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Craigy T: The truth behind TOK’s break up

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IFETOP10: When did you first discover your talent and desire for singing?

CRAIGY T: I was nine years old. It was in grade five, prep school. And I was told by the choir mistress at the time that I couldn’t sing, and that I was going to be the only boy in my class, I wouldn’t be on the choir. And I just wouldn’t accept it. And I told them “of course I can sing”. She’s like, “no! you can’t”. “Alright, I will show you”. So I made up my mind at that point, because music was always very fascinating to me. I love listening to music, and I love to reproducing the songs that I heard. So I made up my mind at that point that I was going to prove everybody, who thought that, wrong.

IFETOP10: What was happening in music at that time? Who were the artistes and what were the songs that influenced you?

CRAIGY T: At that time it was a lot of church music actually. I used to sing in the church at that time. So just going to Sunday service and hearing songs that they did, I used to always try to do them back. One of my favourite was “Jehovah Jireh”. I remember hearing that chorus over and over and over again. We actually, TOK actually did that song over. We did a cover version of that song on, I think its the “bounce riddim”. I know we did it for Dave Kelly. Not “bounce”. But we did it for Dave Kelly. And yeah, that song was one of the first songs that I started singing because I actually made a connection with that song and the Shaka Zulu theme song. I remember Shaka Zulu theme song used to resonate with me, because I did a hum, because it was – “Zoom zoom, zoom zoom…..”. Yeah! So the way they did the “zoom” is like they held on to the m’s. You get that vibrato song instead of “zoom”, it was “zoooom”, right! And then when you hear that in harmony, it gives that, the vibration, gives that African sound. If you notice, when you listen to a lot of those African acapella singers, they have that last hold of a consonant vibration, and I used to love the way that sounded. So, um! when we did “Jehovah Jireh” now, “Jehovah Jireh, my provider, his grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me, Jehovah Jireh care for me”. So, ever since then I used to drop that vibrato at the end of my notes. I’ve been doing that for years, since I was a little yute.

IFETOP10: How different is being a solo artiste from being a band member?

CRAIGY T: Well, alright, so with TOK, in 1996, we decided that there was a competition going on. We were choir boys at the time. Three of us were on. Four of us. It was a five member group at first. Four of us were on the Campion choir, went to Campion High School. So, like, we were on the choir but we used to sing together all the time. And I remember the original two members of TOK where Flexx and Alex. Thats Xavier and Alistaire, were the original two members. They had a group before called “Too Cool The Case”.

Alright! So a competition came up. Warner Brothers were looking for a group. So they came to Jamaica through Island Records. Chris Blackwell’s company at the time and they were looking for a group. So Alex and Flexx decided to approach myself, Bay-C and another member, at the time, to sing with them. Because they knew us from choir. So we met for the first time, one o’clock in the day, like about 1pm and we had the auditions 7pm. So, I mean, you know, kids don’t follow me, we never went to class that day. Ahahaha! you know what I mean!

At one o’clock we just started practicing and from that we knew that we wanted to go to that performance. And [we] were selected for the semi-finals, so we kept on moving from there. So that’s how the group started. So at first it was just an idea and a visual that we could be this group signed to this label and be the next Bob Marley and the Wailers. Or the next Third World or the next Black Uhuru. We could be that. So that’s what we wanted to be. At the time we wanted to be the next Shai or the next Boys II Men because we were singing R&B at the time, but we always knew that we could achieve that level of success.

After that, because it took so long between results and auditions and stuff, we were still wondering if they were still considering stuff, you know. So we started singing at BBQs. So we were at high school BBQs and it was really just girls at the time. We just want some attention. We just want some girls notice we. I was a big fat yute. I was like 324 pounds at the time. So I was like, you know, this is a good way to get some attention. But, you know, after a while we realised that we could really do this too. You know, the harmonies were different. We started djing, Bay-C and I started djing at the time. That time when Buju just come out now, so everybody wanted to to dj like Buju.

So my voice started changing as well because I used to sing, whats it called? So its alto female voice but it’s called alto 10. So I used to sing that. So it was a very high tenor. After I start djing, my voice dropped a baritone. Bay-C was a mix of both. And we just started and we caught the ear of a lot of people, Sly and Robbie. We put out our first, Sly and Robbie did the riddim track for our first release. It was called “Anything for you”. It was a cover version of a song done by Michael Jackson’s nephews – 3T. It was our first release, that was in 1996. So 1996 is when we got our first release. But the groups started in November 1992.

