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Jazzy T on paving the way, working with DJ Khaled and more

PIONEERS: Renaissance Sound in action with Shaggy with Usain Bolt

ONE BRIGHT and breezy Friday morning a few months ago, I got a call that was kinda top secret. I was in Kingston at the time, and the call was with Giggs. He was plotting for his Wireless after party and wanted one of my favourites, the “Renaissance Sound”, to come and bless the occasion.

Just like me Giggs was a fan of the uptown Kingston sound from the mid ’90s. Jazzy T, Delano and the team made a name for themselves for the self-crafted remixes and mash-ups that they made.

At the time it was groundbreaking for Jamaican DJs to put together complex mixes, such as their anthem for the ladies, Beenie Man’s Dancehall Queen. This record would have never been the hit that it was if Renaissance hadn’t had put their magic to it.

Fast forward to last weekend, and the event itself. The night of the party was nuts, too many UK stars in attendance.

Kano, Ghetts and Chip were a few I saw when myself, Jazzy T and Grammy-winning UK producer Jazzwad entered. Dancehall was in the building! A few moments later security got busy. In walks Champagne Papi, Drake – party on!

Before Jazzy left the country I had to have a sit down with him to talk about the last 20 years of success that his team has had.

They still are one of Jamaica’s leading sounds, as well as producers that have had hits with Vybz Kartel and Busy Signal. They helped give DJ Khaled that extra swag of dancehall. They have been massive influencers of the culture over two decades. Their CV is hugely impressive.

“This year makes 29 years in the business for us,” he explains. “The reason we stay relevant is because we are versatile – back in the days when we came up with the remix style we didn’t have that many dubs, so we had to be creative.

“We used to get pre-releases and remix it with hip hop and be ahead of the game. In this day and age times have changed – remixes haven’t got the wow factor, so now it is about how you present your music.

“We have a different, out of phase kinda way of playing. It’s not no normal thing.”

I can definitely attest to that. Renaissance have been setting trends for many years, and have been one of the sounds that selectors and DJs worldwide have admired. It seems their diary reflects this.

“Summer is a very busy time for us – we have all the outdoor stuff going on. Dance music DJs have Ibiza and stuff, we have things like Dream Weekend, festivals across Europe and things like that.

“Beach parties, pool parties – we are fully booked! The epic event for us is Dream Weekend (coming up in early August in Negril) because it is like our stomping ground. A lot of people from around the world come to Jamaica for it. We are in our element there.”

I was interested to know how he felt the merging of different styles in the music had progressed.

“Back in the day we used to stay in Jamaica and know that the only person who did top quality remixes in London, especially on the BBC, was Seani B – The Remix Kid. We were the equivalent in Jamaica and now the merging of different styles is the norm. A lot of the tracks you hear have influences from other places all rolled in together. That’s what we all did back then. You would hear a big Busta Rhymes record, and we would call in someone like Elephant Man and would do some ‘live’ flips and remixes to these tunes. It brought it to another level when we did it live with artists.”

Their status as pioneers has seen them being connected to the likes of DJ Khaled, but it doesn’t seem like this is a superficial friendship.

“The relationship with Khaled is a family thing. It’s more than music. When I first moved to Miami, Khaled was my neighbour.

“He was a DJ on a local underground station, and all he had was records, pizza boxes and a bulldog in his house! We brought him over to Jamaica in 1999 for one of the parties we had, and he was back and forth to Kingston from then!

“He is very smart. He used our dancehall culture and craft, especially on the mic, and brought it to a wider audience,” he says.

“He used to move with us and we used to bring him round the artists and he got to know everyone. In that world, he is different, he brings the vibes, and part of that comes from being around the dancehall scene.”

However, times are a-changing now, and Jazzy can see the difference in that music industry camaraderie.

“Some of the younger sounds and artists don’t want to acknowledge what came before them, and don’t want to give the people who paved the way the glory they deserve, which is sad. Even though they are fully aware of the situations and those who came before them, it seems to be problematic to some to show the respect and give credit where it is due. I find that sad. I always try to big up and show respect to everyone. When you see younger sounds, like Chromatic, I am a key supporter of theirs and always try to ensure they utilise all available opportunities. Times change, I suppose.”

They do – but the deserved place in the history and story of reggae, dancehall and sound system culture will always be set for Renaissance Sound.

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