When you work with major record companies and stuff like that you are able to spread your wings and people who are not so familiar with stuff become a part of it.
RN: Hopefully it's a path. Someone will start with that Rihanna song and start digging and end up at a Dennis Brown song.
MP: Exactly and that's the way that I think it should be appreciated.
RN: You have big show coming up at BB Kings, what do you want your NYC fans to know?
MP: Ain’t nothing but love baby! Maxi Priest ain’t got nothing but love.
RN: What reggae is playing in your ipod?
MP: Chronixx. A lot of stuff. Konshens. So much stuff and I flip some R. Kelly in there, some Beyonce, some Rihanna. It’s everything, it’s everything you know. I put some gospel in there and it really bothers my why people would think that I would not be listening to everything. I’m a musician. I find it would be very disrespectful for me to not have an appreciation of other genres of music and very limiting too. Because I got kids too, I want them to grow and not be in a box, “hey here is my label and that's all I do and that's all I have”, nah.
RN: I find that when I ask that question, there is always a spectrum. Hopefully it will encourage our fans to explore.
MP: It’s a beautiful world out there. Really there are some beautiful people out there and we want to make this a beautiful world. Not be going for the same racial bullshit with music.
RN: There is more that unites us than divides us.
MP: Yeah, you know.