There’s a fine line between fan and journalist. Cameron Crowe tackled the dilemma in his latest film, “Almost Famous,” when his main character sets off on tour with his favorite band, reporting the story back to Rolling Stone Magazine. Does he report the “real” story and face scrutiny from his “friends” in the band? Or does he appease his newfound friends, making the band look flawless and angelic?
I approached this assignment as both fan and journalist. Because Luciano and Mikey General speak for themselves, I faced no compromise. Despite my experience having seen the most atrocious acts from artists preaching a message of harmony, righteousness, equality and love, these two artists come with an honest vibe. What you see is what you get. Refreshing and inspiring, they know they’re on a mission to spread the gospel. Whether you are a fan, a journalist, a promoter, or a musician, they come at you with the same attitude, which you will hear in the pages to come.
Having released two albums within two months, “Great Controversy” [Jet Star] and “A New Day,” [VP Records], Luciano matter-of-factly remarked on the coincidence, “I didn’t plan for two, but Jah say two albums in 2001 so I give thanks!” Just having finished a 45+-date U.S. spring tour to promote the two albums, Luciano is planning to return to California to headline Reggae on the River (August 2001), The Renegade Festival (September 2001) and Reggae in the Park (October 2001) where fans are eagerly awaiting his arrival.
The three of us had united for an interview two years ago in Santa Cruz, California, so we were due for another reasoning session. Chico, California proved to be the locale for our interview, following their energetic show at Brick Works on April 19th, 2001. Everyone was exhausted, but after some nice ital food in the hotel room, the crew livened up a bit.
Laura Gardner: The last time we spoke formally was exactly 2 year ago. What has changed in your life since then?
Luciano: Not much has changed. I would prefer to say that things have grown. When I look back at the last tour, “Sweep Over My Soul,” I can sense a spiritual initiation amongst my fans, my people who have been supporting me all these years. I give thanks for the reception that we’ve been receiving on “The New Day” tour. It really is a new day in our lives. We’ve been in Jamaica for the past year and a half or two years, working on this album. So here we are today by our faith which has brought us here.
LG: I’ve definitely noticed an improvement; certainly the band seems tighter and a little more mature. Mikey General, you are getting a really nice forum in which to sing now!
Mikey General: Thank you. The management structure has changed slightly within those two years with Brother Luci at the helm. Mr. [Copeland] Forbes is the personal manager and he monitors everything and makes sure everything is running right. They have decided to give me more songs to sing and it’s helping me promote my album, “Spiritual Revolution.”
LG: I have listened to “A New Day” and what is most noticeable to me is [saxophonist] Dean Fraser’s influence. What has been his role in the production of your music?
Luci: Mr. Fraser has been an executive producer for “A New Day.” Now and again we use different producers. For example, Brother Mikey General and myself produced a track called “Nah Give Up, ” and Sly and Robbie produced “If You’re Not Matching then You’re Clashing,” and “The Road of Life.” “The Journey” was produced by General Lee and Sonic Sound, so we have a little variety with musicians and producers, but more so Brother Dean Fraser has been the Executive Producer.
LG: Do you feel that there is something missing with [former producer] Fattis [Burrell] not being involved anymore?
Luci: I tell you the honest truth: Fattis will always be missed, you know? Even though more time has passed, I still check with him. There comes a time when people grow up. Cocoa Tea, who used to be with Fattis is doing his own thing called Roaring Lion. Beres Hammond also worked with Fattis and now has his own Harmony House. Sanchez is doing his own thing also.
It’s really a matter of giving thanks for what Fattis has done and his contribution to our growth. I still have to say that if it weren’t for Fattis, I wouldn’t have met the Firehouse Crew (Mr. Dean Fraser and many of the other musicians). I have to give thanks at all times for that. And now we are doing our own little t’ing, Jah Messenjah Productions on the way. We will soon come out with our little website, with our e-mail and our fan club. But as a Rastaman, I couldn’t just come and rush into the computer thing [laughs]! I know that Babylon is really rushing ahead of Jah times so if I can slow things down a little, it’s for my best interest.
MG: Concerning Fattis, as Luci rightly said, we miss him sometimes. We learned a lot from him in terms of production, which has now enabled us to produce our stuff to the quality standard that is required. We always use the best musicians; we always use the best studios and the best mixing engineers. He was like a schoolroom.
LG: Like a mentor.
MG: Yes, we were learning and now we have graduated and started on our own.
LG: Since we last spoke, I started my own publication called Jahworks.org. With the new company, people always give me advice. They say if you are a decent and nice person, you should not go into the music business because of the corruption and the difficulty in the industry. How have…
Luci: No! That’s not advice, mon!
MG: That is discouragement!
Luci: You could not say the Messenger is not a decent person. I have to make sure that I help secure this heritage. The music is a means through which we can educate the youngsters. We have to soothe the people’s souls with the music. It’s the highest, the greatest thing.
