Vol. 5,  Issue 1

Photo by Saikho



by Scottie McDonald

Jamaican dancehall artist Mr. Vegas has become a world-wide phenomenon in an amazingly short time.  He had so many hit singles in a row that when it came time to release his first album, it looked more like a greatest hits collection than a debut effort.  His mega-hit, "Heads High," topped the British reggae charts for months, and now again the re-mix of the same song has been number one for weeks.

The 20-song album release on the Greensleeves label entitled "Heads High" is now sweeping the album market, while yet another song from the album, "Jacket," has been recently released as a single and is residing at the top of the British and Jamaican charts.

In a great stroke of luck the Houston club, Jamaica Jamaica, was able to bring the performer here for a packed show on December 6th.  Vegas tore down the house just as he had done earlier this year at the prestigious international concert, Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica.  We were fortunate to be able to speak with the artist briefly before the show.

How did you come by the name "Mr. Vegas".

Mr. Vegas came about from a mischievous cousin of mine. We were playing soccer one day, and they had this club they call `Las Vegas' where they had these go-go dancers. My cousin was saying that I was playing like how the girls at the club dance... like he was trying to say, I play like a girl. (Laughs.) So that name just kinda stick home from there, because you know in Jamaica when you're trying to hit out against a name, that's when it sticks.

Tell us about your vocal style.  You're doing sing-jay, but with a voice like yours, you could doing some excellent straight-ahead singing!

Actually, at first, before this sing-jay style came about, it was like the real sweet style of singing. I used to sing covers and stuff like that; a song over "Killing Me Softly" in combination with a deejay out of Jamaica, Don Yute. Then I went back in the studio and did another cover of Az Yet's "Last Night".  So it was like real singing at first. But after receiving a broken jaw bone in 1996, it kind of changed the style, because when the mouth was wired, I couldn't really sing as I would have wanted because the mouth couldn't open the way it should. So while the wire was inside my mouth, I was still writing stuff, but I couldn't sing it the way I would have before. So I had to stick to a more hardcore sing-jay style. The first tune was "Nike Air (Hands in the Air)" and that's where you get that kind of like singing through the teeth. (Sings and laughs.) And after the wire was taken out and the mouth got better, I just stick with it because, you know... if it works, don't fix it!

What do you think about your new-found fame and how do you think it will affect you in the future?

Well, in this business of Reggae music - Dancehall as you call it - the important thing is to stay focused. You've got to be going around the studios and voicing on difference tracks and stuff like that. But the main thing is to respect your fans and the people who are pushing the music and stuff like that. You have to just keep on working... keep on finding new styles. You know, catchy lyrics, stuff that people can really relate to... stuff that people can sing along with.  So, you know, we just want to stick around and just `big up' the ladies as we always do and stuff like that.

Give us some background on your phenomenal new CD.

As you know, Mr. Vegas just came on the scene maybe about eight months now and it has been a lot of work. We had some songs that were released before that we could include on the album, and some new songs that we went into the studio and did. But the main thing is that it was just a mixture of producers. A lot of producers came together and put this album out so that each song could really have a different sound, so you don't really have 20 songs sounding the same, like you're playing one song.  It's just a different mixture of producers;  different writing styles.  Everything is different about it.

[Scottie McDonald's "Rice Radio Reggae" can be heard 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays on K-TRU 96.1 FM and can be streamed on-line at www.ktru.org and with free phone apps.]

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