I first heard Mr. Vegas in 1998 while I was in Jamaica. His sweet voice was all over: in the dancehalls, in the streets, people were making cassettes right and left. The men were after his style and the women took to his natural good looks. So, when I heard he was going to play in Oakland, I decided to check it out.
The day of the event, I confirmed that Mr. Vegas was in the city somewhere and although that’s not always a sure-fire go of a show, I had a good feeling he was going to perform.
I arrived at the Continental Club and was surprised at what an incredible space it is. There is a large stage, 2 bars, an upstairs balcony overlooking the stage, and a capacity for over 1000 people. There were about 30 people there, but by the time I left, there were about 100. Tisha Luv and Joan Savory did a great job in producing the event on such short notice.
Zodiac Sounds were bumping amazing rhythms and I thought they were the heroes of the show. They kept things jumping throughout the evening.
At 10:45 p.m., the opening acts went on. Arlene Thomas from Oakland did two songs in her hip-hop style. Podeville Man Dem with Unda P and Enforcer came on next with flawless rhythm and unintelligible lyrics and JJ Johnson sang her smooth R&B songs. (She can be seen on Channel 26 on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m.).
During a long break, Zodiac kept the tunes blasting and by 12:45 a.m. Vegas went on. He was dressed in a bright red T-shirt, black pants and a huge gold cross hanging around his neck. The crowd was hyped. His set included some of his biggest tunes: “Hands In the Air,” “Heads High,” “Big Things A Gwaan,” “Sucky Ducky,” and “Jacket.” He was singing alongside records, and a number of times he called to Zodiac, “Run the Revolution rhythm!” At one point, he even got off the stage to settle something going down on the floor, “Leave her alone,” he said in a serious tone.
His disposition on stage was aggressive. His songs are highly charged with sexual innuendo and he showcased a new song with a shocking “She’s a Ho” chorus. The raw lyrical content definitely got the crowd going and his dancehall bantering was well received at the club.
After the show, I had a quick chat with the 25 year-old star. His disposition was quite different off the stage. He was soft-spoken and reserved. Nicknamed by a cousin who thought he played soccer like a girl (more explicitly, a Vegas go-go dancer), Mr. Vegas began singing at the youthful age of 11. He began by telling me about his upbringing in Kingston where he used to cut class to go down to the studios, and his more recent encounter with having his jaw wired shut. A few years back, Vegas was approached by another musician claiming ownership of a DAT tape: “There was an argument and the person used a piece of iron to break my jaw bone. So [before this incident] I was singing real R& B stuff, like covers of R&B songs on the Reggae tracks. Then after the incident, I couldn’t really sing like I could before, so that was when I went to the studio and did “Hands in the Air” and the rest is history!”
Laura Gardner: Do you see yourself as a messenger or as an entertainer?
Mr. Vegas: I see myself as both. I put messages into my entertaining, so it’s vice versa, six of one, half-dozen of the other… I’m dedicating myself more to the ladies. Most of the songs that I sing are dedicated to the ladies… If I go out there, and there are just two ladies in the audience, I’ll still try and please those two ladies.
LG: What kind of audience do you envision when you write your songs?
MV: Actually, most of my songs are street songs. I’m hanging with some ladies and hear them saying things about other ladies. Girls cussing out girls saying things. That’s the way I write my songs, because if some girls can be cussing each other out about it then that means the girls are going to respond and go to the dancehall with it.
LG: Are you in a committed relationship now?
MV: Right now, I think I’ve got a little too much work to really be committed, because I’ve been on the road for 2 months now. I haven’t been in Jamaica or elsewhere for more than one or two days, so, it’s hard to be steady.
LG: Can you see that for yourself eventually?
MV: Maybe when the work slows down.
LG: Whom haven’t you worked with that you’d really like to?
MV: I haven’t worked with Jay-Z as yet, but I’d love to do something with him. I’ll work with anyone – if they’re a big artist, small artist, young artistjust as long as the music is good. Anything can happen.
LG: Any last words?
MV: Yeah. I’d just like to big up the fans and I just have to give love to everyone and please ask them to love me some more.