Monday, 27 February 2012
HUSTLE AND FLOW: Konshens is shaking up dancehall while poised for higher heights
This has got to be one of the tiniest television studios in the city, but you couldn’t tell from the outside due to the vociferous cheers emanating from the audience comprised of exuberant young-adult females, event promoters, and others. The setting is a taping of the music-video-countdown show Hitlist at the studios of CVM TV on Constant Spring Road. Konshens, accompanied by a mini-entourage, is here, eager to perform and promote his new album, Mental Maintenance, due out this month.
Athletic and wiry, the deejay, who is casually attired in a red checkered shirt with long sleeves, knee-length jeans, red kicks, and a pair of designer shades, manages to elicit even louder noise from the audience once he gets on the mic and leaps into renditions of “Gal A Bubble” and “Do Sumn,” among other newish hits that have been dominating the airwaves and video playlists over the course of the past weeks. The fans go wild with each selection, and Konshens’ performance positively thrives on the love.
It’s a telling moment for the 27-year-old artiste (born Garfield Spence) who, since making his initial dent in the public psyche with the infectious 2008 street hustlers’ anthem “Winner,” has had more than his fair share of ups and downs in the process of establishing himself as a household name and advancing his career. (In his interview on the couch with hostess Phoenix, he drolly recalls how he came close to getting a massive boo at Sting three years ago.)
Since bursting onto the dancehall scene, the Sherlock-bred entertainer has transformed himself before our very eyes into a trailblazing star of note endowed with showstopping confidence and memorable lyricism that have earned him the respect of peers and fans alike. “I’m very proud of him because he has worked very hard to reach where he is now,” observes Miguel Noble, the deejay’s road manager. “He took the time out to learn the business, and even though there was a lot of trial and error, we used all of that as lessons.”
Not surprisingly, these days Konshens is thinking deeply about what it means to be at the top of his game and what he needs to do next. It’s a state that could confound lesser artistes, but Konshens has too much hunger and ambition to not keep his head in the unpredictable game. For one thing, the highly anticipated new album is part of a bold new chapter in Konshens’ quest to ascend to yet another level. A 17-track concoction of up- and mid-tempo tracks and one-drop numbers, Mental Maintenance is dually emotional and entertaining. “The mood of the album is a song for every situation,” Konshens tells TALLAWAH, as we catch up after he’s done taping Hitlist. “I’m a moody person, so I wanted a song to apply any particular moment. I worked with some new and old producers and we come up with a very good album.”
As if putting out a new CD and planning a US-European tour weren’t enough, Konshens is also venturing into fashion with a clothing line, OH’K, now in pre-development. “Going into fashion is mainly business for me. You want to maximize on your ability, and at the same time you want to please the fans and keep yourself present inna the market,” says Konshens, who, like megastar Kanye West, ultimately plans to design pieces for both men and women. “It’s better for you business-wise and the fans get to connect with you more. I am not a pro when it comes to the fashion industry; I don’t know much about it, honestly. But I know what girls like to wear, and I know what I love to see them in. So I’ll start with the females.”
By his own admission, Konshens has no established personal style. “My fashion is any way I get up in the morning and feel. So I wouldn’t say I have a fashion identity or a fashion preference.”
There is a handful of Jamaican male dancehall stars who possess a mysterious charisma that can catapult a deejay from fledgling recording star to sex symbol. Assassin, Cham and I-Octane have it. Add Konshens to that list. It’s a magnetism that, coupled with their talent, draws female fans to them like a flame. Still, Konshens knows first-hand how the fickleness of fame can make or break an entertainer – and how a fan’s perception of you can change in the blink of an eye. As it happens, Konshens’ recent decision to switch his hair colour from the usual black to an eye-popping red has been met with the same kind of mixed reactions that came in the wake of Chris Brown’s blonde dye job.
“It’s just the opposite of me. When people study you too much and know exactly what you’re coming with all the time, you get old,” says Konshens, explaining the new look. “And every artiste knows that the important thing is to be current. And the only way to really be current is to change.” Recently named one of the sexiest men in dancehall by The Star, Konshens admits he found some people’s reaction to his image upgrade mildly surprising. “The reactions have been mixed. At first, nuff people done with me. It’s like I dye my brain and not my hair, you understand,” he says good-naturedly. “But people get much more drastic things than just dye hair, but mi nuh worry ‘bout that. The girls them love it same way. Some of them bun it, and now them don’t even remember again. So them coulda soon get something else.”
If there’s one thing a life in the spotlight has taught Konshens, it’s that, when all is said and done, image matters. “It matters very much. Because even with this hair thing, as much as some people nuh like it, everybody know me when they see me,” he explains. “In the past, you had people who love Konshens to the grung, and nuh know exactly what Konshens look like. Walk pass me whole heap of time. So image is very important when people can identify with you and see you and know seh ah you that. But it bad for you because you can’t hide again (Laughs), but so it guh.”
NEXT TIME: Konshens talks about his SubKonshus label and big plans for 2012