2016 has seen many milestones in musical releases and among these are those from the Yard Hop movement based in Jamaica. While it’s still considered to be underground, I am very encouraged by the persistence of Peter ‘Five Steez’ Wright, and that is the inspiration behind this feature on the Yard Hop Pioneer and the movement in Jamaica.
Steez has been very busy this year. In earlier 2016, he released a few singles (namely Signed and Sealed, My Life, My Craft and The Story), then a collaborative joint with The Council entitled Council of Arts featuring The Sickest Drama, Nomad Carlos and Inztinkz. This is in addition to Momentum Volume 3 the highly anticipated final series mixtape, of a trilogy with DJ Ready Cee then this summer the HeatRockz EP with Mordecai.
My introduction to Steez was his first album War for Peace released in August 2012. My respect for his work ethic has grown since meeting him 4 years ago and I'm continuously impressed with his consistent delivery of quality content and lyrical prowess as an MC.
The interview below captures his perspectives on hip hop, the yard hop scene and his 2016 projects as well as what’s in store for the rest year.
Check it out!
Question 1: On your recent Momentum Volume 3 mixtape, you stated that they no longer make mixtapes like this again. Tell me more about what that means.
“I said they no longer make mixtapes like this again and I say that because the mixtape originally started out as something that a deejay or a sound system would do, and it would literally be on a tape. Whether they did it live at a dance, any event, or they were just on the verandah playing music. It probably started with a deejay using turntables and recording it to a tape. But over the years we see where a mixtape becomes something where, it’s almost like an album at times, you have artistes doing mixtapes. There was a time when you’d never have an artiste doing a mixtape, and it would never really have original music; and if it did, that was original music that was being leaked. It was exclusive, it was ahead of the time, ahead of the release, of the album or the single itself. So what I wanted to do with Momentum when I initially started the series, is do something that really felt like a classic hip hop mixtape, and I felt the right way to do that would be with a deejay, because hip hop started with the deejay. Before any rapper got any focus it was about the deejays, when you had the early jams, people went there to see the deejay or the sound system, so Kool Herc for example, people would want to hear his sound system and any rapper that got to touch the mic they were privileged to do so, you know,
'so I wanted to do something that included a deejay, it had mixing, scratching and it just felt like the early mixtapes of the 80’s, the 90’s because that’s the essence you know'.
And it’s not take to take away from anything that anyone else is doing, a lot of people are putting out mixtapes some of my friends as well; and some of these mixtapes, they fit the standard modern format which is that there is no deejay, there is no mixing, it’s just say 15 tracks all of them separated, you know. So that’s what they call a mixtape nowadays, but I’m a man that I believe in certain traditions and I like to keep the essence of certain things, so I wanted to make a mixtape that felt like what I know mixtape really means and there’re not many like that anymore. They’re really few and far between. It’s hard to find a mixtape with a deejay anymore or a mixtape that has mixing and certain type of deejay skills on it. They’re still there for show, there are some, but when you think about the amount of “mixtapes” being released and you think about how many of them have those features, it’s really the minority”
Question 2: Other than yourself, who else should people be checking out as part of the yard hop movement.
“As for the local movement, first off I’d tell people look out for the Council album that is myself, TSD – The Sickest Drama, Nomad Carlos and Inztinkz, and we’ve been working on the album for about a year now, and it will be great, that’s one thing I can say for sure. Anybody that likes my music or the music you’ve heard from the rest of us, the Council album will be high level art for sure, a lot of concepts and ideas that we’ve never done before and we’ve never really heard before in music or even coming out locally, a lot of content, a lot of commentary about socio-political realities in Jamaica, the content is very much about life in yaad and really breaking it down in a way people never hear it before. So that’s something that people can look forward to
Aside from us, there’re people like NRG, you know New Reggae Generation, that’s Iyah Gift, Makonnen, and Rseenal. Makonnen recently put out his album Rockers Revolution some weeks ago people can check that out. I’m not sure exactly what they are working on as unit, I know they have a lot a music but they are definitely ones that people can look forward to. I see Illicit King putting out some new stuff recently; I’ve heard some of that and that’s interesting. And there’s whole heap a people out here doing stuff. Gully Cash he has a new single called Lose my Mind and he has an album called NGNG that should be coming out, not even sure what NGNG stands for yet. I understand it will be explained when the album is out. So people can look out for him.