So, anyway, after all of that the group, and then I don’t know, I mean, I think, to be honest, when people ask me “what happened to TOK”? It’s very difficult to explain. Because I don’t really know, I believe that we just became tired of each other. It was a friend, still is a friendship. It still is a family. However, we were around each other for at least two hours, every single day for 25 years. That’s a long time. If we’re not around each other, we’re on the phone with each other. So we spent two hours at least out of every day for 25 years with each other. That’s a serious thing. And you know, we nuh! married to each other. So it was, I think it just became a little too much.

A lot of people wanted space and freedom of expression. And that’s what it started coming down to. That there were songs that were coming out that were not fully expressive of each individual’s feelings. Maybe kind of, maybe sometimes not at all, but we had things, we were having things that we wanted to say and we wanted to express to people and we weren’t able to do it so we found other outlets. So solo careers started emerging since then.

Um! where consense was different now. First of all its a lot more singing on your own. So on stage the performance that was different. Whereas with TOK, where there was a break, there was time to relax, to re-gather and re-center yourself before the next song or your next part. But now, it is 100% connection with you and the audience, which comes with it’s good and it comes with its bad. But the good about it is that I am now able to fully engage my audience when, when I speak to them, it’s just, it’s just me. You know what I mean? So they get the good side of Craig, they get the bad side of Craig, they get everything. But at the end of the day, they know me more. And I think that’s important. There will be times where I see things that they might not like, there will be times that, you know, fights happening in the audience and I have to address it, right there. Things will happen. However, that is what makes the relationship sweet and strong. You know what I mean, because we go through things together. That’s one of the main things about being alone. Another thing is that it allows me now, to completely express myself musical in the studio. So when I’m songwriting now, I can fully convey an emotion or an idea. So it’s not just a chorus anymore. I can tell stories with my music now.

Before it was more difficult because where I would write the 8 bar or a 16 bar chorus and have a story in mind, when the other person’s time to write their part, they might not have the same story in their mind. So when the song comes out, it might be a little bit broader in scope, but sometimes broad strokes don’t get to the point, you know. I was having challenges with that. And then I write a lot of music too. And I just didn’t have an outlet. So I’m happy knowing that I have that outlet. I have a studio at my house and I can produce I can get it out. You know what I mean? So that’s, that is a difference that I cherish.

You have so much inside of you that you would like to say and you are not given the opportunity to say it. And that’s not in a bad way. It’s not malicious or anything. It’s not that anybody is stifling you, but there’s just not enough space. You know what I mean? So, you know, it’s like, I mean. If you’re in the gym, when you start working out and start getting muscles, you can’t wear a small shirt, because you buss out of it. You need to get bigger shirt. So I got some bigger shirts.

IFETOP10: In Jamaica you are considered an “uptown” artiste. For those who are not familiar with this term, please explain it?

CRAIGY T: Well it’s the clock you know? The clock is said to be the, that is the clock Half Way Tree, is said to be the marker. Anything above the clock, “quote unquote, above”. Anything to one side of the clock is uptown and anything to the other side is downtown. So that’s what them use. Dancehall music came from downtown. It came from to ghetto of Kingston. It came from the inner city areas and the garrisons right! Now, it is a music that was embraced and loved by all, including myself. I didn’t grow up in a garrison. But at the same time I can understand and appreciate that because my mother my father nea grow uptown. But they did what they had to do to put me in a situation that was quote unquote better than theirs, which is the same thing any parent does for their children. So I appreciate it and it feel good to know seh I come from a middle class family, because I can see both sides of the spectrum. And I can appreciate the challenges and the triumphs of both sides. So I mean, mi see what dat man a go through and dat man a go through, and I can speak about them both, musically. So I wouldn’t challenge the argument that TOK is an uptown group. I think we definitely are.

I mean, as a youngster at 10 I started high school at 10 and that is Campion college. It’s one of the most, I wouldn’t say prestigious, but it’s looked upon as a high class uptown school, right? If not the most high class and, the most uptown school. And only bright pickney go Campion, and mi bright. You know what I mean! Mi nah go knock dat. Mi a own that fully. So, it was a situation where, when I go school, I used to feel like I didn’t fit in there. Because the students around me were in a “quote unquote”, better situation than I was in. But because of my grades I was able to be there. So like, mi neva knock it. Mi just gwan lick dem wid di grades. You know what I mean? So I had to pay attention to that. So that’s what I did.

IFETOP10: Was it difficult as a solo artiste after opening so long being a part of a group?

