Remember that tune where Beenie Man says “Me lose me visa but everything nice”? Well let’s just say that everything’s much nicer now that he’s got the visa (and work permit) back. Beenie’s electric performance at Grooving in the Park this past weekend was his first live show in New York since U.S. authorities revoked the his visa along with several other top dancehall acts in April 2010, effectively cutting them off from their U.S. audience. But the Doctor has stayed in the mix, collaborating with Nicki Minaj, touring Africa, and preparing to release a double album under his own MD Entertainment brand, appropriately titled The King In Control. Before the Doctor mashed up the Strictly Boomshots show at Miss Lily’s, we kicked it at the Complex offices. He spoke about working with Nicki Minaj, static with DJ Khaled, the backlash from his famous video statement renouncing homophobic lyrics, and why he’s closer to Michael Jackson and Bob Marley than a lot of these so-called superstars.
Beenie Man “I’m OK”
Give thanks Beenie. It’s been a minute since we had a chance to reason.
Ah true man.
So you just mashed up Roy Wilkins Park in Queens this weekend. Tell me, how did it feel to be back on stage in New York?
The vibes nice man. I feel I went on stage too early, which nobody did expect. Cause you know say, me ah de closer for all show. Gladys Knight close the show, and me work before Beres Hammond, but the receivement…
I’m sure that who was there was glad to be there.
They put fire inna the middle of the show.
I can’t believe they have him coming back on Sumfest again after last year.
Me ah tell you… Well them did pay him already from last year, and him never turn up. So this year him do the ads and everything. Last year he never do no advertising.
But I was looking forward to seeing you on Summer Jam.
And I know you were too.
Me ah tell you. Jesus Christ. [sucks teeth]
That was a big disappointment.
That was very much—disappointment. Cho!
That was supposed to be your first show back in the States.
My welcome. In New York.
So how did you get the word that things changed up?
I was there when the word actually come through. I was there in the dressing room and all that. All set to go. Cause there was Mavado, DJ Khaled, Busta Rhymes—all of us was there. Then Wayne called and said “Yo, show is off.”
Damn—I know that hurt.
But I was there when they guy went on the stage and said “NIcki, I hope you don’t come and sing these pop tunes.”
Oh you heard Rosenberg talking? Did you have a feeling that might be a problem?
I know the show was gonna cancel but I wasn’t thinking about it cause I wanted to go on stage so bad.
You were on that Positive Mental Attitude.
Yeah, I was on that positive attitude.
So damn, I didn’t realize Mavado was gonna be on the same show?
Yeah Mavado was gonna work with We The Best cause you know We The Best just signed to Cash Money, and Mavado is one of his artists.
Wow, so reggae took a double blow that day.
Yeah. Remember DJ Khaled is not a rapper. So him haffi bring one of him artists. Yeah, so his artist is Mavado.
I remember Khaled has been coming to soundclashes in Jamaica forever.
Remember, man. Arab Attack. [laughs] Arab attack.
He has to have some heart to come to Jamaica and talk that much smack as a foreign selector.
I’m telling you. The first time I saw Khaled we had a falling out. Cause at the time he was there with Sharon Burke. He was parring with Bounty Killer and thing and he tried to disrespect me pon stage.
He said something to you?
He try to. You know I don’t play them games.
No, not so much.
I make him know what is what.
You sorted it out.
Yeah, from that day I think that’s why we’re not that tight. Cause I think he’s a little bit afraid of me.
He remembers all that.
Yeah, always. You no we don’t make people forgot. You can’t disrespect. We don’t take disrespect cause we do not disrespect people. We show you the most respect and the most honor.
Tell me about the collab with Nicki, even though you didn’t get to do the show together. I remember at Sumfest last year, you were checking her backstage at the tent. And when I interviewed her she was telling me how much she loved you when she was growing up in Queens.
She call me and everything and we went to the room and thing. And she was on her knee “I pray thee…” all that. You know how it goes.
She said that to you?
Yeah—“You’re my king, I’m not worthy to be in your face” and all that.
All of that?
And then she start to sing “Romie.”
Really? She had the lyrics down pat, huh?
Right down. She start from “Oh nah nah” too. As she get up she was “Oh nah nah nah nah nah nah…” And she start telling me how long she know me for, and how long she’s been following my career and everything. Cause the first time she went on the stage, it was a Beenie Man song she sing. “See the man dem gal yah yah.”
Really? She told you this?
I’ve never heard this story.