Part B: What formula works to help keep the movement motivated?
I wouldn’t say there is any formula and I think what keeps the movement motivated is the fact that everyone has their own individual motivation’s but there is a collective experience that we all share; and that is that yow, we’re a part of an underground movement, we’re a part of something that a lot of people locally still don’t know exists or they don’t have a favourable impression of Jamaican Hip Hop. Sometimes because they heard the wrong person or the wrong thing or people generally just don’t believe in it so we have a lot against us. Its harder to get support from people, and that makes it the underdog… and I think that also makes you even more determined if you believe in yourself to make something happen. So I think just the reality of being a rapper in yaad is likely to motivate people if you really believe in the craft and yourself. You’re going to be motivated to prove people wrong and to do something spectacular.”
Question 3: Since War for Peace and These Kingston times, are you focused more on getting works out than trying to break the mainstream glass?
“Most definitely, because yow, I love music I love hip hop and I do this first and foremost for myself.
Secondly for the people who are in my audience and are like-minded, and that’s how it has always been ever since I started out rapping over ten years ago as a teenager, you know it was something I did for myself. It’s really a personal thing, it’s something that I have to do, [and] it’s a part of me you know. I’ve found that with my art, I don’t want to compromise, or do things that I’m not comfortable doing. And sometimes to break that “main stream glass” you end up having to do that.
'And I’ve just found that you know what I’m satisfied being happy with my music the way it is and getting it to the people who I know really care about it. So that’s really my focus. Just making dope art, getting it to the people who appreciate what I do and trying to reach more people who are like minded” You know that’s really the aim more than trying to go ‘main stream’.
I am trying to connect with more people who like this type of music and you know I mean this is real hip hop. So there is a local audience for that yes, but the majority of the people are overseas scattered all over the world. So, that’s why my aim is always getting the music to certain DJs, certain websites and blogs that those people are interested in that type of music and their audiences are also interested in that type of music. So that’s the perfect way for me to reach people that care about this type of hip hop.”
Question 4: How is the health of yard hop on the international scene since you and other members of the council have been pushing the movement?
I would say we’re growing, we’re developing and its bigger than me and the Council because if you want to talk internationally you have people like Zuse and he is signed to T.I; and I am not sure if he’s still on tour but last he was touring with Tech N9ne and Tech N9ne is the most successful independent artist period, you know. So Zuse is doing some big stuff for himself you know. He as far as I know, he wasn’t that active on the local scene but he is from Jamaica we have a number of mutual friends. He’s still in touch with them and he‘s doing his thing almost on a main steam level cause I mean he’s signed to T.I and he’s touring with Tech 9 and Tech 9 is huge you know, so that’s a good look for him.
You have people like Mike Beats based in California right now he has an album called Califoreigner. That’s just two examples of local guys who are actually based internationally and pushing the music. As for the rest of us who are based here in Jamaica, I find the internet is the best way to get in touch with an international audience; and for us the Council we target our music to the people that want the boom bap hip hop, the underground hip hop, the conscious stuff you know, and we’re taking our time we haven’t really put out too much music as you see, because we have been actually just focusing on just making the music and planning you know, but I would say yow, first coast hip hop among the people that treasure true ethics and principles of Hip Hop, those that have come in contact with what we do, they LOVE IT, they think it’s amazing, it’s incredible. They’re very surprised that this exists out here, they never thought that if it existed out here it would be so dope, so I think that’s a good thing.