CRAIGY T: It was extremely difficult for me at first to define my niche. My sound, my look, my space in reggae and dancehall after TOK? The reason is that I was that gell within the group. I was that person that made sure everything was done. There were times when I hear a high part that needs to be done here and I do it, and here and I hear a low part that needs to be done here and I do it. I hear a note missing in the harmony here and I do it, you know what I mean. I used to fill those gaps. So I developed a very versatile style, and a very versatile talent. So I can sing circles around several singers now. And I can Dj circles around several Djs as well. So I am multi-dimensional in that way. However, when it was time to present myself as a solo artiste to the world, I had to zoom in on what I wanted to say and who I wanted to be. That in itself was very difficult to find where you fit in because you can do so many things well. I think I kind of a have a style now. I kind of have a sound now. It’s sexy smooth dancehall and then reggae-wise, that’s exactly it as well. So a friend of mine coined it as reggae pop at one point in time and I like that title. But every now and then I rough it up a little more than normal, so you know it’s not 100% that applicable, but still. Um!, yeah, so that’s where I found my niche. I put the smooth, silky vocals on hardcore riddims. My ting that. And every now and then you will hear the harmonies them drop in and ting, cause thats my ting, but I that try to keep the harmonies to a minimum now because it’s not a group a present this, a me.

IFETOP10: Sometimes the terms reggae and dancehall are used interchangeably. How would you describe these terms?

CRAIGY T: Ok! so it’s tricky. The terms reggae and dancehall, the lines are very blurry. Um! for me, I would say reggae is that roots dub, one drop sound and I would say dancehall is the hard hitting buff, buff, baff, and kick kick snare. You know! that’s from me because of the era I grew up in. The older heads differentiate rub-a-dub  from reggae, from, whats the next one? There is a whole heap. Dub different from rub-a-dub. Them can differentiate those things, I don’t I lput all of those in one category as reggae. And to then that was the music that was played at the dancehalls in their day. So then still see that kind of music as dancehall but then, when dancehall come round now, hardcore. For them, I don’t even know what them call it. To be honest with you. But then the dancehall yutes dem now, in this day and age, dem call everything reggae. What them call dancehall now is, I don’t even know what kind of music that it. It’s like a fusion between trap music and dancehall, or sometimes it’s a fusion between reggaeton and dancehall. But then reggaeton kind of come from reggaeton and dembo, because you have a whole genre called dembo. Reggaeton and dembo kind of come from first time dancehall with Shabba song, dem bow, dem bow, dem bow, dem bow. That riddim, the way how that riddim play, then build a whole genre outta that they don’t even call reggaeton. Its like a sub-genre of reggaeton. So! and then you have dub-step and drum and bass and base-hall, you have all of those things that come as a derivative of dancehall. So it’s very hard to differentiate. I don’t like to differentiate music at all, because I believe that it’s dated. I think that in the future, you will have one genre and you wont be able to tell the difference between things. Music is just music.

Because I’m hearing people now, because of their broad exposure, they’re able to express themselves in ways that are fusions of several different things that they hear. So you can’t really put them inna di box no more, which is good caa mi neva like box from morning. Yeah, you understand, so, I mean, yeah! I find I like the space that we’re in.

IFETOP10: How have you seen the reggae music industry evolve over the years and how has your music evolved with it?

CRAIGY T: So what I have noticed about reggae over the years, is that, and when I say reggae I include the sub-genre of dancehall, is that whereas it used to be more social commentary, nowadays it’s drifted a lot from that. It’s more, ok! so separate them for a little bit, dancehall music nowadays has become a little bit watered down. The subject matters are very simple and light weight, in my opinion. The heaviest it might get is when two artistes a clash and then you feel a little venom behind it, but the music is short-lived and, you know, I don’t have much meaning except it give you a vibe and it mek you get up and you  wah party. Reggae music on the other hand is more relaxed and spiritual now. It’s speaking a lot about finding yourself and finding your center and being at peace and, you know, world and nature. You nah really hear much reggae a “bun fire” or much reggae a, and when I said bun fire I mean it figuratively though, you know. But you don’t find a lot of ruggae dealing with any issues directly anymore. That, I think, is a major change that happened and is happening with reggae. However, to introduce a different form of spirituality and you’re not saying rasta, or God, or. But you’re saying belief in self and trusting in yourself and understanding the things around you and understanding the connection that you, as a universe within yourself, have with the universe as a whole, is a good place as well, because there’s nobody else speaking about that either. Really, no genre not speaking about that. You might have one or two pop songs come out with somethings, you know. Ariana Grande, I think, a talk bout God was a woman and different tings. I’m assuming she’s alluding to mother earth. You get these things that come about as anomalies but you don’t find as much focus on that subject matter as you find in reggae. So I like that change that reggae has been making. My music, ok, so my solo music, I tackle a lot of perseverance and understanding self and finding self, and finding how you fit in and never stopping and never giving up. Because you understand that your mind controls all. And once you are in a place where you know where you want to go, not what. You know where you’re going, then reality bends itself to that part. And I notice and I’ve experienced it, and I’ve been experiencing it unknowingly ever since I was young. But now, I can verbalise it. You know what I mean. So I’ve been putting that in my music.

