Dancehall’s Original Muma Talks “Bam Bam,” Rihanna, and Kanye West
Quick: what’s the most sampled song in reggae history? If you guessed “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy you know your stuff. Her 1982 album cut has provided raw material for dozens of records for artists ranging from Chris Brown to Too $hot to Diamond D. The latest may be the biggest tune of all:”Famous” by Kanye West featuring Rihanna and Swizz Beatz, off The Life of Pablo. Yep, that’s the song where Yeezy disses Taylor Swift–the one everybkdy’s chatting bout although few have actually heard it. When Boomshots caught up with Muma Nancy for a recent Billboard piece the legendary foundation DJ had not heard the tune yet. Not that she’s in much of a hurry to do so. She’s unimpressed with the whole sampling thing, much preferring a live session. But trust and believe she will be picking up that royalty check. Pree the full reasoning below. Interview After The Jump…
I just wanted to speak with you about this new Kanye West song, and all the people who love your music so much they keep sampling it.[Laughs] They do it all the while.
How did you hear about the new Kanye West and Rihanna song?
My daughter sent me a text.
Oh really. What did she think about it?
We live together, but she’s away. So she sent it to me from where she is. I haven’t had time to talk to her about it yet.
OK. Well, it’s not the first time that somebody has done this…
No, they use it all the time. Every year they do the same thing. But you know I think they get the rights to do it from the publishing company and the licensing company. If they didn’t do that they wouldn’t use it. So I am going to get in contact with the company that own “Bam Bam.” Cause I don’t own the tune. I just sing the tune. So the company that owns it is in England, Westbury, and they’re affiliated with V.P. Records. Cause V.P. is the licensing company in America. So I guess they get the OK from them. So I will talk to the manager on Monday about it.
And they work with Mr. Riley?
No, Mr. Riley is dead. They work with Techniques. Westbury is the one who own “Bam Bam” right now. They have 50 percent and I do have 50 percent.
OK, so when this happens, it’s a nice thing for you.
Yeah, I will get royalties for the song. Whenever it’s used I get the royalties.
Which has been your favorite of all the songs that sample “Bam Bam” over the years?
I don’t know if I hear all of them, cause they sample it so much times. But none of them is my favorite. The reason why I say that is they know how to contact me. They know I live in the U.S., and nobody try to contact me to do it in person. They always sample the tune. If they had contacted me and I would do it for them live, well I would have a favorite but I don’t at the moment cause they never contact me to do it live.
That’s a good point.
I’m looking on the Internet and I see people like Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa… Some big artists used your song.
Yep, they do.
Why do you think that song has become so popular?
I don’t have a clue. For real I don’t. I never know it would have got so far. Cause I did it over 34 years ago.
So was that one of the first records you ever did?
No, no, no, no, no. No. No. No. That’s not… That song is a completion of the 1, 2 album. It’s not even a 45. It’s a song I did to finish my 1, 2 album. It’s on the 1, 2 album, but because it is so good they take it off and put it by itself. They put it on seven-inch, twelve-inch. They do everything with it. You know what I’m saying? But that tune is not a tune that I just did. I just make that song up to finish the album I had done in 1982. So it wasn’t like my favorite or anything And since I’ve been here—I’ve lived here for 20 years now. Since I’ve lived here I’ve seen how strong the song is.
Oh my Lord. When that song comes on in the dance…
Oh I know. I know. Tell me about it. As I said I done that one album, 1,2 album, from 1982. And that’s the same album that I tour on. Cause I haven’t done anything else.
That is the one album in your catalog?
That’s my one album that keep me alive up to today. I still travel on it. I still work with that album. I do nothing else but that album until today.
Give Jah thanks for that.
I have to. I have to.
On the song you say “MC is my ambition.”
I’d say you fulfilled that ambition. But in Jamaica don’t you usually call the person on the mic a DJ?
Back in the days we used to say “Master of Ceremonies.” Yeah that’s what we used to use: We’d say MCs, toasters, and then DJ come along.
How old were you when you made that song “Bam Bam”? Were you still in school?
No, no, no I wasn’t in school. I was 20 years old. Now I’m 54, so it was 34 years ago.
Was it a hit in Jamaica?
No it didn’t even play in Jamaica. The tune that I had that was big in Jamaica was the name of the album, “1, 2.” That was my first 45. I only used “Bam Bam” to finish up that album.
Why do you think Mr. Riley decided to produce an album with you?
Well because I was working with General Echo at the time. I was working with Echo on a sound named Stereophonic back in the days in Jamaica—and he was one of Mr. Riley’s artists. And Winston Riley came to the dance one night and heard me. Then we did one single, two single, three single. Then he said he wanted to do an album with me and I said I’m ready, I’ll do it.
And how much did you earn for making the album?
Not a cent.
Not one penny.
Was that normal?
Of course. It was normal back in the days.
So how did you make a living—dubplates?
Just shows. Dubplate wasn’t around at that time. So I travel and I do live performances, as I’m still doing today.
Now your brother is Brigadier Jerry. Is that right?
Yes that’s my brother, that’s my teacher, that’s my mentor. That’s my everything.
Is he your elder brother?
Yes he’s six years older than me.
So how did you learn the music? Did he bring you to the dance? Or did you practice at home?
Yes we used to do it at home and I would pattern-ize him. I’d listen him and I decided to do what he does. Cause he’s one of my favorite brothers. I have a few brothers, and he’s one of my favorites. But I always try to do what he does.
He is such a great artist and he influenced so many people.
Oh I know. Tell me about it.
As a woman in the dancehall, how have you kept your music so clean and cultural?
Because I started like that. I started from sound system in the dancehall. I am a woman who started from sound system in the dancehall. I have my brother Brigadier, and he’s a Rastafarian from the day I’ve known him. And you know Rastafarians try to keep the culture, try to keep it clean, do positive music and everything. So that’s how I started, and I managed to keep it like that.
And in the song you say you’re “One in 3 million.”
One in 20 million right now. [Laughs]
It’s true you know. Cause there’s many ladies doing dancehall, but most of them specialize in slackness.
Yeah, but what they call dancehall today is not dancehall for me like in the ’70s and ’80s. They change the thing so drastically and it’s so different. It’s so funny, it’s so nasty, it’s so… Everything that’s bad. Nothing good about it right now.
You used to work with Echo. He’s one of the slackest artists ever.
Yes, he is. But he do it in a discrete way, not like how they do it today. More clever.
Did you hear that Lady Saw got baptized the other day?
Oh yes, yes. Yes I heard. I heard that.
Are you happy for her?
Well I am. As long as you do the right thing. You need to uplift yourself and praise God and keep him with you and have a relationship with Him. That’s fine. I think she did the right thing. People need to do that to reconnect with the Almighty God Himself. Cause it’s He who have made us and not we ourselves.
So what is the show you’re doing tonight?
They have a Bob Marley festival down here that they do every year. So tonight we do the legends of reggae—female legends, and they award us. I’m down here with Sister Carol and myself and a couple more ladies.
What do you think of Rihanna’s music? Have you heard much of her stuff?
Yeah I heard about her and I heard her music but I don’t really listen her so I don’t have nothing to say about her.
What about Kanye West. How do you feel about him?
I don’t really listen to none of them either. The funniest thing, I just can’t understand what they’re saying so I don’t try to hear.
Well thanks for taking the time Mumma Nancy. Your voice is heard all around the world.
Ah me fi tell you dat!
rigadier Jerry Pon Strictly Boomshots Show
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