Assassin works out to deejay
Deejay Jeffrey 'Assassin' Campbell, who added the name Agent Sasco in 2006 to reflect a more mature approach to his art, had gone through the high school stage of deejaying to desktop 'riddims' and making a connection with Spragga Benz by the time he got to Penthouse Records.
There, however, the deejay, whose first album was released in 2005, found that it was a whole new vocal game, and there were outbursts of laughter on Wednesday evening during his Reggae Talk at the Medical Sciences complex, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, as he spoke about working at his craft with renewed intensity. And that included working out.
"Germain (Donavon Germain, owner of the Penthouse label and studio) have a thing where him say 'off-key! Off-key', the performer, who was then known only as Assassin at that stage of his career, said. Initially Assassin was puzzled as he thought that being in time with the beat was being in key and did not know that off-key meant the music was "ova desso" and the vocals were in another place.
Keyboard player Stephen 'Lenky' Marsden had him outside running through the scale, singing "doh ray me fah so lah ti doh", concluding that "you nuh tone deaf."
Then there was the matter of his breathing. Germain told Assassin, "You a young man - 19. A donkey dung de riddim. You haffi go run two lap." There was more laughter as Assassin gave an example of a loud intake of breath after each line.
So he went into training to deejay, running laps at a field in Kintyre. "Is not a place where you see man a run lap, so when people see me them say anodda one gone," Assassin related to more laughter. He went further, going out to Cable Hut, Bull Bay, to run on the sand. One of the images he kept in mind was Sylvester Stallone as boxer Rocky Balboa in the Rocky films, training for his epic fights.
SINCERE LOVE AND PASSION
"Being at Penthouse was a humbling thing," Assassin said. "You have this talent and thing, but you need to work."
Added to the advice was being around Buju Banton, who had a long stint at Penthouse, and by then, had run the gamut of dancehall and reggae, having a catalogue that spanned Browning and Untold Stories. While on tour with Buju in Europe, initially, Assassin could not understand how he was working a 25-minute set and was tired by the second or third song, while Buju was on stage for over 90 minutes. "Then when him done, water come outta him shoes," Assassin said, describing how much Buju had sweated.
"Me say no, a some alien," Assassin said. Then he looked closely "and me realise the brethren was breathing", demonstrating by deejaying like Buju "is not an easy road" then inhaling deeply. "Me say oh, the bredda fill him lungs after every line. Then him have the background singers," Assassin said.
He also learnt that a performer did not have to leap continuously. "You jump for four bar, then in the verse you throttle," he said. By the end of the tour, he was in a much better performance place.
It was part of his development, Assassin saying, "early in my career, all I could hear was him can deejay, but him can't perform." Fast-forward to now, he said, and the comments are "if is one thing, when him deh pon stage."
"Even now I am a student of the music," Assassin said as he watches other people when they are on the stage, no matter the level of the performer.
He said that it is a dream to think of things and then see them materialise more than once. As a child, Jeffrey Campbell would dream of being an artiste, not thinking that he would actually do it, but visualising it "for dream sake."
Now, Assassin said, having spent so much time working on it, he has seen it happen. He says that there is no way he could love music, work hard at it, and "not be at least decent. And that is not arrogance."
"Germain always used to say, 'with your heart in the right place'. You working at something for the sincere love and passion of it and the rest will take care of itself. I guarantee it," Assassin said.