PROUD: Stylo G
"I FELT like it was cool to be called a ‘yardie’ so I took it upon myself to turn the word into a positive with a song,” says UK (via Jamaica) dancehall star, Stylo G whose hit Call Me a Yardie celebrates the term considered derogatory by some.
“Back in the 1980s they used to say ‘yardies’ [were just into] drugs and guns, but from my perspective there was room to change this powerful word into something that people would be proud to call themselves.”
Stylo G, real name Jason McDermot, moved to England from Spanish Town, Jamaica, shortly after his father, legendary dancehall star Poison Chang, passed away.
As a 15-year-old he recalls that his British classmates weren’t as accepting of his heritage as he might have been.
“When I first came to England and I was going to school, they used to call me ‘yardie boy’. Some of my friends took offence to it, but every time I heard one of them say ‘Don’t call him a yardie,’ I was like, ‘Why? It’s just a word. They don’t know what the real meaning of a ‘yardie’ is'".
In his 2012 underground smash, he raps: “Call me a yardie, call me a yardie, we love [Mercedes] Benz and Beamers [BMWs] and Audis. No girls inna the club, we nah party. Give we Hennessy, we nah drink Barcardi”
So that’s his definition of the widely used term, then? He laughs.
“The song is just saying, ‘Jamaicans, stand up and be proud of who you are and what you are.’ That’s me. Music is freedom of speech.”
Call Me a Yardie crossed continents and received kudos and radio play as far afield as Japan and the USA, which has subsequently sparked a number of international visits for the star this year.
“I’m planning to travel the world this year and take my music with me. I want to wave the flag for dancehall music,” he says.
Listing fellow dancehall acts such as Shabba Ranks, Capleton, Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel as musical inspirations, talk soon moves onto how the incarceration of many of the genres most-loved stars has affected the scene.
“It has definitely affected the scene,” he says matter-of-factly.
“Even with me being a signed artist in the UK right now, dancehall is still seen as a risk. We need to tighten up a few things as far as dancehall is concerned. People think that artists going to jail is cool, it’s not. We are role models that people are looking up to. We don’t want to have that jail thing hanging over our names.”
He adds: “Dancehall is not aggressive, I’m showing them that. The fact that it is viewed in some cultures as aggressive is what’s holding the genre back. I’ve got my foot in the door now and I’m showing them that it doesn’t have to be viewed that way.” He attributes this mindset to his late father.
“RIP to my dad Poison Chang who passed away in 2000. I was only 13 at the time. He would always push school and education on me. I passed all of my examinations and he was proud. He never told me to pick up a microphone, he was always pressuring me about my schoolwork. He would often say that the music industry wasn’t easy, but I said, ‘Dad, I like what you’re doing and I want to get involved.’”
Asked what he thought his dad would make of where he is now and what advice he might bestow, Stylo replied: “He would tell me to make sure that I’m investing my money into the right things and make sure I have my head screwed on. Just make sure I’m doing something positive.”
His acceptance in the UK music scene would suggest he has done so, something he believes will be replicated in his Caribbean hometown despite the blatant “cultural differences”.
“My music in Jamaica is accepted. Call Me a Yardie plays down there, most of my tracks play down there. I’ve got fans, girls and the man dem saying, ‘Yo Stylo, we want to see you come down,’ but it’s not at a place where I can say that I’m happy. Jamaica is the heart of dancehall music. I have to go and make sure that I please them first.”
His new track Soundbwoy is a far cry from the ode to dancehall that Call Me a Yardie was. It’s style rather a melting pot of the famed Jamaican genre and a more “European sound”. Does he think this will resonate with his Jamaican fanbase the way its predecessor did?
“The Jamaican and British cultures are very different. I’ve been in England for some time now so I have to adapt to this environment and make music that the UK can relate to. I’ve seen Jamaican stars come over here and they’ve been so good, but the music is not connecting with the people.
“With my new track Soundbwoy, it’s still got the reggae feel to it, but it’s reggae mixed with a more English sound – a crossover. Music is about the beat and the groove. I have Radio 1 DJs supporting me now, Kiss FM DJs playing it and Choice FM. I’m very happy with the feedback.”
Sounbwoy is out now through 3 Beat Records. For more information follow @StyloGee on Twitter