Spragga Benz talks new album with late son's best friend
On August 23, 2008, Spragga Benz suffered a parent's nightmare. The dancehall artiste suddenly lost the son named after him, Carlton Grant Junior.
His son, more affectionately known as Carlyle, was fatally shot, allegedly by policemen, in downtown Kingston.
Since his son's passing, the dancehall star has repeatedly honoured the memory of Carlyle, and later this year, he will carry on with the release of his first album in seven years called The Journey Continues.
As though giving proof of a parent's unconditional love for his children, the dancehall artiste has once again found an avenue through which to keep the spirit of his son potent. Spragga Benz has collaborated with his son's best friend, Lamar 'LMR Pro' Reynolds, for the production of the album. The entertainer describes the experience so far as effortless and a long time coming.
"It began a little bit after Carlyle passed away. We just started working together," Spragga told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We were always making music throughout the years. We watched his growth," Spragga said. The entertainer describes their relationship as familial, though not patriarchal.
"I'd say I'm like an uncle to him," he clarified.
Ten years ago, just before Carlyle's tragic passing, Reynolds began his production career, a venture he and his friend planned to pursue together.
"I knew him as Carlyle's father but I wasn't doing music in the capacity that I am now, until after Carlyle's passing," the producer told The Sunday Gleaner.
Reynolds is CEO of his own music-production entity called LMR Pro Productions. He has worked with local artistes like Kranium, Black Ryno, and international ones like Ty Dolla $ign and Troy Ave. Reynolds' production career soared with the success of his collaboration with Kranium on the hit song Nobody Has to Know, released in 2015.
"First time we worked together was around 2010 or 2011 when I approached him to voice on a compilation I was working on. The vibes and energy grew from there," Reynolds told The Sunday Gleaner. "I learnt a lot from working with him. Never ran into a musical roadblock working with him," the young producer continued.
Always have music
And according to Spragga, "We've been working throughout the years. There are many songs not released, so it's like we always have music there."
It was alleged that Carlyle and another young man were riding a bicycle in downtown Kingston when they were stopped by two policemen. The story alleges that these policemen told the young men to run, and that while running, shots were fired at them. Supreme Court Judge Horace Marsh, who presided over the murder trial, ruled that the policemen did not have a case to answer. He then directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty. Constables Audley Lawrence and AndrÈ Hare were freed.
Since Carlyle's passing, the artiste had spent some of his time developing The Carlyle Foundation, which has been on hiatus for a while. The charity venture hosted fundraising concerts with all-star line-ups. Spragga explained to The Sunday Gleaner that since he now spends the majority of his time in the United States, strict and steady attention has not been paid to maintaining the foundation's charitable efforts.
"Mi nuh really deh home suh much, but things inna di pipeline. We just getting wi self established internationally as Red Square Productions the proper way. We have quite a few artistes getting ready for the road. We're getting there," Spragga affirmed. As for The Carlyle Foundation, the artiste does not have any solid plans but says "it can manifest".
What has manifested is the bond between Carlyle's father and his best friend, which has extended from a familial type of friendship to working together professionally.
"It just feel like the time now, like we should do this project. And it just happened. A vibe just came over, and we just said we gonna make a full package," Spragga told The Sunday Gleaner.
"The bulk of this album was done in the space of about a week. We finished about 18 or 19 of the songs," the seasoned dancehall artiste revealed. "We have five or six that are definitely singles - Guide My Life and My Lady ... . dem two deh. definitely feel good about it. Those are like non-stop play. I feel good about this album, like this is one I wanted to make," Spragga continued.
Still, the final cut will include songs recorded before that one week of super production.
"We have some songs we made a year and a half ago," he said, including Never Leave, a song dedicated to Carlyle.
Reynolds said that he created the instrumentals and the idea for the song five years ago.
"Wi nuh know which one (single) we a guh put out first, but we were thinking about releasing Never Leave as one of the first ones," Spragga told The Sunday Gleaner.
The entertainer told The Sunday Gleaner that the intention is to release about 12 songs for the final package.
"Recording-wise, we're still mixing and doing over dubs," he said, "but the writing, the bulk, was done in the space of a week."
"I make albums with Salaam [Remi] or John John, but in those cases, it's music they presented. With Lamar, it's more collaborative. It just happen that way deh. I couldn't believe, sometimes three songs inna the day. Mi proud fi see him grow to this level - in the music industry weh him love, something him and Carlyle were talking about - and having it develop in such a short space of time. it tightens the bond with us and Carlyle," he said.