Thu | Feb 2, 2023

Jamaicans ‘not entitled’ to American award, says Heavy D

Published:Wednesday | April 6, 2022 | 12:09 AMSade Gardner/Staff Reporter
Junior ‘Heavy D’ Fraser notes that although reggae was created in Jamaica, the genre is much bigger than Jamaica.
Junior ‘Heavy D’ Fraser notes that although reggae was created in Jamaica, the genre is much bigger than Jamaica.

While several Jamaicans are upset that Sunday’s Grammy award for Best Reggae Album went to American band SOJA instead of a Jamaican act, music industry professional, Junior ‘Heavy D’ Fraser, says Jamaicans are not entitled to an American award.

“The Grammys is not for Jamaica,” Fraser told The Gleaner. “Even though the category says ‘reggae’, the whole world sings reggae. Nuff time dem give we a break and dem give the Marleys or other artistes. The mistake Jamaicans make is thinking it is a Jamaican award when it’s not. Every time dem get up and quarrel. The Grammys a fi white people … Dem nuh play fair wid black people and dem nah go play fair with black people whether we like it or not.”

He added that people should not dictate what genres artistes can do.

“If we say no one else should sing reggae but us, are we going to stop singing R&B? So, we won’t sing nothing else but reggae and dancehall? Yuh cyan tell people wah fi sing. Yes, reggae was created here but reggae bigger than Jamaica.”

Speaking of Shenseea who has often expressed interest in doing different genres, he said, “We’d love fi Shenseea can win one of dem hip hop awards deh one day or any of our artistes. See, Skillibeng is in line with dem. All him can nominate and win something on the other side, that’s just how it is. You can’t kill people for that and say the reggae Grammy should just be for Jamaicans.”

SOJA went up against nominees Spice, Sean Paul, Gramps Morgan, Jesse Royal and Etana, winning for their 2021 album Beauty in the Silence. Fraser said he was not surprised by their win, adding that many people underestimated them because they are not popular in the home of reggae.

“You may be surprised if you don’t know about them but once you read about them, you’ll see it’s not a baby group,” he said. “SOJA bigger than every reggae group Jamaica has ever had and we nuh have nuh group like that in Jamaica now weh can draw 20,000 by themselves at a reggae festival. Most of the Jamaicans can’t play where dem play. Fi dem reggae huge. Etana play wid dem couple times too.”

We lucky

He continued, “If you look at their numbers, dem have 100 million views. How much people in reggae have 100 million views? Sean Paul does but a nuh reggae him sing … We haffi just thank God we get nominated and if we win, we lucky.”

Based in Virginia, SOJA (Soldiers of Jah Army) was formed in 1997 among high school friends who made their recording debut with their self-titled EP in 2000. They have recorded seven albums throughout their career, earning two other Grammy nominations for their 2017 album Live in Virginia and Amid the Noise and Haste released in 2015.

Despite being around since the late ‘90s, it is said that Jamaican engineer Cegrica ‘Soljie’ Hamilton is responsible for refining the group’s sound when he started working with them in 2010.

“They were the opening act for Gentleman (on tour) and they approached him and said, ‘We need an engineer like Soljie because we have a band but we don’t have a sound’,” Hamilton told The Gleaner. “They wanted to get a reggae sound and that’s where I started working with them.”

He shut down culture vulture claims about the group, explaining that they are true students of reggae who have spent many years honing their craft.

“This group has been out there working for a long time … This group normally go to live stage shows in Washington, DC, and listen to culture and all different genres of reggae coming out of Jamaica. Even as kids they played reggae music; no rock or other genres. They grew up on this music. They aren’t culture vultures.”

Beauty in the Silence bore 13 tracks with features from artistes including Rebelution, Collie Buddz, Common Kings, Ali Campbell and J Boog.

sade.gardner@gleanerjm.com