Below is an interview with chart-topping British dancehall MC and jungle legend General Levy published in New Nation newspaper in 2004.
When General Levy recorded Incredible in the autumn of 1993, he was well aware that as a consequence, the history books would credit him as one of the few reggae MCs to successfully adapt to the new jungle sound.
But Levy had no way of knowing he would be condemned by jungle and reggae purists who accused him of ‘selling-out’ underground music.
Although Incredible is his biggest-selling record to date, eventually peaking at number one in the national charts, Levy remembers the period following the track’s release as anything but celebratory.
‘I had to face the whole world,’ he remembers. ‘Everywhere I went all journalists wanted to talk about was the controversy surrounding that track. I lost a lot of people around me – it just ended up being me and my family. That was a real test of character and faith.’
To add insult to injury, he is still owed money for the track and is presently at the centre of a legal battle over unpaid royalties. With the benefit of hindsight, if Levy could go back to ‘93, would he still have recorded the track?
‘Of course,’ he laughs. ‘That track is internationally known. I was in Texas the other day and people were telling me how much they love that tune. Ky-Mani and Julian Marley told me Incredible is played at the Bob Marley Museum in Jamaica. That tune opened doors for me. If I didn’t record Incredible, you wouldn’t me interviewing me now.’
In the early 1990s, Paul ‘General’ Levy and British dancehall acts such as Sweetie Irie, Tenor Fly and Top Cat rivalled their Jamaican and US counterparts, both in popularity and record sales.
All three still perform and record, but these days, you’re more likely to find Levy in Hanover, Germany, than his hometown of Harlesden, London.
‘Nuff times when nothing’s going on, I’ll get a get a call to do a mini-tour in Germany. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last nine years; I perform in Germany maybe once a month. I get a lot of love in Holland, France, Switzerland and Belgium. I’ve got a big European fan base, but especially in Germany,’ he says.
As dancehall and Afro beats increasingly merge with dance music and rap, does Levy believe British music executives are doing enough to support the home-grown developing these new sounds? ‘Hell no,’ he laughs.
‘England is not really about individuality; if you’re an individual you’re seen as a madman or a rebel. Everyone’s always got be going the same way or making similar music. They need to give us more freedom to be ourselves and stop being so scared of the real ting’.
With plenty of studio sessions and European tour dates booked in his diary, Levy is more than satisfied with his future prospects. As long as he is still in demand, the ‘Wickeder General’ is content.
‘It’s just business as usual,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘I keep it basic and take everyday as it comes. One of the most important things in life is to try and free yourself from all earthly temptations, because when you’re not a victim to temptation, you will never really lust for anything, you will just give thanks for life.’