Reasoning with Anthony B
Better to do right and to do right without fear
than to do wrong and know that you are doing wrong and be afraid.
Tosh said in 1980, “If I were the Prime Minister no guy could tell
me what to do. Bloodclat, Îcause I know what is right. Seen? And everything
I do must be Biblical and righteously right. So me no want no guy come
tell me what to do.” With such fervor and self-confidence, it is
no wonder that Tosh became a hero and inspiration to Anthony B. Righteousness,
African repatriation, and the Bible are only a fraction of the themes
they both address in their music.
When I conducted an interview with Anthony B on
February 26, 2000, I thought he would be fundamentally Tosh-like
in manner: direct, strong willed, and charismatic. However, he proved
to be soft-spoken, patient with my questioning and committed to spreading
Born Keith Blair in rural Trelawny Parish, Jamaica,
Anthony B grew up in the church under the guidance of his Revivalist grandmother
and Seventh Day Adventist mother. From church singing to secular deejaying,
Anthony B has always received intense pleasure from singing and following
the latest music. As a teenager, he adopted the Rastafari way of life
and grew his dreadlocks. His grandmother, feeling that the Rastas were
a “blackhearted” people, gave him the choice of cutting off
his locks or moving out of her house. Believing in his Rasta ways, Anthony
B moved in with his aunt and uncle in Portmore. In 1993, Richard “Bello”
Bell of Star Trail Records noticed his lyrical ability and their collaboration
continues to this day.
Anthony B began recording in 1994, making hits with
“Repentance Time,” “One Thing,” “Hurt the Heart,”
and “Gwane Chant,” with Sizzla, Derrick Lara, Determine and
Louis Culture. But the floodgates to fame broke open in 1995 with his
anti-Vatican tirade, “Fire ÎPon Rome,” which was banned all
over Jamaica and Miami. Bell reflected, “I thought IRIE-FM [the Jamaican
all-Reggae radio station] would be a more liberal station, but apart from
Muta[baruka], nobody at IRIE wanted to play it.” “Raid the Barn”
soon followed and Anthony B was a conscious dancehall contender.
His debut album was released in 1996 entitled “So
Many Things/Real Revolutionary” on the Star Trail label. His second
album, “Universal Struggle,” (1998, VP Records) won critical
acclaim and showcased the anthem, “Damage.”
“Seven Seals” is his latest CD, released
in the UK by Jet Star, in North America by VP Records and in the Caribbean
by Star Trail/VP. Enhanced by CD-ROM capabilities, “Seven Seals”
is his best effort yet, staying true to his ultimate message.
Laura Gardner: When did you first learn you had
a good voice and could sing?
Anthony B: Well, I’ve been singing from a young,
young age. I grew up on the streets with my friends and they would always
encourage me. There’s something about music in me. I would know every
song that played on the radio even before I started to write songs. My
friends would say, “Bwai! You know music!” So, growing up, going
to school, I started writing songs in school and I said, “I’m
gonna be a musician.”
LG: When did you first know you were a star and
you had made it? Was it with “Fire ÎPon Rome?”
Anthony B: When I came to Star Trail, about ’91
or ’92, there was a 14-parish Sunsplash competition going on in JamaicaÛa
DJ from every parish. There were 14 of us and I won for St. Catherine
and went onto Sunsplash for the first time. We recorded a song in ’94
called “Hurt the Heart” and that song started doing good in
Jamaica and I started doing a lot of dub plates and a lot of little country
shows. So from there, “Fire ÎPon Rome” came in ’95.
LG: Tell me about how “Raid the Barn”
came to you, because it could be a universal anthem.
Anthony B: We were going through a phase, just opening
the eyes and looking at life. [The music industry] wasn’t really
willing to help because we would go to disc jockeys and give them songs
that they wouldn’t even listen to. Then “Fire ÎPon Rome”
came and everyone was asking for a song from me to play. I said, “Remember?
You have it!” Richard Bell, Star Trail producer, came to me with
an idea and said, “Listen to this!” and the two of us started
singing and it came together.
LG: I have read that Peter Tosh was a great influence
on you. What was it about Peter’s music that influenced you and your
Anthony B: It’s his sound, first and foremost.
Peter sounds like an angel to me. You listen to his voice and his voice
is so touching, so convincing, so pure and so true, like everything you’d
say. And the way he does his things; he does his things straight, proper
and with no apology. Just be himself, who he is, you know? Yeah, that’s
what I love about Peter.
LG: You often sing about anti-gun violence and how
the “Bobo doesn’t have a gun in his pocket.” What are your
feelings about gun control in the U.S., Jamaica and the Caribbean as a
Anthony B: Take the guns out of the hands of the
people. There is no purpose. You build guns to hunt and to create wars
and to win new cities. That is what guns were created for. In ancient
history, the country or the empire with the biggest, wickedest army could
rule the world. That purpose and significance isn’t there anymore.
So I think it’s time to take away the guns since the gun has no purpose.
People who have guns and no purpose to fight are going to use it for careless
things. That’s what’s happening right now. Gun is man’s
biggest enemy. Gun has no friend. Gun is going to respect no one.
