Below is an interview with dancehall singer Wayne Wonder published in New Nation newspaper shortly after the release of his breakthrough album No Letting Go in 2003. His new single, Caught Up, is out now.
Wayne Wonder made his name revamping other people’s material and found success in the late 80s and early 90s with classics such as Anything for You (Gloria Estefan), Hold On (En Vogue) and I’d Die Without You (PM Dawn).
He served his apprenticeship at Donovan Germaine’s Penthouse label working under Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Tony Rebel and Garnet Silk, and struck up a close and productive friendship with the labels other young stars: Buju Banton and producer Dave Kelly.
Then, in 1993, Wonder changed the game announcing – against the advice of friends and colleagues – that he would not be recording any more covers. The move was risky, but paid off as dancehall fans lapped up original cuts such as Do You Love Me, Baby You and I and Saddest Day (later remixed for Foxy Brown’s 2001 album, Broken Silence).
His latest LP, No Letting Go, was recorded mostly in New York and features productions from Sly Dunbar, Tony Kelly (Dave’s elder brother) and the hottest beat-maker on the bashment scene, Don ‘Corleon’ Bennett.
You’ve been a star on the underground music scene since you were 16-years-old. Why has it taken so long for the corporate industry to recognise your talents?
Time is the master. You can never predict what’s going to happen in life so just keep on working. That’s my philosophy; keep pushing towards your goals.
Aside from singing, you’re also an accomplished MC. Tell us about that…
I wrote Deportees and co-wrote Murderer for Buju, and I also wrote Rubbers for Frisco Kid. For the past seven years I’ve been doing songs with a guest MC called Surprise, but a lot of people don’t know that I’m Surprise; he’s my alter ego.
Is there any chance of a reunion with Buju?
(Long pause). Ahhm. Me and Buju don’t really have any reunion planned. Our creative ideas are different right now. I penetrate more lovers rock. I don’t know anything about Africa and Selassie.
But you and guys used to be real tight and recorded some great music together…
That’s true. But it all boils down to individuals. Sometimes egos and the whole star ting gets in the way, and it wasn’t like that before. Back in the day it was just two yout’s who checked for one another making music. Since money and fame got involved everything’s changed. Mi is an easy going yout’ and mi cyan deal wid dem kinda ting deh.
Many old-skool acts believe the fusion between reggae and hip hop is watering down Jamaican music – do you agree?
Those people are stuck in the old days and are not being creative. In these times, you can’t have a PC from 1985, you have to upgrade to a Mac or something, yuh know? I’ve been recording on Studio One versions from day one. But there are only so many times you can sing on the Real Rock, Shank I Sheck or Punaany rhythm without repeating yourself. The artistes who are saying we’re watering down the music only say that because they’ve got no ideas.
What advice would you give to up and coming new singers?
Dedication is the key, and keep being creative. Put as much energy into your creative ideas as you can because that will make you proud in the end. Just believe in what you do and work hard towards your goals.