Remembering A Fallen Soldier In The Music Business

The video for Mavado & Nicki Minaj‘s “Give It All To Me” is scheduled to premiere today on BET’s 106 & Park. The song, which is featured on DJ Khaled‘s new album Suffering From Success, represents a major milestone in the rise of reggae music in 2013. It’s one of the best collaborations between two superstars from the genres of dancehall and hip-hop. But for the song’s producer Justus Arison of JA Productions, today will be a bittersweet celebration because his friend and partner Patrick “Roach” Samuels will not be able to celebrate with him. Last month Roach was shot to death in a still-unsolved murder in Kingston, Jamaica. Roach’s murder has left the whole dancehall industry in shock. Justus had been working with him closely as their productions—particularly the Overproof, Overtime, and Overdrive riddims—ushered in a whole new feel and sound within dancehall. Justus and Mavado recently joined forces to pay tribute to Roach with their song “Soldiers.” He spoke with Boomshots about Roach’s musical legacy, and how he plans to go on in the future without his friend. Interview After The Jump…

Thanks for speaking with us. How are you doing ?
Me alright you know. Deh yah. 

Yes, “Deh yah.” That’s always been one of my favorite expressions.
[Laughs] For real, yeah. That’s so automatic. 

But it’s really profound if you think about it.
For real, for real. Deh right here yunno.

Once again thanks for agreeing to talk with me about Roach. I know it’s probably not the easiest thing.
Yeah man, you know it’s taking time and getting a little better, so… 

His Nine Night just happened, right?
Yeah the Nine Night was last Tuesday night.

Did a lot of people come out?
Yeah it was packed. I wasn’t there actually, but from what I hear, people linking me with pictures, it was jam packed. 

Where did it go on?
That was in Southside, was down South. Unfortunately police came and lock it off. But while it went on it was nice. It was good, so… 

Is that where he was from?
Yeah he was. I don’t know if he was born there, but yeah South was really him place where him grow up and thing. 

I was trying to think of the first time I became aware of Roach and it was during the Siren riddim.
Yeah, yeah. 

And I remember hearing Sean Paul how excited he was about this new riddim and how incredible the Kartel song was on the riddim, and how he was going to do something on it for his next album, which he did. And I remember somebody around him at the time saying “Why are you fuckin’ with that guy? That’s guy’s bad news.”
[Laughs] 

So that’s where the story begins for me. Was that his first production?
Yeah well, I don’t know if he did anything before that. Cause I met him right around that time. But yeah, that’s where he really came to prominence, otherwise than Kartel always mentioning him in songs. Beca’ him and Kartel was very very tight throughout Kartel’s rise to stardom. Roach was definitely his right hand, his road manager, you see me? Because you know Roach has been around for a very long time in the business, from he was a kid. 

What was he doing as a kid?
Well as a teenager he did work at a cement company and I guess it was near Arrows studio. And him used to like go round ah Arrows and go listen to songs. And him used to do mixtapes and stuff like that. And he end up get inna the dub ting inna dem time around Arrows, you see me? At one point he was working—I’m not sure exactly what he did with Barrington Levy, but he was working with Barrington Levy at one point. Maybe he was some kind of road management or something like that. 

Really?
Yeah. Way back in the day, cause Roach was 46. He was born in ’66. So he’s not a new cat. He’s an O.G. in the dancehall ting you see me? So him have a long history inna the ting. 

So was he a producer who played the beats and everything? Or was he more the kind of producer who built up vibes with the artists and whatnot?
Well in my experience of working with him he didn’t actually play stuff. Him would more give an ear to my stuff. He had a good ear for riddims and he also had a good ear for chemistry, meaning that he would match up artists with riddims and it would work. Now especially with Siren riddim I understand he was more hands on—not saying that he played everything, but he knew exactly what he wanted. He would basically facilitate that with people, you get weh me ah say? 

Which is the magic sometimes…
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Is a ting too. A lot of times producers… Or put it this way, riddim builders, a lot of times they don’t know their hit riddim. I’ve seen it happen many times. Like, they’ll have their favorite riddims, but then you’ll have somebody like Roach come along and say “Yo, play that one deh again.” Him did definitely have an ear when it come to that. And him know the business like the back of him hand. Cause he was in it for so long. So you find out him have so much knowledge and thing that him end making a difference in a lot of peoples’ careers over the years. 

Who are some of the people he helped?
Personally someone that I grew up with was Anju Blaxx. He did Tommy Lee’s first big song as well as a whole heap of other productions. And if you ask him he’ll tell you that for years Roach lived up at the same studio with all of us in Stony Hill and him pass on a lot of knowledge to everybody. So that’s the closest person to me, but there’s a lot of people. Cause Roach always in the streets and at studios, and he was just a fountain of knowledge certain way. You see me? 

So how did you and he start working together?
Well it started at UIM Studios. Back then it was in Stony Hill. I always heard his name a lot through Kartel and thing. Them time deh Kartel was really on the rise. Roach lived up at the studio. So that’s where me and him really met. We weren’t working like full out at that point but I was always there building riddims and, like, he recognized the work that I was putting in at that time. And then when we all left Stony Hill everybody kinda went their own ways. Like a year or so later he linked me and had some remixes that he wanted to do. He was like “Yo, I want some riddims and ting.” So I did some riddims around these acapellas. It started there and actually those songs ended up not being put out because we went on to greater work than that. He ended up playing a management role for me. I know the business a likkle bit but being around him all the time—all of his knowledge, me soak it up and ting. And we basically became a team in the music. So the first riddim we did was this riddim called Jinx.

Oh yeah I remember that riddim. Didn’t know you produced it though.
It got a little buzz and it was playing on the radio. It was the first production I worked on that really got a run. And then the riddim after that was Overproof. 

You have a very distinctive sound, a sort of airy twinkly keyboard sound which is fairly new to dancehall. Was there ever a time when you questioned whether that would work? Did Roach tell you “Yeah man, this sound can work?”
Well I mean, he never went so deep into the details. You know what I’m saying? Jinx riddim kinda had a similar sound to that too. And that’s just the riddim I was running with anyways. So we did that and people were really into it, but it didn’t have such a big all-star lineup. The biggest artists were like Sizzla and Munga. Overproof was kinda building on that type of sound, that type of happy sound, but we got the all-star lineup and it just…

I’m not gonna lie still, about two weeks before Overproof became the biggest thing in Jamaica I was ready to like give up on music. Because I’ve been doing it for so many years and there was no real success. And even though Jinx got a small hit, I was just like, “We put so much work and so much effort and blood, sweat, and tears into everything. I’m not seeing where I can just continue to put my whole life into this thing and put in everything into this and it’s not really…” You know how it goes with music. It can be very draining mentally and spiritually to do it year after year after year and nothing really happens. Not saying that I could ever stop doing music cause it’s really an addiction. But I really got drained and bogged down and I even said it a couple weeks before: “You know what? I’m done with this.” Because it’s such a struggle and such a fight. And it was like a sign. You know, is like, when you reach the end of the rope, tie yourself on and hang on. Two weeks later I would never imagine how big the riddim got.

Thankful for Roach still because if it wasn’t for him I don’t think that type of success would have happened. 

Why not?
Because first up, no matter how good a riddim is, especially in Jamaica, it’s such a struggle to be heard. And Roach was the one who made the links to the artists them to actually voice. And you know if it wasn’t for the artists them, I don’t think the riddim would have gotten the exposure like it did… And further like even with promotion, between me and him we really went hard. Went everywhere, street street street and radio stations. We really pushed the hell out of it. Without his help and without his links I don’t know if it woulda have  happened the same way.

And even like with the writing and stuff. Him fulla lyrics, put it that way. [Laughs] This man would freestyle all day long. Yeah mon. Not even saying which and which song, but there’s couple songs where him do some line in some big song. 

And the artist would be like, “Yeah that’s hot”?
Yeah mon. Nuff people dion’t know that about him actually. He had a passion for writing. 

Did he ever voice a song on his own?
Yeah, yeah. A couple. I have a couple things on my hard drive where we were just joking around in the studio and whatever. At one point even before me and him started working he was like on the artist thing. I think he worked Sting one year and get a forward an ting. But then he kinda put it down still. Just more behind the scenes with writing and stuff. 

So everything that you put out with JA Productions he had a hand in it?
Yeah I mean everything that’s really had exposure up to this point. Roach had a hand in it for sure. 

How excited was he about “Give It All To Me”?
Man he was like… You know he wasn’t over-excited but he was like, “This is right. This is what should happen.” But yeah he felt great about it just like me. We were at my place in Jamaica, we were both at the crib when I got the call and we actually heard it over the phone. It was a great moment still. Is like a culmination of all these years. Another plateau again you know? Another high point.

And it’s actually a good song. That’s the great thing about it. It’s not just a big name collabo.
Respect. [Laughs]. Yeah man. It’s not forced. Not forced at all. 

And she’s not just emailing a verse. She sings on it and everything.
Yeah I think that’s where the strength of it comes from. She like the song. I think if she never liked the song I don’t think it would have happened.

How did the connect happen with her? Was that through Mavado’s label affiliations?
Honestly I don’t know exactly but it didn’t have anything to do with me. I know she rates Mavado big time. I don’t know exactly how she got the song but within like three days it was voiced and mixed and mastered and ready for the road. So we’re just giving thanks. 

Was it always conceived of as a combination or did that happen later?
No that was later. It was Mavado alone on the song initially. 

Gotcha. It’s nice that Roach got to see that happen.
Yeah definitely. I just wish… It’s really the greatest time in our years of work. It’s like the highest point and him just gone right at the highest point. You know? But yeah I’m glad he at least got to see that happene still. It was always a dream of ours to make that real crossover offa just the natural strength of the ting. So he got to see that.

Did he make it to the video shoot?
He didn’t. And it’s really messed up because if it worked a little different he would probably not even have been in Jamaica when the whole [shooting] went down. He had just gotten married. He was just about to get back his visa. You know, within the next couple months he was supposed to get through and be able to travel again. If that had happened a little bit earlier, he would have came to New York and he probably wouldn’t have gone back to Jamaica yet. You know?

The shoot was in New York City, right?

Yeah. It’s heavy yo. It’s heavy.

 If you were gonna explain to somebody what was great about your friend, what would you say?
Well I mean the number one thing about Roach—and everybody who know him know this—he was real. [Laughs.] When me say real, he’s probably the most straight-up person I have ever met in my entire life. Meaning him don’t hide things. How him feel he just talk it. That why me and him always got along. We never had no problems. Cause you know when success happens, all types of things happen. People get jealous and this and that. None of that ever happened between us. And I find that very unique because when you check basically every other story inna music there was some type of problems between people who are close. And that never happened with us cause we both straight up with each other all the time. We just talk we mind and we don’t hide things from each other. 

What else should we know about Roach? You said he just got married. Did he have a family too?
Yeah he’s got a lot of kids. He’s got seven kids and a lot of extended family. And everybody’s kinda still in shock and really disbelief more than anything. Nobody saw this coming and it’s just really sad. And it’s another wakeup call to Jamaica and to Kingston and to the dancehall industry. You know, sup’m have to change because the value of life is just getting lower and lower with all of these things that’s going on in Jamaica right now. It’s not right. People need to unite and we need to really find a better way. Times are really dread in Jamaica and getting dreader. If we don’t come together then everybody just gonna turn against each other. It’s like divide and rule. 

I saw you tweeted “We need to stop glorify murder.”
Yeah and don’t get me wrong: I’m not licking out against badman song and thing. That is our culture. But a level of education has to be there to know that entertainment is one thing and real life is another and nobody wants to see a loved one get killed. You see me? And furthermore, if you look at it the highest point in music out of Jamaica was Bob Marley. And what was Bob singing about? Peace and love and unity. You see me? Everything takes time still, but I would hope that the more things that happen we’d be waking up more. And sometimes it doesn’t seem like that.

Are you going to keep doing your music without Roach?
Well I know that the main thing that he would want is for me to continue to the fullest. So that alone I have to. But second, I can’t stop making music ever. That’s my life and I can’t imagine doing anything else and I don’t think I’d be able to do anything else. I do music and I’ve been doing music for over a decade. So I would never stop. But me lose half of the combination. We ah carryon still and we ah build forward. And me just haffi keep on going and me know say him spirit is still here and we can’t stop. So we just ah try pick up the pieces and continue and do great things.

Maybe one day we’ll get to hear those vocals he put down.
Yeah I’ve got a couple things still. I just want to put them together the right way. I’ve got some videos and stuff of him freestyling too. One of these days we’ll finish up  a likkle medley. Him have nuff material still.