She nah telling the story. She fi talk the real story then. And that’s why she write pon the Twitter say “I love this man,” and “this man is my king.”
Alright so that was Jamaica, and then when she was making the track….
It’s still Jamaica man. She send the song come to Jamaica. And we did the song down ah Anchor Studio and we mix it there, and send it come give her. It was a beautiful thing.
It’s the second time me supposed to work with Nicki and it no work out.
We were supposed to do the BET thing when she do the introduction of the album—but them time deh we never have me work permit visa. So you know BET always pay a little check or something, but without the work permit you can’t collect a cent. And, you know, it’s a standard thing.
So you had a visa to travel but not to work.
So when we get the work permit it was the Hot 97 thing and that never work neither.
Nicki has been getting a lot of criticism on this album. People have been saying the album was too pop and she moved away from her hip-hop roots. You’re an artist who has grown and evolved from hardcore to different stages. What are your thoughts on making that transition?
I don’t know nothing bout hip-hop market and all these things. I can tell you bout me. You know when me ah run dancehall business is different thing when it come to America or international market. Me always have 10 tunes inna the dancehall, and international. I feel if Nicki did wan’ go pop she just put out a double album. You get we me ah say?
Just keep the straight hardcore on one side, and…
Yeah, and then try if the hardcore fans them ah go like the pop. You see, constructive criticism is always good, but negative criticism’s never good. Cause it will take you to somewhere different. You know? And you always haffi think bout your core audience and you haffi always think bout the people who support and love you right through the years. So you have to always be there for them. You know, so if you even want to move away from there, give them something. I think that’s why she did the song with me still.
Just to keep things on a level.
Cause that song still ah play in every hood. Every ghetto. People love it. It’s not the song that’s she’s promoting, but it’s there. But you haffi always remember your core audience. Cannot forget them.
OK, so I’m ready to hear her on your track now.
Yeah man, me next album. No worry ’bout it man. The King in Control—ah that it name yunno. And this album is not gon’ be a hip-hop album. It’s gonna be a dancehall reggae album. All the American artists, we ah put them pon the reggae beat. And you know my thing—full dancehall.
What’s the timing on that King In Control?
Well, I get strict authorization not to give you the date. [Laughs] But it’s happening.
So this trip is really more about…
Promotion. Let people know say, I’m still here. Me no gone nowhere Although I haven’t been in the United States for three years.
I can’t believe it’s been that long. Why did you stop coming here?
It was over visa issues. Because I cannot choose not to come in the United States. You know me, me love my fans and my fans love me—seen? Especially in America. Seen? So what that give to me now is the opportunity to travel. Cause I tour Africa from East to South Africa—all of it. In the past three years we did all of Europe. We did some place that we never been to before. And we still ah get dates to some place that we haven’t been to before. So when me leave here on Wednesday, me ah go Germany go do the Summer Jam. Me no do that show for three years now. Last time we did it was me and Sizzla. Sizzla mess up me whole ting.
Yeah, cause remember we sign the sup’m say we ah sing peace music.
Oh the “Reggae Compassionate” agreement?
Yeah and him go out there and be uncompassionate. So me go out deh go do the show. Show nice and everything. Seen? Mash up the show and everything, but… One bad apple, yunno? You know how the ting go. Spoil the whole bunch.
Well that actually brings up your video statement.
Yeah the video ting.
Every article I’ve read about this, they always call it an apology. And I watched the video carefully, and I paid close attention to your choice of words—but I didn’t see any apology.
No apology. Nuttin. It never go so.
So what was the purpose of your statement, and what was the real message behind it?
The purpose of the statement and the real message is—the music is all about love and respect, for everybody who love and respect the music. You know? I burn apartheid system. I burn racism and all these things.
I cannot, I do not support a gay lifestyle, because it’s not wholesome to mines. But I don’t have the right fi tell a man say, “Your decision is wrong.” I don’t have the right fi tell a man say, “Who you love is the wrong person.” It’s not my right. None at all whatsoever.
But as a Jamaican, you nah go realize that right off the bat. When you start to tour the world and you realize what the world is… And—you understand weh me ah say, how the world live them life—and you want to be in that world. And you want these people to come and support your music…
So when you sit down and ah wonder why you don’t sell 2 million or 10 million copy, you know the reason why. Because you nah sing for the people. You sing for people of your choice. And people of your choice do not buy record. Them run and download all them ghetto CD. [Laughs] You understand?
So we can’t deh ah Jamaica and run crossroads and downtown. We haffi run the world. And to run the world you have to sing music for everyone. And when you realize that and recognize that you becoming an old man right now. And you only have five, six years left to be on top of the game. What are you gonna do?
