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REJUVENATED: Sweetie Irie

MUSIC FROM the street designed to make you move your feet...” So says the one-time self-proclaimed ‘DJ For The Future” aka “The Mention Kid” aka Sweetie Irie. The west London MC is enjoying another chapter in a career that has spanned three decades. From his early day apprenticeship with local sound systems, he then burst onto the scene alongside Aswad on the remix of On and On, which became legendary because he voiced his sections in one take as a new fresh 18-year-old on the scene.

This led to signing to Island Records in 1991 and the release of his debut album DJ For The Future.
2016 saw yet another upsurge in his popularity and profile, with a big chart record and numerous stellar stage performances. “It was a crazy year,” he comments.

“2016 brought loads of personal highlights including working at Boomtown with Benny Page (D&B Producer and part of his team) and also doing the Radio 1 Weekender with Annie Mac in Ibiza – some great memories there.”

All of that plus signing a new deal with Sony Music – the future is looking bright. “The deal was another thing that happened so quickly during last year. We started to have conversations then before we knew it we had come to an agreement,” he adds. It’s all a far cry from where he was a few years ago. He recalled: “I fell out of love with the music we were making and the music industry as a whole. I needed to recapture the vibe and when I started working with Benny I definitely caught it. We make magic in the studio.”

The happiness at his current placement is clear to hear in his voice. He knows the importance of having a top team and good people around him. “I am fortunate because we have a shared vision, so we all work well together. My manager Hal has done a lot to create strong situations, and along with other like-minded people in the scene such as Toddla T and Annie Mac, we are making the music we love. “Toddla was instrumental in lining up the tune alongside Nadia Rose (Crank It). When we made the tune I knew it would be huge.”

Young Ms Rose’s journey resembles that of Sweetie himself. “I can see the comparisons between us – but the new generation don’t have to sign to a label like we felt we did. The UK scene is hot right now.” However there is a side to Sweetie that few peo- ple know. He is a qualified teacher and works at a Pupil Referral Unit near his home. “I studied to be a teacher and work with the young people that some refer to as “bad kids”. I engage them using music. We are all teachers in our own way,” he says.

It’s something that runs in the family – his dad has run The Avenues Youth Centre in west London for 35 years and has kept many a potential bad boy on the straight and narrow. Sweetie elaborated on the role his dad played in his own career development. “He is a Lion – he was always there and has been a dad to many
young men in the area for many years. It’s the Rasta way.”

Sweetie’s musical journey is incredible – from working with Aswad to collaborating with the Damon Albarn led Gorillaz project right through to his current guise, however his plans for work outside of music are just as impressive.

“My dream is to open my own school – that is my passion. I was heading in a bad place when Aswad gave me the chance to show what I could do musically – I would like to have the opportunity to do that for the next generation.”

With such an impressive track record, who would bet against him?

Sweetie Irie’s Birthday Bash with Rum N Riddim takes place on January 20 at The Electric, Brixton and features Congo Natty, Bugzy Malone, Benny Page, Mungo’s Hi-Fi, Sweetie himself and many more.

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