Remembering A Game-Changing Album Twenty Years Later
All Eyez On Me. The Don Killuminati. Reasonable Doubt. The Score. It Was Written. ATLiens. Nineteen Ninety Six was an epic year for hip hop album releases. It was also a decisive year for dancehall breaking through to urban America. Twenty years ago this month, Bounty Killer released My Xperience on Blunt Recordings, a new joint venture between perennial reggae powerhouse V.P. Records and TVT Records, a New York-based indie specializing in “TV Tunes.” Featuring collabs with some of the biggest rappers and producers in hip hop—The Fugees, Mobb Deep, Raekwon, RZA, Busta Rhymes, Erick Sermon, Jeru the Damaja—My Xperience did that and more. The album truly changed the game for dancehall in the hip hop space. In an exclusive Boomshots interview, Bounty Killer calls it “the greatest album” of his illustrious career and shares his memories of working on the historic project. We also spoke with Killer’s then-manager Johnny Wonder, now the V.P. of 21st Hapilos Digital Distribution to share his experiences making My Xperience. Interviews After The Jump…
Peeeeople Dead! The Fugees “Killing Me Softly” (Soundbwoy Style)
featuring Bounty Killer • Remix by Sly & Robbie
20 years ago this month a album that change the game was made and released called MY XPERIENCE SEPT 1996. This is the remix for killing me softly that was never releases commercially the picture is of the fugees and bounty killer at Tilden ballroom in brooklyn shooting the video for killing me softly that also was never released #myxperience @grunggaadzilla @wyclefjean @prasmichel @ms_laurynhill #1996
Rodney Price aka Bounty Killer also known as the Warlord, the Poor People Governor, the Five Star General, and @GrunGaadZilla. His lyrical attack changed the sound of modern dancehall in the early 1990s. Apart from his own body of work he championed talents include the Scare Dem Crew and the Alliance, bringing forth future champions like Elephant Man, Mavado, Vybz Kartel, and Busy Signal.
Johnny Wonder is the man responsible for The Warlord’s first three albums on V.P. Records: Roots, Reality & Culture (1993), Down In The Ghetto (1994) and Face To Face with Beenie Man. Rather than simply compiling productions from the likes of King Jammy’$, John John and Wonder’s own Ghetto Vibes label, He is now the V.P. of 21st Hapilos Digital distribution.
Edward Seaga chose this song for his Reggae Golden Jubilee compilation in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. “In all part of Jamaican music you have songs which are message Music,” he said of the track in which Killer blasts the powers that be for sufferation of poor people.
02 “Lord Is My Light and Salvation” (Jammy’$)
Drawing lyrics directy from Psalms 27, Killer affirmed that every warrior has a spiritual side. “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and I fear no evil I fear no one,” Killer boasted. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
03 “Hip-Hopera” ft. The Fugees (Wyclef Jean)
The Fugees had just released what was then the biggest hip hop album in history (The Score) when they started to collaborate with Bounty Killer. First he touched up their “Killing Me Softly” remix, shot a video that would never come out due to clearance issues, then they collabed on a few dubplates for King Addies before making this historic record with a full-on video shoot complete with Wyclef in a viking helmet.
04 “Guns And Roses” ft. Anthony Malvo & Red Rose (Anthony Redrose)
This conscious rude boy combination had the ladies on lock back when My Xperience was coming together. For this song about a woman seeking a “man to use up him rod like Moses,” Killer used a flow that he would rock on a few joints: “Rotate them from the right to the center to left.”
05 “Mama” [Scare Dem Version] (Jazzwad)
Jazzwad put together this update of the Jammy’$ version for Killer’s own “Scare Dem” productions. Thankfully, the lyrics remain unchanged—a heartrending window on ghetto livity “mama she’s not in a good mood, the basket inna the kitchen running out of food.” The song then moves to the Book of Revelation.
06 “Change Like the Weather” ft. Busta Rhymes & Junior Reid (Erick Sermon)
When TV meteorologist Spencer Christian made a guest appearance in Killer’s video, the whole world knew this was gonna be a next-level project. After seeing that it was no surprise to discover Junior Reid chanting lyrics in a snowstorm or Busta Rhymes doing that “Dungeon Dragon” face with his long dreadlocks. Produced by Erick Sermon and recorded at the legendary Chung King studio this track went hard.
07 “War Beyond the Stars” (John John)
Ripping up John John’s throwback “Koloko” riddim, Bounty Killer takes an already epic lyrical conflict with Beenie Man to interstellar levels. “First he used to say I’m his idol, now he want to become my rival—is it him sound like me, or me sound like him? Them wrong to ask fi war, it gone beyond the stars.”