We need to start educating the people, educating
the youths, giving the youths the fair opportunity, the fair chance to
be educated, to know about themselves so they can feel proud about themselves
so they don’t feel cheated in society and become serial killers or
convicts. There is an illiteracy going around in the youth that they don’t
understand. Sometimes there’s a youth out there and he’s walking
and he feels like society rejects him because he doesn’t have his
fair share, then he retaliates in a different way. So I think we need
to educate. Give people their fair share of education.
Laura Gardner: You’re part of the Boboshanti
tribe of Rastafari. Can you tell me about your beliefs?
Anthony B: It’s Rastafari, you know? It’s
the same: His Majesty is the Almighty to I’n’I, seen? In the
Rastafari faith you have warriors, you have prophets and you have kings.
So I’n’I is under the priest. It’s like Melchizedek, the
High Priest. Just like the Abuna, the Sikh who wears the turban for his
priesthood. The Bobo faith is the church along this part of Rastafari,
so we wear a turban.
LG: Is it a more militant side of Rastafari?
Anthony B: Yeah. It’s more the churchical side,
the salvation side… Them say the priests wouldn’t go to war. While
other countries were at war, the priests would pray for the country. So
you find that Bobo is the priest… So it is nothing new. It’s
the same ancient livity as that time… They say that Abraham gave Melchizedek
one-tenth of the soil to become a priest to replenish and rebuild Israel.
It’s just the Melchizedek order, him who come by it.
In Jamaica, you have to find somebody to teach about
yourself, because you can’t go back to Africa not knowing where you’re
from, not knowing who you are. Even going to America, you’ve got
to have some idea of it before you can go there. The Boboshanti now teach
about that principle, so when you wear a turban and a robe and you’re
dressed like this and you go back to Africa, they see you as someone who
knows the livity and the energy.
LG: So who was your guide? Who was your counselor?
Anthony B: The leader of the Bobo tribe is Prince
Emmanuel. We see him as the Moses of this time. He is the man who will
lead I back to Africa: true repatriation. So we see Selassie as the King
who is worthy to be praised, you know? We see Marcus [Garvey] as a prophet.
And we say, “Without a prophet there is no vision. Without the King
there is no life. Without the priest there will be no salvation.”
So we say Christ is the man who come into the dust to teach you how to
live and how to teach… We see Emmanuel as the Christ in the dust
now, who is teaching I of the principle of word. And we see Marcus as
the man who said, “Look to the East to the coming of the black King.”
It says the same thing in the Bible. John the Baptist saw this vision.
He said, “I look and see the king, the elder who sat on the throne.
Behold, the lion from the Tribe of Judah shall come.” So this is
a prophecy we see. It’s about livity. It’s not new. It’s
not like we created something. It’s there, you know?
LG: You speak a lot about African unity and repatriation.
How do you see other races/ethnic groups?
Anthony B: Everyone else identifies with where they’re
from. You identify that your ancestors are from Europe, so you embrace
Europe as your motherland. We are not saying that you can’t go to
America, you can’t go to Jamaica, you can’t go to Africa, but
you identify Europe as your home. The Chinese identify China as their
home, even though they are in America and everywhere in the world. So,
we’re saying the black man needs to identify somewhere as home. And
when he chases his genes and chases his lineage, and chases his history,
his history leads him back to Africa… So we’re saying we need
to embrace Africa and build it for ourselves.
The Jews say they are from Israel and they found
it and they built it and it flourished… If your country is in poverty,
that means that your pride and your dignity is in poverty. It’s not
just you, but a nation in poverty. So, we’re saying if we recognize
ourselves as black people, and African, then Africa wouldn’t be like
that. You wouldn’t find so much downpression, so many people who
don’t know about proper hygiene, people who don’t really know
how to get ahead. It would be our responsibility to go there and share
this education that we’ve developed in the Western Hemisphere. With
what we earn in the Western Hemisphere, we should go there and share it.
There are a lot of black men who are wealthy and have nothing to do with
it but drink and smoke. If there was a national cry and a national pride
and a nation upliftment, that would serve significance. Because we know
that racism is in us: everyone identifies with where they’re from.
LG: Do you think that’s a good way of looking
at the world?
Anthony B: Yes, because the world is free. The world
was like that: Africa was for the Africans.
LG: We all come from Jah, the Creator…
Anthony B: Yeah, but we still have to live where
we are. We don’t take the cow and the pig and put them in one place,
you understand? …You put flowers in the garden. And you put the cane
in the cane fields.
LG: But we’re all human beings. It’s not
like we’re different species.
Anthony B: But man is like a tree planted by the
river. That doesn’t mean that we won’t mix, we won’t mingle,
but I have somewhere to go. I’m not just roaming the earth.
You can’t get around history. Truth is truth
and it doesn’t matter what we think. That’s why we say, “Every
river will take its course. Every sea will take back its course, so every
man has to find his root. Cause nature itself will take back its course.”
Anthony B’s words were translated from patois