Garwin Davis, Assistant News Editor
UNREPENTANT, unapologetic...the quintessential rebel without a cause...these are but a few of the adjectives which have been used to describe Super Cat, the self-styled 'Don Dada' and certainly one of Jamaica's most controversial deejays ever.
Back in Jamaica after a seven-year self imposed hiatus from the local dancehall scene, to perform at last Sunday's fourth annual Sashi show in Oracabessa, St. Mary, Super Cat has not changed much - if any at all from the hardcore entertainer whose gangster style image made him a fan favourite throughout the '80s and part of the early '90s.
The Sunday Gleaner caught up with the diminutive deejay backstage after his entertaining but provocative performance at the Sashi concert. Showing that he had not lost his flair for controversy, 'The Cat', using a mixture of 'cuss words' and conscious lyrics, made it clear that he would not be restricted in what he could say while on-stage, defying the authorities who had earlier warned performers against the use of profanity.
Asked if he was not worried about being arrested or charged Super Cat, in his own indomitable style and only as he can, frowned, then gave an unequivocal 'No'. "Arrest me for what?" he said, throwing the question back. "Which artiste curse more bad words than Yellowman and yet him win a Grammy. No guy not going to dictate what I can say on-stage. What about cable TV? What about all the profanity being fed back to the children? How come nobody talking about that, yet them want to target entertainers? Nobody is going to stop my freedom of expression," Super Cat said.
Super Cat said he had come too far in the music business to allow himself to be bothered by trivialities, noting that his only motivation was to give the "fans what they want." "My fans never let me down or lie to me," he added. "To many people I am just a dutty John Crow, a nasty dutty Indian. You see, I man is from the ghetto and has never bow to no guy. Nobody can say dem control Super Cat or own Super Cat. I am in control of my own destiny," he said.
A major figure in the dancehall movement for, as he puts it, "over 31 years", Super Cat was born William Maragh in "the heart of the ghetto" in Cockburn Pen, Kingston, the same area that produced his idol, the legendary DJ U-Roy.
Interested in music from a very young age, he toured Jamaica with various sound systems and from very early showed he had what it takes to be a major star. His first DJ name, Cat-a-Rock, was eventually switched to Super Cat; he also would later earn a secondary nickname, the 'Wild Apache.'
Super Cat made his recording debut in 1981 with the single Mr. Walker, recorded for the Techniques label and produced by Winston Riley. A succession of singles for various labels followed, as did his debut album Si Boops Deh, which appeared on Techniques in 1985.
Settling for a short time on the Skengdon label, Super Cat recorded another album, Boops, but soon grew dissatisfied enough with the business aspect of recording to start his own label, Wild Apache Productions. The self-produced album Sweets for My Sweet followed in 1988, as did a number of singles produced for other artists on the Wild Apache imprint. Super Cat also teamed up with Nicodemus and Junior Demus for the first triple-team DJ album in dancehall history, Cabin Stabbin'.
Plagued by a number of controversies locally, including an infamous bottle-throwing incident at Sting in 1991 while on-stage with rival deejay Ninja Man, Super Cat decided to move to New York City and attempt to crack the American market. It was a move which had been made earlier by ace entertainer Shabba Ranks, who went on to sign a major record deal and secure multiple Grammy awards. Super Cat himself secured a major-label deal with Columbia and landed the track Nuff Man a Dead on their compilation Dancehall Reggaespanol; in 1992, he issued one of the first major-label dancehall albums, the acclaimed Don Dada.
Several high-profile TV and concert festival appearances followed, and Source magazine named Super Cat their 'Dancehall Artiste of the Year' for 1993. The following year, he reunited with Nicodemus and Junior Demus, adding Junior Cat to make the album The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Crazy, a four-way collaboration. Super Cat's own fusion of dancehall, roots reggae, hip-hop and R&B was next showcased on the proper follow-up to Don Dada, 1995's The Struggle Continues. While the album was another success, Super Cat really raised his profile in the pop mainstream with his guest shots on Kriss Kross' Jump and on Sugar Ray's 1997 smash Fly. Columbia capitalised on the resulting exposure in 1998, with the singles compilation The Good, the Better, the Best of Super Cat.
Asked what happened to the deal with Columbia, Super Cat said it was simply time for him to 'move on.' "Some a dem like talk bout dem a management. As far as I am concern they should be called damagement. A nuff a dem a try exploit artiste, stifle youth and youth. I went through the same thing in Jamaica and I am not going to go down that road again. I have my own label, Wild Apache Productions, which is working out fine," he said.
About the state of local music? "A nuff man a try a thing. Can't blame them though. Super Cat has always been in his own league, never had any competition. How many of them you see anybody a try fi emulate? Look how many try fi emulate Cat - Sean Paul, Silver Cat, Junior Cat. I man don't live in anybody's shadow. Never have, never will," he said. As for Bounty Killer, whom he had earlier made some disparaging remarks against on-stage, Super Cat said: "He has no manners. I hear say him going around calling up mi name. I have never met the guy. I know Beenie Man, but I have never seen Bounty Killer in person. Him need to leave me name alone," Cat said. Pressed on how he could be certain that Bounty Killer was "calling up his name", Cat said: "Like I told you before, my fans never lie."
What does the future hold for Super Cat? "I will continue doing what I am doing", he notes. "I man continue to be blessed by Yahweh. I don't need to prove anything to anybody or have to get any honour to prove who I am. My work over the years speak for itself. Super Cat is comfortable being Super Cat. That's all that matters."