WARD 21 inna LA
The ending of the 21st century was a decade that brought major advances in technology to the average household. It was a time when 'urban' music obtained levels of achievements world wide that far surpassed that which came before. In Jamaica, it was a time of change, trends like currents defined the times. Yet, a new sound seemed to emerge. One perhaps influenced by the work done before, by the tone set by producers like Clevie & Steely, John John, Dannie Brownie, Tony Kelly, Dave Kelly and Donovan Germain. However, the alliance of a group of youths known as Ward 21 out of King Jammy's studio have single handedly impacted Jamaica's dancehall as artists and producers simultaneously.
Adding a spark to the industry with their American influenced flows and phrases, Ward 21 developed unique beats that quickly became the rage in the dancehall. The group consisting of Andre "Suko" Grey, Kunley McGarthey, Mark Henry and Renaltdo "RumBlood" Evans have remained on the forefront since their initial bust. Recently signed to Greensleeves Records they are expecting their debut album in 2000. However, don't be mistaken they already have a successful series out; Greensleeves Rhythm Album. Album 1 features the "Bellyas" riddim and album 2 features the "VIRUS" track, both riddims created by Ward 21.
It is their unique ability as deejays and producers that has set them apart from the dancehall mainstream. Sure there are other artists who have produced. There are other much more established artists who have coined Hip Hop phrases into their songs. But none have been able to created such a craze with their riddims and their own hits at the same time the way Ward 21 has.
They are still young to the business as performers go, but they have all been paying their dues as engineers at King Jammy's studios for quite some time. Actually the foursome as well as two of Jammy's sons – Christopher and Trevor all grew up together in the Waterhouse district of Kingston Jamaica. Chris is their road manager and Trevor assists as road manager as well as producer when they go into the studio. Just because Trevor and Chris do not actively participate as deejays do not discount their importance. These six are a team.
Of course they formed a union quite naturally. Marc originally worked for King Jammy's sound. Suko was brought into the studio while covering for Marc with the sound. Kunley – the writer of the group was already working in the studio alongside Renaltdo. If you were to ask them, they will tell you Suko is the main riddim builder. They all input their ideas and suggestions but he is the one who takes the lead.
The first riddim Ward 21 is accredited with is Hot Lava which catapulted them into Jammy's eye. There is no doubt in anyone on the street's mind that Ward 21 has revived King Jammy's studio. There was a time that the general public thought of Jammy's creative lead as being over. However with this young group of talented artists/producers the name King Jammy's is once again synonymous with hits.
There is an energy and commodity among these young men. They are a part of a scared brotherhood. One in which they have trust, friendship, each others back as well as the ability to fuss and fight while making up and never looking back.
Kunley's semi-baritone voice sets off several of their hits including introduction hits "Judgement Day" and "Hater" of the Bada Bada riddim which the lyrics often quoted on the streets and in the clubs; "a nuff a dem, the fassy a no like we cuz we nice". Of course their riddims released after the Bada Bada proved they were not 'one hit wonders' as both the Bellyas and Da Joint have done very well.
Their new album will feature one of the upcoming riddims – 'Killa Bees' and their song "Energizer." Kunley admits, "Most of the styles and patterns we use is influenced by Hip-Hop. I am one of Hip Hop's biggest fans! As far as ideas, I don't know where they come from. Sometimes an idea is sparked by a memory of an experience or sometimes they just develop. For example one time while traveling on a plane and watching an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies and idea formed in my head." The songs Ward 21 delivers are still a group effort. Both Marc and Rumbler (Rumblood) often contribute to the chorus creation of a song.
They describe the album as having "good beats, made for everyone to enjoy – young and old. This album has vibes for every emotion you have; sad, happy, energetic – everything. The album deals with topics like 'player hatting', the hunnies, hypocrisies, the Almighty God and of course the fun stuff. There's a lot of party tracks on the album. Dancehall is about the party – not like Bob Marley's music" all of the members confess.
They've been influenced along the way. Jamaican deejays like Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra and Spragga Benz are among their favorites. They also admire several of America's Hip Hop artists including: Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Redman, DMX, Dr. Dre, Wyclef and Eve. Like the American artists, they have big promotional plans inline for their upcoming album. If you were to visit their homes you would find artists like Jay-Z, Lauren Hill, Bob Marley and a variety of R&B and soca in their music collections.
Already they've shot a video for the song "Haters" in Jamaica. But they express, "We want the quality of our video to be like the videos on BET & MTV. The video is suppose to portray what the song is talking about, that's how we want our videos to be like. If we're talking about girls there should be fine girls in the video." Greensleeves is planning to support their debut album with a video. To date, all tracks for the upcoming album have been finished. "We just want to please the people and give them our best."
A budding group of young men, fresh with ideas and vision, Ward 21 is on the road to add their mark to Jamaica's dancehall. With confidence, fun loving natures and a focused seriousness, they already have the makings of big things. However, they aren't quick to put all their credit in their hands as they tell, "Without God we are nothing. Can't do anything without him. God is the real star. He makes everything happen, breathing, we have to give thanks and praises to him!"