One of the best days of my life. Easily. The day I sat down with the ever humble, ever blessed Dancehall Legend – Spragga Benz! After chatting with super cool, long time friend of Spragga’s and respected Grammy nominated DEF JAMAICA producer Cristy, I took a deep breath and walked into the North London studio where some of Spragga’s new album “Chiliagon” was recorded. I couldn’t help but be in awe. Tall (6ft suttum), dressed in shades of red, locs wrapped and beard strong, he was in his own world as the studio manager and producer, Andy, asked us both if we wanted a cup of tea. Of course, I said yes! Spragga turned, shook my hand, smiled and said “Greetings and livity”. A complete contrast to his onstage persona (effervescent), in person he is softly spoken and very chilled. I hardly ever smile, like grin, but here I was cheshire cat cheesing as I managed to reply “Blessings!” Before whispering to myself “I can’t believe it!” Looking at Remina (TenLetterPR and PRDN family) for sanity, I took another deep breath and hit record on my phone.
Chellz: I’m here with Spraga Benz! Jamaican DeeJay and longtime legend! A very, very big honour to meet you sir.
Spragga Benz: Respect and manners.
First of all, I want to congratulate you as well for your No.1 on the Billboard Reggae Charts!
SB: Give tanks!
Must be a good feeling! So, I’m going to start off by asking you to describe the new album for those that are not really familiar with you as an artist and your sound.
The new album “Chiliagon” is the sound that I always wanted to make. Never want it fi be categorised as nuh’um special – it’s definitely reggae music / dancehall but it nuh fi be di regular “run ah di mill” expected sound. So, ah dat me ah really ah guh fah, fi just try fi mek suh’um dat ME really feel inna my spirit and my soul. Dem song yah mi like dem and nuh matter wah kinda beat dem come pon ah these ah di songs weh mi like and how it come out, yeah mi love dat.
I felt like in the… you know, the life span of your career, you’ve never been afraid to push the boat so to speak. You know, step outside the box and experiment… is that something from the very beginning that you was adamant that you wanted to do?
Yeah just like this record same way, becah mi never really waan be pigeonholed, so to speak then. Yuh nuh? Mi waan mek music!
Yeah! For the people and not just for one type.
Yeah yeah music fi how me feel music! Mi might get up inna mood one day and feel fi mek some soulful music – wah yuh seh? Dat nuh have nuh space inna dancehall?! Me is a dancehall artist suh wah mi do is all fah mi dancehall?! So yeah.
At this point I was kinnin teet right back and probably looked like ah whul eediat so I quickly went straight into the next question and attempted to pick his brain.
This Might be controversial because people say you’re not really supposed to have a favourite BUT surely everybody has a favourite, yuh nuh? So, from the new album Chiliagon, what’s your favourite song?
Mi cyaaaan’t seh!
Mi start out wid one and now is ah different song ah mi favourite song!
Suh everytime yuh lissen to it, it’s just?
Not seh everytime mi lissen it but from time to time enuh, ah some grow up pon yuh more an’ yuh start lissen to some more enuh cah dem ah di singles an’ dem more focused on suh yeah… but “Believe” ah mi favourite song right now wid Tanika. Reason being, she sound like ah angel pon di record.
Mi never did have di courage fi tell him seh “Wicked Love” ah mi favourite.
Yes she does! I feel like for anybody that’s new coming across you and your sound they will be surprised by the people that you featured. Was it always something that you wanted to achieve – reaching out to international artists and people that are new and upcoming? Was that important to you?
Yeah it’s good, it’s important to reach out to talented artist. Yuh know? Known or unknown. Popular or unpopular. Cah ah lot ah dem are known in dem own fields, dem just not known inna our worl’… Yet! Yuh know, and me likewise, not known in theirs but collaborating wid dem introduced me to their core audience as well. So, is ah good ting to collaborate wid different artists and we set out this time to definitely do a great collaborative effort wid as many artists from different genres as we could from the UK.
So what was the inspiration behind this album and new sound?
The main inspiration was basically an invitation from Andy to come over an’ sit wid his band and because I write some songs wid dem it turned into me coming ‘ere an’ making ah whole album wid di band for me! Yuh know, and making enough material in di month fi mek two albums as well! So, the inspiration, di main inspiration was just his invitation to come an’ mek music and me coming wid ah open mind fi mek music weh mek me feel like it’s music.
So, are there any artists that you still have on your tick list to reach out to and collaborate with?
Well, over inna di UK, yeah man, whulleap more artist deyah! Alicai Harley an’ nuff more artist mi waan collaborate wid… and internationally, mi would ah like fi collaborate wid erm, probably Mary J. Blige one day. But yuh know, there’s no great rush or desire… we just mek tings flow as how it flow.
Any aspirations to do more acting or venture into different fields?
If ah good role should ah present itself, enuh suh’um weh mek sense, suh’um weh cyaan sit well within my spirit as well then yeah. Mi wouldn’t mind that.
If you never started out doing music in the first place, did you have dreams to do anything else?
Errrrm, just whulleap ah travelling. I was a student at the time… so I probably alla be working somewhere on some ship or suh’um suh.
At least this, your passion and the music has allowed you to travel to various places. Is there any country that you haven’t been to yet that you still would love to go to?
There are countries that I’ve been that I want to return to.
Okay! We’ll go with that!
Ethiopia. Mi definitely waan return to Ethiopia!
Yeah?! Yeah, that’s on my list too, I cyaan’t lie!
And there are a lot of countries that I would like to go to pon di African continent really… and maybe South America too but mi would ah waan fi return to Ethiopia even more than would ah waan guh somewhere fi di first time.
Do you feel like there’s certain countries that show more love and support in terms of your music and and who you are as an artist? Cah I know that, you know, Germany and Italy and even Japan at times, they have a keen interest and love for Jamaican artists and our sound and that type of thing. So, do you feel like when you travel around that certain countries are more receptive?
Well, mi feel everywhere enuh, tanks to Bob Marley. Yuh know, Bob Marley mek di ting so international, now anywhere we guh as Reggae musicians people receive us well. So, yeah man, we get good love out deh.
Going forward do you have any more surprises? Or you just going to go with the flow, see where it takes you?
Mi tink more surprises… yeah man! Is unlimited enuh? Cah a lot ah people enuh, pleasantly surprised by the contents of Chiliagon, mi look forward to doing dat more. Nuh’um too expected but tings weh dem… accept.
Ahh’riiight! Do you have any final words for your supporters or anybody new?
Never final words man… *smiles* to be continued!
Always! Love, Blessings! Thank you!
After signing my copy of Chiliagon, we took a few pictures and shared a few words (I told him I was a supporter from young – listening to “Backshot” and “She Nuh Ready Yet” …if yuh know, YUH KNOW! He laughed and flashed his contagious smile.) I thanked him 10 times more for his time, took my cup of tea and prepared to head back to reality. At this point, I still couldn’t believe I had just interviewed one of the greatest Jamaican Reggae Dancehall artists! A moment I will never forget… but then again, Spragga Benz has never been the forgettable type.
Stream Chilliagon here.