08 “Living Dangerously” ft. Barrington Levy (Jah Screw)
Barrington Levy originally invited Killer to guest on his Duets album, but when it was time for Killer to drop My Xperience, he stepped to Jah Screw for the track which had not yet fully blow up. Today it’s one of both aritsts’ biggest tunes.
Recorded at the original 36 Chambers studio in Shaolin aka Staten Island and produced by RZA himself, this was a true collaboration in real sense of the word. The tune
10 “Marathon (To Chicago)” (Jazzwad)
“The gal them say they want a man / To wuk them very long…” Get the picture?
11 “Revolution Part 3” ft. Dennis Brown & Beenie Man (Fatta/Bulby)
What better track for the first ever collab between two of dancehall biggest rivals? Bulby’s three-the-hard-way combination was truly “Revolutionary.”
12 “Gun Down” (Jazzwad)
Serious sound killing anthem on the Stalag riddim.
13 “Mi Nature” (Sly & Robbie)
A next bad gal tune. “Amen so let it be.”
14 “Virgin Island” (Jazzwad)
“Guns & Roses” flow Part Deux. It’s still all about the girls them.
15 “Who Send Them” (Jazzwad/Teetimus)
Trust and believe that this particular tune generated a whole heap of a dubplate money.
16 “Seek God” [Remix] ft. Junior Reid (Bobby Digital)
One of Killer’s most profound reality tunes, voiced over Digital B’s massive “Kette Drum” riddim with an assist from “One Blood” Reid too-too-tweng!
17 “Maniac” ft. Richie Stephens (Danny Browne/Sly/Lenky)
The singer’s Pot O Gold label was killing it with this Danny Browne production, bringing back the Flashdance sountrack inna dancehall style.
18 “Suicide or Murder” [Remix] ft. Jeru the Damaja (Massive B)
One of Massive B’s biggest productions was this hip hop remix of the Bounty Killer banger.
19 “Benz & Beema” (Sly / Jazzwad)
One of the biggest hits for the East Coast Records label. This being 1996, Lexus got a shout out too.
20 “My Experience” (Jazzwad)
The title track for the album, taking it back to the reality argument, tracing the cycle from unemployment to crime and violence and ending with a call for progressive movments and a plea for for Father God to “answer we prayer more urgent.”
It’s been 20 Years Since My Xperience. What are your thoughts about that album, which changed the dancehall game in so many ways?
Well I’m not gonna lie, I was just experimenting at the time. It was really Johnny Wonder. I gotta give most of the props for the album to Johnny Wonder still. It was John’s vision to do those collaborations. I was always excited about doing hip hop cause I did a collaboration with Special Ed. That was the first collaboration that I did with Special Ed.
And that was Johnny Wonder’s suggestion even, because I didn’t know who the fuck was Special Ed. It was really always Johnny Wonder who always encouraged me to jump on the hip hop beats, and I lied riding them. I enjoyed it, from that first remix to the “Shook Ones Part II” “Cellular Phone.”
Yeah, so it was really Johnny Wonder. You gotta give the most props to Johnny Wonder for that really collaborative effort. Cause I just did know Lauryn Hill from the movie with Whoopi. I never know her for her singing skill. When Fugees came out I started to dig on Lauryn. It was Johnny Wonder who told me about her.
One thing I love about that album is those weren’t just email collabs. Like you really went to RZA and Wu Tang in Staten Island.
No, it was the real thing. Artist to artist. No that was not the email stuff, Pro-Tools-type. We all in the studio vibes together. Yeah from the Mobb Deep, Busta Rhymes. The only person I never get to vibe in the studio with was Jeru. All other collaboration was live in the studio. Definitely, yeah, you could feel the vibes. You could feel the pure soul.
And of course “Living Dangerously” has become one of your most requested songs over the years. Did you know it was going to be such a big song?
Yeah but that was a re-release. No, but that was a big miracle on that album. Cause it came out before on Barrington’s album Duets. It was Barrington’s single. I recorded that song for Barrington’s album. It was after, when Barrington put it out he never get much attention, but I don’t know what happened. Then after some disc jockey start to play it they took it up. That was after it came out and never happened on Barrington album I heard them start play it. And then it was Barrington Levy, a legend, so I said “It’s good to have him on the album, so then I’m going to re-release it on my album as well.” And then I put it back on my album, and it took off as a single. That’s one of my biggest songs to date. I perform that song every time I perform, even last weekend. It gets the same response every time.
