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Seani B speaks to Barbados' most in-demand rising star

PAYING HIS DUES: After a career in music as a producer and songwriter, Jus D is stepping into the spotlight – and delighting the new audience he’s found with tunes such as Nine and Manager

WHY HAVE I been here in Britain for the last few weeks, with the on/off weather, crazy traffic on these London streets and so on and so on, when I could have been in Barbados for Crop Over? Every year I say I’m gonna make it, and so far I haven’t quite got there...

Crop Over 2018 definitely lived up to its reputation as one of the Caribbean’s leading festivals, and this year belonged to one artist in particular. Antonio ‘Jus D’ Johnson is a young man who is on an upward rise within the Caribbean music scene.

“I’m a triple threat,” he tells me from Bridgetown. “I’m a songwriter, producer and artist. I’ve written for the likes of my countryman Rupee, as well as Alison Hinds, and done work with Machel Montano, Shaggy, I-Octane and Busy Signal.”

His star is definitely on the rise. With that impressive cast list, how come he has managed to hide his light so far? “I’ve been behind the scenes for most of my career so far, busy writing or producing. However, I have always had a sense that I wanted to be the main act, and seeing these artists work made me realise that I needed to come on the scene as an artist.

Rupee recorded one of my tracks eight years ago and since then I have been pressing the gas and paying my dues.”

Last year saw the release of Nine, which did big things for Jus D in his home island, and across the diaspora. “We did a promo run overseas off the back of Nine, and our plan was to come back home and build on the fan-base. When you crack the home market it feels sweeter – when people want to take pictures and stuff – it’s a good feeling,” he beams.

He is one of a batch of new artists from the island who are very much continuing the legacy of quality music from artists such as Red Plastic Bag, the Mighty Grynner and Gabby as well as the aforementioned Alison Hinds and Rupee – all representing the 246 to the max – not that he sees that as pressure at all...

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“For me, being in new school is a badge of honour, not a burden. I’m gonna try to keep doing what I am doing and rep my country and the music to the best of my ability.”

Straight from his promo run Jus D recorded 13 tracks, but decided to shelve them all and start again.

“The new batch came together in a short time. Being on the road m a d e me consider many other factors for my music. One of the big tracks for this year was my single Manager, and one of the first things I took into consideration was the DJs.

“I wanted to create something that would make them want to pull up the tune! Travelling helped refine my sound, it has made it better and more rounded. I am trying to create a global sound.”

The season was good to him. Manager gained him a new audience, but he knows exactly who he wants to make his music resonate with. “The ladies! If you make the ladies enjoy themselves, the men are sure to follow! We were just vibing in the studio and the track came about. We are making music for women and empowering them.”

I was curious to know if the Bajan culture and attitude helped him to keep such a down-to earth and level persona.

“The laid-back nature of the island helps us to keep grounded. We are humble people, generally. In any case if you started getting too big-headed the music always has a way of showing you that you can’t be bigger than it!”

Wise words indeed. He sees a bright future for Bajan music not just at home, but globally.

“I feel that Bajan music has the potential to travel well overseas, but like most things to do with music it all depends on promotion and attention that it is being given. We have a responsibility as artists to make music that is appreciated across the world, and that is one of the things that I am striving to do.”

Lots of exciting plans lay ahead for this young man, and don’t be surprised if you see him pop up at a festival near you soon. “We are a work in progress and there are many works in progress too! We plan to hit Miami next in October for their Carnival, then we head of to Trinidad next year. We’d also love to arrange the UK run when the time is right.”

Of course, when the time is right. As in free of traffic, rain and pitfalls. Maybe we can swap places – I go to Barbados and Jus D can come over here? Just a thought...

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