Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Ninja Man's More Reality, released in the late 1980s on the same rhythm as Red Dragon's Duck, falls squarely in the vein of the unexpected - which became the expected.
For at the time, when Desmond Ballentine was squarely in 'Original Front Teet' Gol' Teet' Gun Pon Teet' Don Gorgon' mode, very few would have expected a song, not only asking for more socially responsible lyrics from deejays, but also containing a viewpoint of Jamaican popular music as a business entity.
Ninja Man starts with an exhortation to his colleagues:
Now easy, all celebrity crew
An' all who understand demself
An' know seh di slackness is foolishness
Then he takes a jaundiced look at the motives of some of those colleagues:
Mi seh some entertainer join wid us fi make some money ...
From him talk is nutten bout reality
And, in the chorus, he asks for "more reality/more reality now fi de ghetto pickney".
Among the deejays, he calls on specifically are Supercat, Early B, Josey Wales, Lieutenant Stitchie, Admiral Bailey, Little Twitch and, of course, himself, the "top celebrity".
As Ninja Man explains it, More Reality was also made at an unexpected moment, even for him.
"Inna dem time deh, is like to how my mout' slack - 'cause me an Shabba used to par y'nuh. Anyweh me an Shabba go, yu hear Shabba seh 'a me man, big dutty nasty mout' Shabba an ray ray ray Ninja.' Yu understan'? So me neva have no mannas too tough," he said.
"So is like dem carry mi go a one show dung a Llandilo (Westmoreland). Josey Wales an' Chaplin an' Brigadier deh pon di show and dem call mi up pon di stage fi perform wid di man dem whe a deal wid bare reality. When mi go up deh nuff people check say mi coulden perform," Ninja Man said.
But while he did not have anything prepared, Ninja Man found something for the moment. "So right desso mi go draw de tune whe say more reality," he said.
In the audience was someone who would make More Reality go beyond the moment, on to record.
"Dem time deh, Jammys (producer Lloyd James) used to live a stage show. Dem man deh go a stage show an' see how artiste mash up show, an' see how artiste perform an' call yu an' say 'yu a voice dat'," Ninja Man said.
"All dem ting deh de industry lack a now. No producer nah lef fi go lissen stage show fi see how artiste work an say as yu come offa di stage, studio. Dem ting deh Jammys used to do, put out certain amount a interest, make sure music keep alive."
It took a lively mind for Ninja Man to do More Reality, as he did not have the lyrics prepared when he walked out on the stage at Llandilo to join his 'conscious' elders.
"When dem say Ninja Man an' mi walk out an hear Colonel Josey Wales, Brigadier, Charlie Chaplin, me a seh a wha dis? Wha dis God? How me fi go deejay wid dem man ya now?" Ninja Man said.
Still, he had a little breathing space to prepare. "When Charlie Chaplin take de mic an work it an him give Brigadier an him work it an give Josey an him work it. Dem time deh a 'Duck' riddim a play. An mi draw di lyrics "mi waan some more reality". Make mi tell yu, all bird drop outta tree. Gunshot fire like rice grain. Dem time deh a gunshot forward used to give," Ninja Man said.
"Yeah man, dem time gunshot put yu pon stage an' gunshot take yu off."
Of course, spontaneity was not unusual for Ninja Man.
"Mos' a di song whe mi voice a perform mi a perform an buil' dem pon spot. Me a buil' lyrics pon spot. Every stage show mi go mi use to buil' a different tune," Ninja Man said.
The Sunday Gleaner asks for the source of the spontaneity, if Ninja Man used to make up songs when he was a child.
"Not really, y'nuh," Ninja Man said.
"Hear waapen now. Dat a one a di ting make mi respec' Capleton, cause me an' Capleton use to work together as we a di young artiste dem pon African Star. Brigadier used to work it too sometime an' Mumma Nancy an' Supercat too. So we used to start d' dance an we finish it too."
However, they had different approaches to making their names.
"Me was a man like dis, mi nuh business who up deh mi want a talk inna di big crowd. Capleton was a man like dis, him nah come up inna di big crowd. Him a wait until di big artiste done work him a take up di mic. But guess wha wid Capleton now - an is only two artiste mi see do dat from I know di history a dancehall, Yellowman an' Capleton. Is di only artiste me a see dance a empty, more dan one place, an dem ram, back di dance an keep di dance til 5 o'clock," Ninja Man said.
Then, dancehall time was literally different, as Ninja Man said, "Dem time deh 3, 4 o'clock dance done".
But, Ninja Man said, "When Capleton take up di mic, 2:30, 3 o'clock when people a walk go a dem yard an dem cyar, memba yu a lock off yu cyar, yu a take out di key an' yu a lock up yu door an yu a come back inna di dance. An' when yu come back inna de dance yu nah come out".
Ninja Man was in the dance of course, and needed to go deeper to keep the pace.
"A me an him alone as young artiste, so true dat now an true me talk out di whole a my hot lyrics dem when di big artiste a perform, me haffi fin' lyrics no wfi match up wid Capleton. So dat is why the style when people say buss mi, 'Long Fi Release', is not my style y'nuh. A Capleton do da style deh y'nuh," Ninja Man said.