You step on a man’s foot fifteen years ago, you tell them say, “Bwoy you know say me never meant to. But it did haffi happen, because ah me peers who me deh round, ah tell me say me haffi do this.” And you realize say, as long as a man nah do it to you and ah keep it to himself, you haffi can show him respect to him too. Don’t it?
You’ve been saying this to me in interviews for a long time.
Them get it now. Them get the message now. Because I sit down and do this message for them. So them can say, it’s not that they read it in a magazine. This message coming straight from Beenie Man. So as they say when you hear it from the horse’s mouth, then you know say ah true.
But even though it’s not a new message, you got a lot of….
Backlash. Yes. You done know how the ting go. Jamaicans—you done know how it go. But then you haffi think pon a wider scale. Jamaica where me live yunno. Jamaica where me party. It’s not a place where me make money. Cause you can’t charge a man $40,000 US fi a show in Jamaica. You can, but are you gonna get it?
You better get that up-front.
How much people ah come fi pay a man? You understand weh me ah say? So you have to know these things. Your work worldwide international. And you have to go out there and do this work so people can come. You cannot go to Spain and the show can’t keep because you have 10,000 gay people out a road ah say them no want you. You need to have 10,000 gay people ah buy ticket to come listen to what you have to say. Ah dat me ah talk bout. And that we need people fi know. We nah kill nobody. That done right now. It’s all about music. And we need dancehall to be the new pop music. It was gonna be till it draw back. And then every artist start rap and…
So you are still a dancehall artist. No island pop…
No dread. You know how my thing stay. Me no deh pon that man.
But it’s true when you call reggae the new pop music. You mentioned Nicki and then there’s Rihanna and Bruno Mars. So many international artists are…
Using reggae music. Seriously—not even dancehall, but reggae. And you know reggae is dancehall.
Right, it all comes from one source.
So why do the young producers from Jamaica want to make pop records and rap records?
Because they don’t believe inna dancehall music and they don’t believe inna reggae music. And it’s always the sons of some of the greatest reggae artists in the world who make the hip-hop beat and the pop beat. So that is like a spit in your father face. You understand? That is how I see it. But then it’s a new age, and it’s the new youths. You know? So you can’t fight them for weh them ah do. The youth them always ah experiment with the music—dancehall with pop music, dancehall with house music, dancehall with hip-hop music. But when you really check it out, the dancehall is still there. Regardless of how the music sound, them still have—[Beenie pounds out a beat on the table.] It’s still there. So that is the reason why we can sing pon it. That is what’s going on. You need to be current. You need to be relevant. You understand weh me say? So right now we need to get our music—like the real, authentic dancehall music and reggae music—out there. So the youth them can realize that it can work. But if you no make them realize say it can work, them ah kill it.
You feel like they have no faith?
But as me say, my music no stop ah Crossroads, and it no stop ah Westmoreland. My music go cross the seas. Right round. Me have song weh me ah work with now, “The Summer Is Here.” We need to release it in America and around the world. But we have a song weh me work with in Jamaica named “Do It Again,” which is an original dancehall beat produced by Snowcone. Me haffi have it. You know me always ah do that. But “Dweet Again” ah run the place.
That’s the one right now?
Yeah inna Kingston, and in Jamaica. But “Summer is Here” that me ah work with in the United States and the rest of the world.
Beeie Man Ft. Mario C “Summer Is Here”
So who produced that?
Me. MD Entertainment.
What is your label situation now? Is Shocking Vibes still part of the program?
So it’s your production now?
My production. MD Entertainment / 357 Records.
Will that be the same label for the new album?
MD Entertainment, yeah.
When you talk about going all around the world, how glad were you to get these papers?
WHAT? [laughs] I was skippin’ on my one hand, Rob. Because it’s three years now. Yesterday when I went on the stage, you can actually see how hungry the people them is. Trust me you can actually see. You stretch out your hands and the people just ah eat. You done know when it come to my performance, it’s different. Me actually perform. Me is not a Mavado and me is not a Vybz Kartel, weh have powerful songs but not really performing the songs. I actually perform. And the people them couldn’t get enough. So me haffi give them more, you know. Then Beres come take it away.
When you say you actually perform, what do you mean? What is it that you do that a Mavado or a Kartel doesn’t do?
Well you see, everybody can sing yunno. It’s just like a man with a gun. Everybody can fire a gun—all you have to do is squeeze it. But when a man attack you with a gun, and you actually defeat him with your bare hands, it’s a different skill set. Seen? [laughs] It’s a different skill set.
