Marvin Sparks recently spoke with Mavado about his new direction, musically, how success has changed his life, dealing with negative press, his charity giving back to his community and working with Jay-Z, exclusively for The Wrap Up...
Having witnessed Mavado headline alongside Gyptian at Brixton Academy, courtesy of www.phatnights.com, a few things were apparent for all to see. Biggest reactions (or forwards) appeared to be for what is known in dancehall circles as a "gal tune" segment; ‘House Cleaning’, ‘Stulla’, ‘Never Believe You’, ‘Roof Top’, ‘Gal Ah Mad Over’, ‘Come Into My Room’ and ‘When You Feel Lonely’. Ironic, because Mavado was more prolific with songs reflecting his gritty upbringing. A brief summary of his running order was a throwback to the early days with a "hardcore gangsta" segment, moving on to "gal tunes", closing the trouble-free concert with a conscious section consisting of uplifting songs: ‘Hope & Pray’, ‘Messiah’, ‘On The Rock’, ending on ‘Starlight’.
Born David Constantine Brooks, Mavado grew up in Cassava Piece, popularly known as the Gullyside. Not only did he live in a garrison community (ghetto), his father was murdered during the singjay's teenage years. Mavado's early material reflected his gritty experiences, for which he was widely criticised by Jamaican media. Despite all the negatives, he has risen above it, matured and is still regarded as one of the genre's elite artists almost 6 years on from breakthrough song, ‘Real McKoy’. Through his success, Mavado has traded the Gullyside for a house on the hill with luxurious vehicle's, including a customised Range Rover and motorbikes, but his content is still real to himself and his fans. On one of his many anthems, 'Mockingbird', he declares although he has a lot of money, he isn't interested in boasting ("Dem fi know mi money nuff but mi nuh inna di boasting"), instead choosing to inspire those who grow up in a similar garrison areas to appreciate life and strive for better - 'Nine Life' and 'Starlight' being best examples. Mavado's success has enabled to him to work with international artists, such as Akon, Wyclef Jean, Shyne, Rick Ross, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z.
The Wrap Up: ‘Real McKoy’ broke through in dancehall circles, but ‘Weh Dem A Do’ really transcended the genre, even reaching the US Billboard charts. When did you realise that it would become a big hit for you?
Mavado: Well, when we dropped that song it became a hit. In Jamaica, it took like one week to become the biggest song on the island. That's when you know a song is going to be big, because remember, its dancehall, so it has to start from dancehall first. If as soon as you drop a song it's the biggest song, you know it's gonna have a lot of mileage.
TWU: On 'Like I See It' with Jah Cure and Rick Ross, you say: "Was born on the Gully now I'm big in every city." Were you surprised at how quickly you became a star in dancehall?
Mavado: For real. Well, I was always working you know and that's why I said 'Born on the Gully now I'm big on every city/ Send me to the world again and I'mma make it pretty/ We best organised when we ride.’ So it's just experience, because we're coming from the gutter, from the gully and right now, at this moment, the world want to see Mavado. 'Send me to the world again and I'mma make it pretty.’
TWU: Has it been hard adjusting to life in the public eye?
Mavado: Not really. Not anymore. It has become natural. People don't really see Mavado every single day. I'm not someone that really walks about.
TWU: How about the media reporting everything you do?
Mavado: I don't care, because you know the media always try a lot of stuff. You've got good media, and you've got bad media. I'd say probably 10% are good. The next 90% just want to try and bring down an artist, or try to scandalise you, or because a man wants to make his thing hot as a media. For instance, a man runs a website or a TV station, as he hears a little bad out there, he runs with it. He isn't even sure about it, but he wants to make his thing hot and he doesn't see it as he's trying to mash up the artist. But Mavado can't mash up because we say, ‘Gully.’
TWU: From the first album, 'Gangsta For Life: Symphony Of David Brooks' to 'Mr Brooks... A Better Tomorrow', there has been a transition from less hardcore street-heavy songs, to more songs aiming to uplifting youths and for the ladies.
Mavado: What I'm doing now is I'm making many moods of music. I'm still singing for the gangsta's, for the ladies and still singing to uplift the people. Now I've found myself working harder, because I've got different fans to take care of, so you've got to do different levels of music, y'know?
TWU: And you have a charity as well, which Drake donated US$25k to earlier this year. Can you explain a little more about the charity?
Mavado: We're building a computer class and a library on the Gullyside for the people to further their knowledge. We do different things, like I'm always doing treats for the kids to send the kids back to school with brand new bags and books.
TWU: For kids in Cassava Piece?
Mavado: Definitely! But we've got kids from different communities that come over for their books, and bags and everything.
TWU: Finally, Jay-Z was recently interviewed on Juan Epstein’s show in USA, where he said he worked with Vybz Kartel on unreleased tracks for Blueprint 3; however it was supposed to be you. Can you tell us more about that?
Mavado: We did a couple tracks about 2 years ago, the ending of 2008. We did like probably 3 songs together. But I don't know what went wrong with Jay-Z , but my manager told me about the whole thing and I just laughed because I just know that I just keep on working and we're putting out our work and we are the best. Jay-Z knows that, that's the reason he asked for Mavado. Big up Jay-Z!
A new album from Mavado is expected in 2011.
Stay up to date with Mavado on Twitter – www.twitter.com/The_Mavado
Words: Marvin Sparks
Online editing: Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson