Interview & New Music From The Dancehall Governor Turned Gospel Artist
Twenty-five years after he became the first Jamaican dancehall star to drop an album for a major U.S. record label with his debut album The Governor (Warner/Atlantic), Lieutenant Stitchie continues to govern our thoughts. He delivered an electric performance at Rebel Salute, 2014 and released his autobiography, Power of Determination, contiguously. The book release event attracted such celebrities as Maxi Priest (Click on images above in photo gallery). In the days leading up to the publication of his book, I conversed with Stitchie and his friends regarding his journey from humble beginnings in Kingston, Jamaica, to having his voice heard around the world. Exclusive Interview After The Jump…
Lt. Stitchie “Temptation”
In his new song, “Temptation” produced on the Governa Riddim he encourages a young temptress to change her focus. The song reminded me of an Indian Proverb, “If a man from humble beginnings gets rich, he will carry his umbrella at midnight.” In reasoning with Stitchie, he recalls, “I remember hunger use to dig out my inside and many times going to bed without a meal. I used to go inna the garbage bin and go take out all the books dem that the richer children threw away and read, read, read.” As an avid reader, young Stitchie held elaborate conversations with customers and made a killing in Spanish Town markets as a child vendor. By 1986, he was teaching biology at his almamater, Tivoli Gardens Comprehensive High School and dedicating his weekend’s to deejaying in the dancehall with his friends, Steelie (who would go on to form the duo Steelie & Clevie, of Studio 2000 fame) on the Silver Hawk sound system and with Wolf Man for Stereo One sound system. Working at King Jammy’s studio, Steelie and Stitchie made popular hits for the dancehall club scene like, “Natty Dread,” “Nice Girl” and “Great Ambition.” Stitchie made his first number one hit, “Wear Yuh Size” a hilarious song about the importance of a proper fit, produced by King Jammy.
In 1988, an employee for the Jamaica Tourist Board in Kingston scouting for underground talent at a street dance, witnessed the spark that lit up the massive when Stitchie’s exclusive dubplate for Stone Love, “Old Time Teaching” played. After speaking to Stitchie, Dave Rodney predicted that Stitchie’s “extraordinary lyrical abilities” would allow him to survive as the fittest in the international music arena.
With this natural selection, Stitchie signed to a major label, Atlantic Records in 1988. Rodney went onto to become Stitchie’s manager and the two produced six albums together including “The Governor,” “Wild Jamaican Romances” and “Rude Boy.”
In touring the world, Dave also helped Stitchie land commercial gigs as the face of “Red Stripe Beer,” “Buckingham OJ,” and “The Jamaica Tourist Board.” Bridging these brands with dancehall paved the way for today’s reggae endorsements. After his release from Atlantic records, he started his own label, Drum and Bass Music. He converted to Christianity and his music has been reflective of this life change ever since.”Stitchie brings high level dancehall energy to gospel reggae. I always knew he was not a fly by night because of the dept and substance of this man. I am not surprised that he has continued to prevail in reinventing himself, to address his own personal reality.” Dave Rodney confirms.
In the winter of 2013, Papa San (a dynamic lyricist who also began his career as a deejay for Black Scorpio and Creation, converted to Christianity shortly after Dirtsman, a dancehall artist and his brother was killed ) and Stitchie, who clashed in the very first series of STING concerts, put on their best white blazers and made peace as Kingdom Ambassadors in the video for the song, “One Blood,” directed by Nathan Cowan (saluting Anthony B for his original song concept). Together they set a powerful positive trend in dancehall music for younger artists. Spragga Benz, a prolific songwriter and actor best known for the film “Shottas” directed by Cess Silvera, similar to Stitchie started out his career as a deejay in the sound system circuit (with Ricky Villa and LA Benz Sound). Like his predecessor, he underwent spiritual transformation (to Rastafari) as a dancehall artist: “I look up to veteran artists like Lieutenant Stitchie and Professor Nuts (veteran artist starring as a lead actor in “Me and Mi Kru” with Benzyl Hype on Television Jamaica, TVJ), who inspire me to write intelligent and constructive lyrics; not merely rhymes .”
Stitchie continues to be a beacon of light for others, receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Cornerstone Christian University in 2012, becoming Dr. Cleve “Stitchie” Laing and as the first reggae artist to write a self-published autobiography in 2014. With his book “The Power of Determination,” he hopes to empower others that “no matter what your background is in life, your dreams can be realized.” For more information on Stitchie’s new book, speaking engagements, book signings and music check out his official website.