From Reserve district ‘To Di World’
Nugent Walker Jr puts writing skills on display with Usain Bolt collab ‘Country Yutes’
Most people know Nugent Walker Jr – ‘NJ’ for short – for being the right-hand man handling the personal and business affairs of the world’s fastest man alive, but at one time, he was on the college to classroom path. Although the course was changed almost as quickly as Usain Bolt’s historic 9.58 finish in the 100m at the 2009 Berlin World Championships, it was a decision he is more than satisfied with. After all, the job he was given would take the Reserve district-raised youth, raised by his mother, ‘To Di World’.
“The moment I completed my studies at The Mico University College [formerly The Mico Teachers’ College], I went straight to work for Usain … I didn’t get to teach at all,” NJ said in his recent interview with The Weekend Gleaner, adding that “I would have probably gone on to teach history if that opportunity was not presented to me.”
The two have cherished a friendship that is more than two decades in the making, from their days at Waldensia Primary and William Knibb Memorial High School in Trelawny, which, according to NJ, makes them impeccable collaborators.
He said, “We have the same drive, vision and willingness to work hard. We are not afraid of challenging each other in pursuit of the dream. My first memory of Usain – he was noticeably taller – was in grade one at primary school; both of us were six years old. My nickname was NJ, and his was VJ, and having that in common, we became friends right away. Our friendship is rooted in brotherhood.”
And while some individuals would shy away from mixing friendship with business, NJ and Bolt were confident in each other and able to maximise their abilities, he shared. He never imagined becoming the executive manager of his best friend’s personal and business affairs would transform into a career in the music industry, but that is how NJ ended up in the position of student and put his education in literature to the test.
“I know my role in Usain’s life, and we have mutual respect for each other, and we are blessed to be able to separate friendship from business. There are still many success stories out there of persons who are friends and business partners, but the key is just being willing to commit to the craft for excellence. No doubt, it requires a lot of balancing, but the good thing about us is that we have the same goals,” he said. “He has always wanted to do music, and when we launched his signature champagne, we produced a rhythm to help promote it, the Olympe Rosé Riddim, and we didn’t want to stop there, that’s how we moved on to produce the Immortal Riddim and Clockwork Riddim.”
Being in Jamaica for the longest period over the past year, the country youths’ dive into music production went deeper, as the vision for even greater opportunities to show growth with a transition from the track to making tracks in the field of music became clearer. Long hours were spent experimenting, researching the knowledge, history and movement of reggae and dancehall music. He also named Kamal Evans, Chris Martin, Cham, Suku Ward as some of the best advisors for musical ideas.
It metamorphosed into a body of work they have now launched dubbed Country Yutes. Naturally poised to set records, the album taps into the different subsets of reggae and dancehall styles from upbeat dance tunes to reflective ballads such as Days Like These, I Cry, Rip My G and Life, which features NJ’s now six-year-old son, Nugent Junior (‘NJJ’), who made his contribution when he was just five.
As for NJ, he is credited for writing the lyrics for most of the songs. “I try to write relatable music. I say to myself what experiences most people face daily and try to create a story from it. I wanted my music to not only be a reflection but to be real, and I think most people can say ‘I have felt this way in life’ at one point or another. In creating the album, I had various topics I wanted to explore. Days Like These resonate with me. I wanted people to know we all have these feelings; that there is someone out there experiencing [a] similar emotion, so they don’t have to feel alone,” he said.
Speaking about what the project contributes to Jamaica’s culture, entertainment, education and sporting sectors, NJ explained that the message is powerful — focusing primarily on the importance of hard work and applying one’s self, which creatives and athletes can all benefit from. “We are very excited for the world to hear this body of work as we believe there is at least one song on it for everyone. This project, for me, is all about not letting anyone tell you that you can’t and not allowing anyone to put you in a box. My mother taught me self-belief from an early age to be confident in myself but diligent in whatever I aspire to be,” he said.
“I am just an ambitious, hardworking youth from humble beginnings – likewise Usain. Hopefully, I can impress the fans with my writing skills, and we can grow from here to even be writing songs for other artistes in future. Anything is possible with us. We don’t put limit on ourself. Merch should be coming soon,” NJ continued.
Bolt put his trust in NJ, and it is visible in the way they interact. He said that friendship is central to the musical dream becoming a reality with the release of the Country Yutes album, and it will not end with this project. Even though he does not sing, the sprinter also contributed to the song writing process, and his voice is prominent in the intros.
“I don’t really sing songs, but I want to be involved in the production. This is part of the process to let people know I’m serious about taking the music ‘to di world’ and beyond; the aim is to continue making good music,” Bolt said.
Country Yutes is out now and available on all digital platforms.