Prezident Brown: Well, I’ve been on my own since the sound system days in the early 80’s. Recording with other people is just like a collaboration along the way, giving respect to those doing similar works. So I recorded for Tony Rebel’s label. I did some songs with Everton Blender. I lately did something with Cocoa Tea and recorded some songs for his label also. I did something with Steel Pulse. So to me it’s important to collaborate in unity and strength. Once the music is positive and artists a have common goal, a common sense of purpose, it is good to collaborate.
Francesca: When was your first album released?
Prezident Brown: My first CD came out in 1994. It was released by a little company in the Netherlands, a company called Runn Records. In 1995 I started going to Europe and I’ve been going there since that time. But I decided to turn the attention to the U.S. and North America. I have also been hearing from a lot of artists that I should check the scene. I’m more used to the East Coast where I do a one show in New York, one in Miami, one in Ft. Lauderdale. This is my first major West Coast tour.
Francesca: During this tour, your music has been introduced to many new fans and reinforced your existing fans. What have you gained from it personally?
Prezident Brown: I’ve gained inspiration because what I do is not just for myself. I make music to share my thoughts with the world so if I make the music, I am always willing to go out and play it to the people. So it does a lot for me, it reenergizes me to go out and make more music. When I see people accept the music and tell me personally what my music has done for them… I remember a show in Colorado, this bredren was in the show and he didn’t know of me before. He just heard there was a reggae artist in town and he was going to check it out. He said he wanted to cry for about four years now, my music made him cry. So a lot of stuff that people tell me, a lot of that just strengthens my purpose.
Francesca: Do the experiences you have while on tour contribute to creation of new songs?
Prezident Brown: Definitely because songs come in many different ways. Songs come from just collecting thoughts, direct inspiration; songs come from my personal life, my personal living. It comes from like you said touring and going to different places and meeting different people.
Francesca: And, observing?
Prezident Brown: Yeah, definitely observing because I am an observer, really. It’s kind of strange. I talk a lot if I do an interview because I have a lot to say and I talk a lot with music. But my normal way, I don’t talk. So people always say you don’t have a lot to say but when you are on stage there is so much you pour out (laughs)! But it does reenergize me to know that people are getting what I am trying to deliver. You know the inspiration and the vibe come from the Most High so I’m like a medium through to the people. So when the people get it, and I see that they get it, it brings a sense of satisfaction and that satisfaction makes me go forward with my works.
Francesca: So for you, the feedback from your fans is an inspiration and type of payment.
Prezident Brown: Yes, because how I view the whole vibe of music is it’s art. Whatever you do when you are doing it, you don’t think about money and you don’t think about time. Sometimes I’m on stage and when I see they cut me, they tell me my time is up, it’s amazing. I’m thinking, “an hour has passed already?” Because I’m into my thing, I’m not checking the time.
So that’s how I view it. It’s not really the money side of it, but the money side is a reality needed to keep everything going but it is not the major part of it. If I do a show and it’s well done, I am satisfied. If I do a recording and it is well done I’m just satisfied with myself and just ready to go on to the next one. The business people take that and market it.
Francesca: People often embrace music to stay grounded to truth. Besides your work, what keeps you inspired and grounded?
Prezident Brown: I think what keeps me grounded is my faith. I’m a Rastaman. And I had to make this decision at a point in my life where I came to a crossroads. I’ve been having this vibration for I could say from birth. But the realization, it was in that period of time when I released my first album also, ’94-’95. I realized I am at this crossroads and after performing in Jamaica, people before they know me used to think that I was a Rastaman. That’s how they saw me. You know when people hear sounds, they visualize what this person looks like? It’s like I come to a crossroads and I have to make my decision to accept the faith of Rastafari. And then amazingly that is what keeps me grounded, that is what keeps me humble. It keeps me in the natural way of life.
Francesca: You mentioned you were at a crossroads in the 90s. So it was at that time that you embraced Rastafari fully?
Prezident Brown: Yes, at that time I embraced it fully and completely. I had been feeling that vibe which is why I think people came to me like “me thought you was a Rastaman”, ya know? But, Rastafari is inside. To identify like that, just a look, it’s like the locks is what is inside coming out, to declare that yes, I am. But I still know a lot of people who have the same vibe but because of the system and because of their work and their livelihood they don’t wear hair. But I am an artist and I have to be free and that gives me the privilege to this image. There is no restriction that I can’t wear my hair because of my work. Even from a Christian point of view, black people in general got this image of Jesus Christ as a white man, but still that image doesn’t shave or trim, ya know, he’s still got his beard. So, it matters which nation how they see God. I’m not into religion because I think that brings division. Religion originally is supposed to bring you closer to the Almighty and take you on a spiritual path. Because of systems and the way people use religion, corrupt it for personal gain, political gain and that kind of thing. . . I deal with spirit.
Francesca: We’re living in a very fragile world now politically and spiritually. What do you think we can do as individuals to inspire social change and spiritual growth?
Prezident Brown: I think personally just stay positive. Stay positive in your daily living when you meet and greet; right there stay positive, stay positive to each other, ya know? Love they neighbor as thyself. So it starts at home and it’s not easy I know because of the distractions in the world. Money is power to a certain extent, material power, but I learn this through Rastafari that you have to balance the material with the spiritual realm. So the people need to get in touch with their spirituality. I just recorded a song the other day called “Higher Vibration,” so we have to get to that higher vibration. We have to, it doesn’t matter your color, your class or creed. Marcus Garvey said one thing too that if your contribution to humanity doesn’t surpass your lifespan you are doing nothing, it doesn’t make any sense. You have to give to humanity something that will last even when you’re gone. People need to think in this direction.