Music allows us to share our thoughts, our philosophies and we reason telepathically. We know, like everything else, that the music, the church, and the government, has been infiltrated by the forces of evil. Just like you have wicked politicians now who want to pass certain rules and certain legislation causing moral oppression pon poor people, you have some little singers-hurry-come-up musicians-who don’t know anything about playing a note. They just run gone in the studio and say they want to make big hits and be big mega stars [laughs]. They come corrupt them thing! But the music is an innocent thing. It’s the people who know that the music is lucrative and has economic potentiality that rush come into it. But in the long run, it takes good heart to bring good melodies, good words and good inspiration. So we know that clean-hearted people can only endure.
There are a lot of people who make a lot of money, and they don’t know what to do with it so they launder it into the music. Some of them don’t have the patience of waiting and working with artists. Them want a quick t’ing! So, their DJ or singer comes and sings some boogeyaga with no knowledge of what we’ve been using our lives for-going out in the battlefield to teach.
I am more than honored to be a part of this fraternity. Look at the work of Brother Bob Marley or Brother Dennis Brown, Brother Burning Spear, Beres Hammond. All of these great musicians have set up their little kingdoms in their own way, and built up their things. Right now there are thousands, millions of followers following positive musicians, making sure we keep this family alive. We can’t afford to have a negative attitude. So don’t be discouraged.
It’s true; we get bitter temptation sometimes [laughs]! More time, we go pray or ask Jah to give I strength to face another day.
LG: I’ve wondered about that: how do you deal with the people-the women, the fans-who want to get to know you just because of who you are?
Luci: My response to that is that power comes with responsibility. My singing gathers people so I have to have the right demeanor and the right composure to deal with people accordingly. I could be singing about love, [singing] “It’s your world and mine,” and then live a secluded life, segregated from people. I couldn’t do that! Jah would have locked my jaw a long time ago!
We try to share whatever knowledge and talent God has given us with humanity. The more you share, the more you help people and see the results. Many people come up to us and say, “Singer, thank you. Keep singing positive music.” These are the things that encourage me. I love people so I take time out to write my autographs for my people. I see myself as a shepherd and the people (my fans and my family) as the sheep. So when I gather them, I have to know how to feed them and give them the water.
LG: It’s an interesting analogy.
Luci, M.G. [laughing]: Nurture them, man!
MG: Temptation may come but to the one that heeds to it. We try not to heed to it and we try to see our fans as part of an extended family.
Luci: It’s a ministry!
MG: We don’t want to disrespect or lose that love the we have gotten. Sometimes we see people who have come with some negative vibes, but we try to show them love and send them along their way still. Leave them with a strong, positive vibe, advice or words of encouragement.
Sometimes we might encounter some nice women out along the street, and we are there to help them and strengthen them because some of them are going through all kinds of trouble, emotional and all that. We see them as part of an extended family so we try to keep it that way-family.
LG: An interesting article has published on the website about the fire burn controversy, with all the Boboshanti chanting…
Luci: Bun Rome…
LG: Exactly. Neither one of you has come out strongly against the battyman or against Europeans. What is your whole take on the situation?
Luci (to MG): Me a go on ahead with that one, sir!
(to LG): I come on earth to glorify my God, to glorify my maker and my Father. I use positiveness and trample Babylon. I use positiveness and conquer negativeness. This is how I see it: some people have negative vibes and we have to just keep giving them positive vibes-tell him about righteousness, tell him about a Psalm in the Bible or a passage that will help him focus… When you’re driving on the road, you don’t go hunting for potholes to prove to yourself that you’re skillful at driving. You seek for good road! You try to preserve your engine, preserve your vehicle and your meditation. You get a good drive; you stay away from the potholes. So I stay away from the evil folks and for people who don’t have any love for the Almighty. Right now, I sing songs like [singing], “Word, power and sound, I-man come to shake wicked Babylon down …” How I see it, Empress, is that all the people who are talking about faggots and making battyman music, it’s like they are bigging up battyman! You understand?
Battyman deserves no space on my album! When I say, “Babylon” or “corruption”-a dem that, mother of all that! A dem that, you understand?
I have no problem when some of the Rastafarian brothers just burn out some corruption, but then they get caught up when they want to burn the Bible, or burn Christ. I really get away then because I don’t believe we should go around and burn the Father. His Majesty himself came and told us that if we read the Bible with a clear conscience, we can find truth in it. The words mean one and the same-it transcends all boundaries of empires.
We burn with care and caution. If you’re burning rubbish in the home, you can’t burn it right outside your house-it might catch and burn down your house. You have to know what you’re doing with wisdom. And we educate the people, which is the best way to burn out Rome. When you educate the people and they rise up to know themselves, then Babylon will get weaker because they will have less people to fuel them.
MG: I agree with the burning of the homosexual still but some of them are taking it to an extreme. Luci rightly says we don’t need to mention that. The Bible done states already that people like that deserve this.
Luci: It says Sodom go down.
MG: When we say Sodom and Gomorrah we’re talking about them as well as the system that upholds them and allows two man fi get married.
Luci: We just want to keep it pure and positive.