There is a lot of potential, good prospects; we can just keep pushing and get this to where we want it to reach, which is really being able to etch our names in history and be able to say yow Jamaica made this contribution to hip hop; not the contribution through Kool Herc and all the people who migrated but we want the island and the people who are here to be able to make a contribution for our scene to have something you know, so I would say there is a lot more work to be done but we’re not daunted not at all.”
Question 5: Can we expect more collaborative works in the future? Tell us about HeatRockz coming in August and any other works we should pay attention to?
“Yes, there will be more collaborative works in the future for sure, for myself I have another EP with Mordecai, that one is called tentatively Love and Art and that is going to be very personal in fact it will be my most personal project ever, and it’s almost done you know, it’s just that when me and him started linking, and I started hearing his beats I found two distinct different vibes I found some beats that just had me nodding and I just wanted to spit and those are the ones that ended up making HeatRockz and then there were some other beats that really spoke to me differently and I took my time and I created some songs that were far more meaningful, stuff that kind of continues some of the themes that you hear on War For Peace. I think These Kingston Times was a lot of social commentary and you get that on War for Peace as well but this, there’s almost none of that on Love and Art. It’s just very personal you know, there’s the Council Album as well that’s the next collaborative project and that’s coming all being well before end of year.
As for HeatRockz as I said , that is just bangers, really joints that you can play in the car you can just work out to, you can just play it and get people moving and have your head nodding and you can just enjoy the music. I enjoyed making it you know, really just me having fun flexing my skill, and its five tracks and as you see I been releasing each of them as a single. I didn’t want to just drop an EP and people pay attention to the one single and don’t listen to the rest of the songs. I thought it would be cool to roll out an EP in such a way that everything is a single and by the time it’s done you realize oh ye you have the entire EP, so its five tracks we put out, four so far and the fifth one will be released next Tuesday (August 30th); and when it is released the entire EP will be available for free download. So yea I mean, Heatrockz is really the warm up to get you ready for Love and Art which as I say that’ll be much heavier and it will be even a longer project. Love and Art is likely to be about 8 – 9 tracks and likely I’ll be selling it. Physical copies and all of that all being well.
So HeatRockz is really the warm up and I don’t believe in coincidences, I guess it was meant to be, everything worked out in terms of the timing, cause I didn’t really set a time for it but as I was working on it and planning how I’d release it I realized ok it would end up coming out in summer and as I was searching for a name I guess HeatRockz made sense, because I’m dropping it in the summer, probably the hottest summer ever right, and then the joints are just bangers.
I remember me and Mordecai we couldn’t figure out what we wanted to name the project, in fact we came up with probably a dozen names, and sometimes I would throw out something and he would just be like ‘nah dat don’t work’ or he would just message me some random time in the morning, just come up with a name and I’d just be like ‘naw, nah feel dat’, you zimmie and I can’t remember how we came up with HeatRockz, but we were just like ‘Yea! HeatRockz’, it just describes what the songs are and it gives you an idea of the vibes, it doesn’t tell you much except that yow, these joints are hot you know; and that’s the whole idea. I could have probably combined HeatRockz and Love and Art and made a full length album but I didn’t want to do that. I really wanted to kinda give you these singles as a warm up and to just really hold people’s attention, let them know ‘yo I’m here’ and then give you Love and Art, which I think zoning in on those 8 or 9 songs and just making it an EP can make it even be more powerful than if I tried to do a full length album with some other songs rounding it out you know.
As I said HeatRockz, yea that’s the warm up, and Love and Art that actually I think is my best work ever, Love and Art for sure, to me is not even a question, like everything on Love and Art, so far I think is me at my best really.”
Give thanks for the opportunity to capture and share this story and salute the artistes connected to Jamaica’s First Coast Hip Hop movement. Download HeatRockz EP and check out his new video Dirty Couch by Scotty DreamKiller with assistance from Dirx.
Thanks for the love as always. Stick and Stay tuned for more @ #warriorsistrenseh.
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