A wicked piece of tune.
Yeah man, that’s a masterpiece.
Now I have to make mention of the Dennis Brown “Revolution Part III.”
With me and Beenie Man. [Laughs]
That was a first at that time, correct?
Yeah that was the first collaboration we have ever done.
At a time when nobody saw that coming!
Yeah nobody wouldn’t wanna believe that at the time. That was Bulby, Fat Eyes. Bulby work with both of us. And then we were both excited to record with Dennis Brown. Mind you if it was just Bounty Killer and Beenie Man alone—ahhhh. But “Revolution” song. Who doesn’t want to get on that track? That Dennis Brown “Revolution” is one of the classic piece of music… So we say “OK I wanna get on that record, and I don’t care if Beenie’s on it!”
So what was the release party like for My Xperience?
I don’t remember the release party I can’t remember nothing about the party. It’s so long! That was an early stage of my career. I’ve been through so much adventurous and experimental moments. [Laughs]
But everything about that album—it was fire. Even on the day it released, the amount of autographs I had to sign. I think it’s the most autographs I ever signed on an album release. Yeah, we had to go to Brooklyn. We had to go to Moodie’s in the Bronx, we had to go to Manhattan. The HMV record store at the time.
You had the whole city on fire with that album.
That’s a masterpiece. That’s my greatest piece of work to date. I don’t think I can top it.
Would you say so?
I’m saying, that’s my greatest piece of art, musical… In my collection, that’s the greatest album I’ve recorded.
That’s a big statement.
They’re all great albums, but that is the greatest album of them all. If you check the hits, all hits. You don’t skip when you play My Xperience. You just put it in and let it play. And it has the most hit single as an album out of every dancehall album. And it’s not really a compilation, it’s just hit songs.
And many of them were produced by you too.
Oh yeah, that was in the time when I was dabbling in production. Johnny Wonder is the one who encouraged me to do all them things. You know we’ve been through all our ups and downs. But we’ve still got to that know when it come on to my evolution: It’s Johnny Wonder. I can’t take that from him. He’s a genius.
What was your official role on this album?
Everything. I mean it was because of that that VP did their first joint venture, with TVT. Blunt Records, that was their first joint venture because of that album. That was their first one. Because of that album.
So you did the joint venture to do that album?
And you also worked on the Down in the Ghetto album, right?
Every one of them. Roots Realty and Culture. I took the picture for Down Inna the Ghetto on a disposable camera. All of those things I brought to V.P.
Those were the first and second and third albums. Roots Realty and Culture and Down Inna the Ghetto and Face to Face with Beenie Man. And a slew of bloodcleet singles and a slew of everything too.
How did the opportunity come up to do an album with TVT?
I was shopping it to everybody. Patrick Moxey wanted to do the album. Murray Elias wanted to do the album. It was a few people that… What’s his name, Steve Stoute. Nuff people. We went to a lot of meetings. TVT put up the most money. You know what I’m saying?
Did they know reggae at all? Was this their first reggae project?
No. No. I did compilations for them and stuff like that. But that was their first reggae thing ever.
I remember that series, Reggae Kings?
Yeah, Dancehall Kings.
Right. Those were pretty dope. So what made them go for Bounty at that moment?
ME! I was out there pushing this stuff man. Who do you think was out there pushing it? I’d get all the info and I’d bring it to Killer. I was in between these people anyway. It was a good fit. And then I went to jail so all that fell apart. You know what I mean?
You went to jail before the album came out?
Before the next album. I think it was called The Fifth Element or something? I mixed that album till the last morning. The Wyclef, I mixed that record until six or seven in the morning at Sony studio. And I used to live across the street on 56th Street. And then I just went home, changed, did what I had to do, and I just turned myself in. That’s how dedicated I was to this album. You know what I mean? But you know, it is what it is.
So that was for Fifth Element album?
Yeah. My Xperience, that’s a whole ’nother thing.
It still stands up 20 years later. And in this time when everybody is doing these hip hop reggae collars and remixes.
Let’s not even talk about remixes. Because you know, the “Cellular Phone” remix was the first of its kind. Chris Landry and Will and them. Flex played them joints in The Tunnel. That’s how tough they were.
I can’t find them again either.
Yeah, they’re gone. Some people have them. I know where to get em. Not on vinyl. Digital. I know where to get em.
So going down, there’s 20 tracks on the album, starting with “Fed Up.”
“Fed Up” was huge at the time. “Fed Up” was huge.
That was Killa just staking his claim as Poor People Governor.