MG: Even with the concept of burning Europeans, I’n’I couldn’t do that still because we say all people are one. His Majesty tells us that. We shouldn’t practice racial discrimination. The color of a person doesn’t matter, just their concept and their mind. We have wicked black people the same way. You have wicked in every nation. It’s the system that we burn out.
It so happens that most of the system that has come pon I’n’I has been a European system, so more time when you hear them say, “Burn Babylon,” they’re really trying to burn out that system. You will find European people who love you and fight for your cause more than some of your own people. So you have to be careful about what you’re doing. We try to spend our energy uniting all races, all people, all concepts…
Luci: Especially Jah children who have a clean heart and good intentions. Right now we just have to strengthen them. We know we can’t save the whole world still. Right now while we are here speaking, there are some governments who want to legalize Sodomism and that is not right, because God created the woman for the man and the man for the woman. So how do they want to mix up man to man and woman to woman? These are the things that cause so much chaos pon the world today-judgment, destruction, starvation.
I tell you the truth-when we’re talking and someone ask me my view, I am going to tell them!
LG: I appreciate that. I recently asked an artist why there weren’t more conscious female artists in Reggae. There are a few, but not that many…
MG: To tell you the truth, you hardly find women in Jamaica-we have Sister Carol and Angie Angel and people like that who are carrying the message, but you hardly find women in Jamaica…
Luci: In the world…
MG: Yes, in the world, who have the mind to do the work of the Almighty, really and truly. You find that most of them are more vanity-centered. We’re trying our best to bring out the royal empresses.
Luci: As you mentioned, the fraternity is a rigorous one. Choosing Jah road is a rigorous one-you get temptation and all different things. How I see it is that this musical thing is a spiritual thing. It takes faith and endurance; it takes will power to really make it. Women will pick up a big company, a manufacturing company or an airline, and run it good. She’ll run it and master it, but I think she’s more inclined to the material side than the spiritual side when it comes to music.
You have a couple of female artists down in Jamaica now, but most of them want to sing about “love you down,” and all of those things things: body, body smashing, how they love the man, how fit the men are. I’m saying that it is very evident that few women really stand up in history and say, “Boy, me a go Jah way. Me a sing fi Jah.” You can’t blame us for realizing the reality. The truth is that the empresses are not as spiritually reinforced. And I also think that how the brothers treat the sisters is very dangerous! So the empresses get coward too. Also some of the females love to sing and use their body as a sex symbols…
MG: That’s how most producers try to portray female artists…
Luci: There are a couple of female singers who really try to come and make it but they find out that the music, the fraternity, has become so contaminated with people who are coming to look for big names and money.
LG: It’s true that women aren’t applauded or acknowledged for being spiritual.
Luci: No. When you see a female come out on top and she sing conscious songs, God sent her. Remember me a tell you that [laughs]. God sent her.
MG: We encourage women who are spiritually minded to glorify Jah. We have a little gospel singer down in Jamaica. I’n’I are a Rastafari people, but we have a little gospel daughter named Glacia Robinson. She plays the guitar too. She reminds me of Luci sometimes. She has come out and really taken the country by a storm, because people were really glad to see a young lady, young girl, take up this cross and go out there. So we encourage these kinds of females and we know that we need more representation of them out there, but as Brother Luci rightly said, it’s because most of them seek a different way and probably cannot take the pressure that is attached to the music.
Luci: There are a couple of spiritual females coming out right now in Jamaica, like Queen Ifrica, and you have The Rastarenes. Over the years there have been some very wicked producers who have passed though the business. Right now I see things taking a turn where you have some upful brothers really making an input and wanting to help. I think that right now is a turning point for female positive lyrics to come and really be a part of this mission.
Jah Messenjah, with whatever show we put on, will always keep a couple of female empresses with a positive vibration on the bill, because it’s not just man alone.
MG: His Majesty tells us that we cannot organize and centralize without woman. With that overstanding from His Majesty, and from what life has taught us, we know that we need more women out there preaching the message and we encourage them in any way, in any shape and form that we see them.
LG: Lastly, would you like your children to be musicians when they grow up?
MG: We encourage them to be musicians. Look at Toots Hibbert and all these people-music keeps you young, it keeps you lively, it gives you a sense of purpose. It’s a discipline too. Playing an instrument is a discipline. There’s so much in life entailed in music, so I would encourage my children. And I know Brother Luci is always buying guitars for his sons [laughs]. Always buying instruments fi dem!
Luci: Not all of them are going to come out with a love for it, but at least one or two. Out of my own family of nine (my mother and father had nine of us-I’m the seventh child and the last son), I am the only one right now who holds on to music to this level where right now it is taking me around the world.
LG: Well, thank you for staying up so late. You are an inspiration.
Luci: You keep up the good work, Empress. Continue to spread your light and share your blessing and what life has taught you. And we will continue to sing good songs for you, my dear. Jah bless and protect.
MG: Yes, Empress Laura, I’d like to say thank you. You are always there for us.
I’d like to thank Anthony Gad and Deryck Semper for making this interview possible. Biggest thanks go to Luciano and Mikey General for their patience, hospitality and candor.