However, I write a broad spectrum of music. So I write for other artists as well. So when I write, I basically open myself up to whatever needs to be said through me. Sometimes I don’t hear the riddim, I’ve never heard the riddim before. I just put in on and press recording. And anything come out, come out, and then when I listen to it, I hear words. I wasn’t say any words consciously. But then I hear words and I said, ok, I can put this there, I can put this there, and then a concept comes to me and then, so it just kind of just happens through me, you know! So even my publishing but I don’t really take credit for that.

IFETOP10: You explained your process very well. Many artistes find this difficult…

CRAIGY T: I had to learn at a young age to how to express myself because I was constantly misunderstood. Because I think a lot differently from the average person. I think differently from the average person and I say what’s on my mind. But I can’t jut say it like that. I have to explain how I got to there. Or you will never understand. If I was to just come here and say music don’t have any genres, it’s one music. You will be like, what? but you get it now.

IFETOP10: What can fans expect from your new album?

CRAIGY T: Alright, so my album is entitled “1”. Simply that the numeral “1” and it is representative of a new beginning. It is my introduction to the world. It is me starting at step 1. That’s the whole idea concept behind using the number. Every baby when them learning to count number count, the number that they start with. And I believe that it’s one of the most powerful numbers because it is the number of opportunity and the number of direction. So, at that point, you are basically open to so many things and you can just choose which direction you want to go. And i like that. Um! what else do I want to say about the number 1? I remember when I was younger, I used to hear people say it only takes a spark to get a fire going. There’s a song like that too. And it is something that I’ve always believed. There’s a parable about the mustard seed. And it is something that I have incorporated in the way I live. Every journey begins with one step, that first step, and that is the first step that I’m making.

IFETOP10: Tell us about the songs on your album?

CRAIGY T: Yeah!, well it’s a reggae album you know. Um! for sure. Ah! the first song is entitled “Is a Jamaican ting”. That’s what the name of the first single is. And that’s basically what its saying. It’s talking about the culture, talking about everything that is Jamaican and what you can expect. Back in the days, I think it was Bunny Wailer, that did a song called “Black heart man”. Thats how I start my song, that how i start my album. “Return of the black man, blood rich like molasses……. mi no follow nobody no boy mi no tek talk from. A so mi stay, mi represent mi island. Jamaica’s my land. I’m from the beach with the sweet sunshine and also little ghetto the yute with nine. So you better be careful what you seek you’ll find. If your trouble, trouble bite your behind. But yet still every machine like …. It’s the full spectrum of Jamaica and Jamaican dancehall, and the scene and the feel of it. So that’s what I wanted to bring the people with the song and that’s what I want to bring to people with the album. It’s some old style riddims, some rub-a-dub, some dub, some, you know! You have to check it out, you will hear the full circle.

IFETOP10: As well as music, you do artiste management, producing, a clothing line. Tell us more about these ventures?

CRAIGY T: Um, all these ventures are different sides and different aspects of my personality. All of them started from that can’t thing. I just don’t do can’t. Can’t is just not something I do. So when I wanted to find something to wear and I couldn’t find nothing, mi just mek something. And then I started making more and then that’s how the clothing line started. When I was trying to find musicians to play things a certain way and I couldn’t find them. So I just learned how to play the piano, and just play it myself. That’s how I live my life. I don’t see obstacles, I see opportunities. And that’s always been like that. So I produce, I write, I sing. I don’t manage anymore, but I will. If I see a need, and if I see something to manage, I will. And with the clothes thing, and also I train people as well, fitness-wise. Because, like I said, I’ve had my own weight loss journey, so I understand the struggle. Other ventures Not right now right now the focus is on “Is a Jamaican ting” the focus is on “1”.

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