Yeah, yeah that was Sly. That record was already made. Most of the dancehall was already made. It was just getting them other features. We thought that’s the way we can do it, and If would to his and that and we try to do this and that. It went as far as it went. You know what I mean?
I’m sure you had to personally reach out for some of these collabs.
A lot of them we reached out for. A lot of them things came to us and we followed them up and stuff like that. Somebody coulda said “Yes, this and this Bounty Killer.” But at the end of the day, we did all the work. Yeah you said this, but it’s up to us to make the links and do the links and everything like that. And it is what it is. A lot of it didn’t mesh. Just to have the skills to communicate with these motherfuckers.
You mean business-wise or creatively?
No, just in a human sense. An everyday living thing.
They would never be taking with each other if not for the project.
Exactly. But there’s some people that Killer woulda vibed with more than others.
So you had Jeru the Damaja on the record…
That was Bobby Konders when he had “Suicide or Murder” with Jeru. That got added to Hot 97. That was a big record.
Yes it was. And you also had the song with Raekwon. How did the Wu link happen?
Right. OK the Wu link happened like this… I’m gonna tell you. It’s either Ryder or somebody else, Power. Anyway, when we linked up, I remember doing the song. We did the song in RZA’s basement. It was me, Bounty, Peter Nar, Raekwon, Power, and RZA in 36 Chambers. We were fucked up. Smoked the fuck out. I took the boat over and that was the first time Bounty took the boat over. Because their studio was right there by the ferry. I did nuff politicking with them. I politicked with them fucking forever.
And they kept messin’ with reggae. They did all that “One Blood” shit. They have a little reggae in their thing.
Yeah they do, but… Them alright. Hahaha!
So how was Killa and Raekwon? Did they chop it up at all?
They were good. You know—Killa ain’t that type of man. You know dem weh deh? It was natural. We did stuff after a while. It was alright. Look, you’re going back 20 fuckin’ years. I remember how it was. Everything was alright and things were happening. It took a long time for it to happen.
I remember Raekwon and Ghostface talking about Killer on Hot 97 on Angie’s show. The record was done but it wasn’t mixed and they couldn’t come to terms. Power and RZA were executive producers on the track and all of that other stuff.
What about with Busta? How did that go?
Busta? Well we were in L.A. and Bounty was doing his first show in L.A. And he was givin’ me such a hard time! And I was like “Yo, we gotta fly back and go to Chung King with Erick Sermon and do a record with Busta Rhymes.” And he was not wantin’ to go! And I was like, “You have to go!” At Chung King we did that record.
And RZA produced the Raekwon record?
And Wyclef produced the “Hip Hopera”?
We all know Clef is a big sound system fan. He was running around with Addies right? Is that how the link happened?
We were fucking with Clef before they knew Addies.
So how did you connect with The Fugees?
David Sanguinetti who used to work at V.P. He made the link but we finished the process. You know what I mean? We drove to Orange County to get the thing cleared. David introduced us but we made the shit happen. We did the work. You know what I mean?
And maybe the biggest song on the whole album is the Barrington Levy collab “Living Dangerously.”
Oh hell yeah! Yeah.
That song has become one of Barrington’s and Killer’s biggest songs.
Killer went off and voiced that record with Barrington and Jah Screw. He went and voiced the tune but he never told nobody. Them time deh you had to sneak away if you deh ah Jammy’$ and you ah voice for some other man, and you’re amongst Jammy’s you don’t tell Jammy’S? But it was a big song. It was huge.
Looking back 20 years from that time until this time, what are your thoughts?
I just said it on Instagram, it was a game changer. It changed the game to be amongst those youths. That was huge in dancehall. They don’t look at it so. Nobody looks at it so.
What was the reception of the record?
It was good! Number one for six months on the reggae chart in Billboard.
And that was when artists could actually sell records.
Yeah when we were selling records and TVT was an independent distributor so we knew what we were selling. We spent a lot of money on videos. They put a lot of money behind it because we made a lot of money in the begnning. It was a buzz my youth. It was a buzz. And then the buzz flicker but ah so it go. If too many people listen to too many people, things go bad.
Who else played a part in this album other than Killer himself?
I’ll tell ya, there was a lot of people around Killer but I did all of the music work. You think all the 20 people around Killer were doing what I did? They were busy running around with Killer. So I compiled that record. I did every thing for that record. I was the one who did everything. I’d show Killer, say is that alright? He’d say “Yeah yeah yeah” and then move on. You think anybody else…? No one else was doing that. That was my lane cause they were too busy trying to be hype. I don’t give damn about the hype.
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