STAR QUALITY: "I never let the hype get to my head."
Hotter than ever (musically too), the dancehall heavy-hitter known to us as Cham is up to his old tricks and that includes dominating the clubs, radio, and video playlists with brilliantly orchestrated hit songs. Yet there is a clever twist at play this time around: his sexy wifey, nicknamed O, is along for the ride – making Cham’s return to the airwaves all the more interesting. In this second instalment of TALLAWAH’s exclusive chat with the ace deejay, he gives us the complete download on Miss O, his life today as a family man, and the legacy he’s determined to leave behind.
TALLAWAH: For someone who’s been a vibrant part of the reggae-dancehall scene since the nineties, what do you make of the contemporary music landscape in Jamaica?
Cham: I think it has whole heap of potential. You see a lot of younger artistes, younger producers coming through with whole heap of potential. The problem with it is consistency. That’s the biggest difference between now and the ’90s. You find that the consistency is not as up to par as the ’90s, but as long as they dig deep they can get it. Nothing was built over night, and hopefully by us being here and turning up the notch a bit and stepping up the level in writing and production, our younger peers can do just the same to help us step it up a next notch and take it from there.
I was just as surprised as everyone else to discover that the tantalizing hooks on your new hits “Wine,” “Back Way” and “Tun Up” are performed by your significant other, O. How did that come about?
We came up with the concept of “Wine” and finished writing the song. We needed a female to sing the hook, but being in Miami is not like we were in Jamaica where you could pick up the phone and get a female artiste to come over. No one was there. The only person who was there was my wife. Dave turned to her and asked if she could do a demo for us so we could send it to someone. After she sang the first two lines, me and Dave look at each other and we knew that this was it. This is the real deal.
For an ingénue, she sounds like a real artiste.
Yeah, and it’s the weirdest thing. She had never ever tried it before, but sometimes things just happen and Father God let it happen in that way. Now [“Wine”] is number one all over the world. We just finished Europe, and every city we went in, people are asking ‘Where is O?’ But she’s gonna be coming on the road really soon because we have the new single “Tun Up.” So by about summer we will unleash her.
You both come off as reserved people, which is rare among the entertainers I tend to encounter in this industry.
Naturally, she is reserved and I am a reserved dude, as well. And you notice that by how we operate off the camera or when the lights are not on. Just by doing music over the years you know how to operate when the lights are on. But it’s good to be reserved. Me, personally, like it that way that when I go through the Beckett’s household door, I leave Cham outside. And it’s good that way; you tend to keep grounded.
In the end, what do you hope your legacy will be?
The legacy is something I’ve been building since 1995 as a kid just graduating from Calabar then Camperdown. I’ve been building since the classics. And that’s the legacy. The legacy of an artiste is what he’s done, the whole body of work. And to me we have put in so much work. I am just blessed to have the amount of classic hits where generations move on and come over. And I hope to just keep building on that, so at the end of day when we say thank you very much and bow out gracefully people can look back and say yeah, we made them smile. Because the main aim of the music is to make people smile. We use it as nothing else. My philosophy personally and my team philosophy is all about the work that needs to be done. It’s not about hype, egos or individual. As our creative juices flow we stick to the philosophy of using the studio to have fun. And as long as that keeps on poppin’ I’m good with that.
When you assess your life trajectory to this point – at age 32 – what are you most proud of?
My two kids. Just to watch them grow and see how much I have grown as a dad, as the man of the house, as the father figure. Growing up without a dad in my house from I was 11, this was like one of the ultimate challenges [for me] coming up: that I would be the best that I could be. And I try to keep it balanced. I never let the hype get to my head, I always stay grounded, always know who is true, and who is not true. And that’s always one of the most important things.
>> PART I: Cham on inspiration and his new 12-round plan.
TRIPLE THREAT: Repping for Team Cham with Angella Blair and Gregory Williams.