You can’t compare me to a Mavado and a Vybz Kartel cause we have more experience and we watch artists that die before them mother meet them father, you know? So you haffi know these things. The genre of music weh me ah come from, them nuh know it. Me ah come through what? Three decades of music. Over thirty years me ah do music. Them ah do music for ten years and five years and six years and them ting deh.
Experience teaches wisdom. So you know how to please an audience different from a man weh ah try to please an audience. You know say when you come to a stage show, you don’t come work with the audience vibes, you give them your vibes, your happiness, your spirit, your powers. Them man deh ah work offa the people them vibes. If the vibe no right—“Cut! Dash! Ray ray—Yo, how the people no work with me? Like them no wan’ move.” You tell the people to move. You demand them fi move. That is how it goes.
That’s the art of DJing.
That’s the art of music. Seriously. Like Michael Jackson had. Bob Marley. When Bob Marley come on stage him no come with your vibes. Him come with fi him thing, and him give you weh him have fi give you. It’s either you accept it or not. And him nah compromise nor change the music to please you. That’s how we do music. That’s how we do show.
We’re coming up to the 50th year of Jamaican independence. When you talk about 30 years in the business, you’ve seen a big part of that story.
[laughing] Trust me.
How do you see this moment as a musician and as a Jamaica? Is the music as strong now as it has ever been?
No well the music will never be as strong as it has been, because the music becomes industrial. Contracts. Whosoever them set you to work with you have to work with those people.
Too much red tape?
Yeah seriously. When the music was only yellow tape it good. [laughs] And now red tape change to orange and a bag a tings ah gwan. So right now the music becomes a likkle bit too industrial. That’s why we have to take over our music. But then if the people no support the music, you nah go have enough money to run your own company. And this is what we are trying get rid of. Caribbean people need to—even if you ah burn a CD, just buy one nuh. Seriously.
Put some money back into the reggae.
See the one weh you ah go burn? Buy that one deh, and then burn it. You understand weh me ah say? If you could just do that, or even buy it online—burn it and give it to a friend. But just support the music one time, and then we will be better. Trust me. This is what we try bring back now: the sales of authentic dancehall reggae music. When we do this album, we ah go put few songs online so you can get it free. But this album, buy it man. Support the music.
So what’s the deal with this album?
I’m gonna put out a double album, a dancehall and reggae album. I have Burning Spear, Toots, Ken Boothe—yo, the amount of songs me have.
Those songs are already done?
Yeah, long time man. From last year. I make a reggae album two years ago.
This is the right time to launch that.
That me ah talk bout. Me have them. Me have four album weh me make. Cause remember me no release albums inna three years now. They put two compilation albm together like Rum and Red Bull supm supm. Them out deh ah shot an ting, but this album different. Me have a song with me and Beres called “Pull Up.”
Really? Let me know when you want to premiere that!
No worry ’bout it. Me ah make you get a copy of it. Yeah man, me have a nice song with me and Beres Hammond. Beautiful song.
Did you perform it yesterday?
No because the band never remember the riddim. Beres band don’t remember it! [laughs] But me work ponstage with Beres though. Yeah mon. You know Beres nah go work and me ah deh deh and him no call me. Nah go happen.
Him no even haffi say Popeye. Popeye haffi come out. You know how the ting go.
Buju, Busy, Kartel, and the list goes on. What is going on with all of our stars being behind bars?
You see, ah no like we, who go through we likkle badness before we becomes a superstar, and go through we likkle jail time and alla them ting deh before the world know we. Every man want to be a bad man when you are a superstar. It don’t make no sense. Why you want people to fraid of you when them supposed to love you? Why you wan’ people to run from you when they’re supposed to run to you? You understand weh me ah say?
So you have all different type of mixup and all different type of problem. Seen? You man who did get inna trouble before and run outta trouble and trouble follow him back again. So you know, I can’t really condemn my entertainer bredda them—because ah me bredda them still. We have to support them in anything that happen. Yeah, because we have to love life and support life. But me cannot support your badness, and me cannot support your drug dealing. But me can support you, and give you all of my strength and all of my blessings. That’s the only thing me can do. But me cannot support weh you go to jail for. Every man is innocent until proven guilty. So any man you find guilty, that mean they have evidence.
So you reckon there must be something to these charges?
It come like when a man say “Yo, your baby a jacket.” If you never go deh, your name wouldn’t call.