Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Bounty's 'It's A Party' was almost a love song with Chaka Khan

Published:Wednesday | November 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMSade Gardner/Gleaner Writer
The cover of Bounty Killer’s 1998 album, ‘Next Millennium’.
Chaka Khan
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How does a love song develop into a party hit?

Bounty Killer can help answer that. The veteran deejay teamed up with rapper Wyclef Jean in 1998 to produce a song called Ain't Nobody with R&B sensation Chaka Khan. But when things did not go as planned, the end result was the funky, hip-hop track It's a Party, featuring Free, Cocoa Brovaz and Nona Hendryx.

"Ain't Nobody was a smash hit from when we were kids, so I knew if I had Chaka Khan singing on the song, it would be a hit, too, even if it was just an underground hit," Bounty Killer told The Gleaner.

Bounty Killer shared his vision with Wyclef, who tried to get the I Feel for You singer on board. "Wyclef had discovered Destiny's Child with the No, No, No remix, so I knew the song would get some recognition 'cause he is a big producer," Bounty Killer explained. He added, "Wyclef has the big links, so he was trying to get her, but dem time deh, she was in Nashville making an album and was not available. I didn't want to sample her voice, I wanted her to sing it again live on the song, but we didn't get to have that."

Already in love with the beat, Bounty Killer said he went back to the drawing board and changed the lyrics to reflect a party song. He got Free - popularly known as a former host at BET 106 & Park - to sing the hook, but she was not featured in the music video.

"A lot of people don't know that the girl who is singing on the hook is actually Free. Nobody knew her at the time, and I wanted someone recognisable to help me, so I chose Nona Hendryx from Labelle to do the lip-syncing in the video," he revealed.

"I couldn't be a young artiste from Jamaica using some girl from around the way, that wasn't gonna create any impact or attention. We used Nona cause she was a vintage, classic artiste. Then, we got some classy women in the video, and that's how it came about."

It's a Party is one of 13 tracks on his Next Millennium album, which was released 20 years ago under TVT Records. The project was laced with international collaborations, including Reggae Party, featuring Shaggy and Third World; Deadly Zone, featuring Mobb Deep and Big Noyd; and the title track featuring Norega. Next Millennium was also unique because of its hybrid nature, fusing rap with dancehall.

But would he have done anything differently?

"Production-wise, no, but I guess we could have done better promotion-wise," Bounty Killer said. "The album took me all over - BET, MTV, all those stations in America - and the product still stands 20 years later. But I think if it was marketed in the right ways it would have been at the top of the Billboard charts. If I did those collaborations today, they would have probably got more recognition, too, but the album did what it was supposed to do."