Francesca: Do you agree that we need to speak out now more than ever? We need to take responsibility?
Prezident Brown: Yes, because we elect the leaders. But the people have the power. No matter how the leaders act, the people have the power and once the people are not subliminally seduced, because that is how they do it, how the system works. A few people set up the programs and they use the television and they use the media to sublimely seduce the people so it’s like they do things that you don’t even realize they are doing. So, this is where I am coming with my music to tell people because a lot of people don’t see it that way. Things that look normal to them are not really normal.
So people won’t speak out unless they know what is happening. That is the other thing, they won’t speak out unless they know we are being misled. But I think we can reach a point, I have that vibe and that hope that we will reach a point where the people will see.
Francesca: Does the message of hope and peace need to be shouted to the people to wake us up or is humanity listening quietly with an open heart?
Prezident Brown: I think people are listening quietly. Then it comes down to the radio and the media. It would be nice to inject more positive music. The government knows that people are like children. You can imagine the power you have when you are on stage and there are 20,000 people standing in front of you, looking at you and you say, “Hands in the air!” and they all do it. That is power, and the leaders and everybody knows that. Those that are in control know that. So that is why music like mine takes a longer time. You have to stay at the grassroots level with the grassroots people. They don’t really put the message in the mainstream because it goes against them. Once the radio is playing it, the people are going to hear it, sublimely. So by controlling what is played, you can keep the people ignorant and tell them to just have fun. But while you’re having fun they are engineering whatever to control you for whatever reason; their ego or the power of control, so they won’t allow positive music to be in the mainstream.
Francesca: Do you have any concerns about the images that are reaching the youth through pop culture?
Prezident Brown: Yes I do, even within my country. I am played on the radio as are other positive artists, but the negative vibes overpower positive vibes because of the money that is being injected into the thing. And then even from an artist’s point of view, Jamaica is like a factory of artists. You have young people who come up and are very strong.
If youth see a certain artist being hyped on the TV or the radio and he’s driving a BMW and he’s shouting some bullshit, the youth is not going to follow me because that’s reality–he wants to drive a BMW. Prezident Brown is not driving a BMW. That’s what I’m talking about–how the universe works, positive and negative. Even if they would just balance the thing and let people choose, let people hear me and hear someone who is opposite to me. Then they can choose, “well, I want to go good, I want to go bad, I like good music, I like bad music.” Let them people decide. Don’t sublimely put it to them. That’s what I ask.
Francesca: Are young roots conscious artists getting the support that they need by producers and labels both in Jamaica and abroad?
Prezident Brown: To some extent but not to the full extent that it is supposed to be. For example, it took me years of faith and a sense of purpose to be here talking to you as a recording artist. If I didn’t know my sense of purpose, I wouldn’t continue. I’ve been discouraged so many times as a roots conscious artist. People and producers tell you that “man that stuff doesn’t sell” and all of that. So I think it needs more backing.
Francesca: Is it even possible in today’s musical climate for the young roots singers to get backing?
Prezident Brown: I think it’s possible if we keep pushing. Bob Marley had it rough in Jamaica. They didn’t even want to play him on the radio. I remember I heard Bob Marley say at one point “I feel like picking up my arms.” Because when you know you are doing the right thing and the people are just not, you feel like getting aggressive…like man what’s wrong with you? I’m doing the right thing so why don’t you want to play it? It’s kind of funny still how people operate. Because then here comes a producer who tells you that he’s spending his life savings and he’s not going to spend it to lose it for the welfare of his kids and all that. So I think in this time it takes special people to pick up that mantle. Even with my agent, Sean Fay, I think it’s a divine link because I didn’t know him for a long time but Sean just knows my music and he just had this urge to link–people need to hear this. He just did it, just like that. I see his intention and it is good so we need more people like him who are just doing it for the sake of the music because it is good and because people should hear it. But business-wise people are going to back down and saying this isn’t selling.
Francesca: What are you plans for the rest of the year and what projects are you working on?
Prezident Brown: We have a lot of recordings that we’re going to compile again and put out “Volume 3.” I’m also working on another album because this stuff that we’re going to put out is already recorded. But I am also going to do a new album. Currently I am signed to a company in Germany called Chet Records. I spoke to them the other day and they got a deal from Sony so I hope Sony will be interested in what I do. But Chet is really interested in what I do. They are like angels again–they love what I do and just want to put it out there. So to the mainstream level Chet is the company that maybe will be the vehicle into the mainstream. And I’m going to be looking into strategies also on how to come across and get attention from the mainstream so we can give the people the message.
Francesca: Are you considering more collaborations with other artists?
Prezident Brown: Yes, this company wants me to do something with a major U.S. artist. I don’t know who it will be but they are looking into that, something to bring it, give it the hype, so the voice can be heard, ya know?
Francesca: To sum up, you have one album that is coming out soon and you’re also writing new works?
Prezident Brown: Yes, a part of it has been written. After I finish here in the U.S. in September I will be going back to Jamaica to work. We laid down some tracks already and we have two singles to release soon on vinyl. We’re planning all kinds of strategies just to get the music circulated to the sound systems because you can never leave the grassroots level because that is where you build from. The music will be good from all of this touring and all of this vibration.