Rayvon produces comeback album
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
With his fashionably plaited hair and extravagant jewellery, Rayvon stood out among the conservatives in the dining area of the Wyndham Kingston hotel.
The Barbados-born singer, best known as Shaggy's foil on monster tracks like In The Summertime and Angel, was in town last week for recording sessions and to promote his self-titled album.
Rayvon's previous albums (Hear My Cry and My Bad) were distributed by Virgin and MCA/Universal Records in 1997 and 2002, respectively.
His latest set is being marketed in the United States by his Get That Cheddar company, and in Europe by Stringbean International Records.
Though music promotion has become easier through the Internet, Rayvon says it is still tough without the backing of a major record company.
"There's definitely a lot more ground to be covered when you're doing things by yourself," he said.
"It's like you're preparing for war 'cause there's so much competition out there."
The music landscape has transformed dramatically since Rayvon and Shaggy broke through in 1993 with Nice and Lovely.
Compact discs are almost obsolete, music sales are down and record companies are into young,
outrageous stars whose careers last as long as the sales from their first album dry up.
At 40, Rayvon believes he still has the goods to make hit records, and do it the way he did almost 20 years ago.
"When I'm talking about good music, I'm thinking something catchy, a good hook, maybe a little message in there. These are the ingredients of a good song, and usually if it doesn't have that you haven't got a hit," he explained.
Rayvon, the album, has so far spawned a minor hit in Back It Up which was produced by Trinidadian Carl 'Beaver' Henderson. He promoted it recently on The Monique Show and said it has enjoyed favourable rotation on MTV2 and VHI Soul.
Henderson is one of several emerging acts Rayvon worked with on his latest set. C L Cash, a rapper from the Bronx, appears on You Look Good while Melinda, an 18-year-old singer from New Jersey, is featured on Stay By My Side.
"I've been doing this for some time, I think I have an eye and ear for talent so I've decided to give that talent a chance," he said.
He also called on some experienced hands to help out on Rayvon.
You Look Good was produced by Robert 'Snowcone' Fuller who also performs as Jah Snowcone on Hustle and Flow. Shaggy and Rayvon hook up again on a remix of Wedding Song.
The third of three children born to parents in the Barbadian capital
Bridgetown, Bruce Alexander Brewster immigrated with his family to New York City when he was nine years old. He has a distinctive Jamaican accent, picked up from years of hanging out at reggae studios in the Big Apple.
It was at one of those spots, the Living Room Studio, that he first met
Shaggy, a Kingston-born ex-marine who was also on the hunt for a hit record.
"This producer said to us, 'you've got a smooth thing with your singing and you (Shaggy) have a rough edge, you should do a combination'," Rayvon recalls.
They agreed and a version of Air Supply's All Out Of Love was their first song together.
Big Up for Sting International was a hit for the duo in the New York City area, but things really took off in 1993 with Nice and Lovely, taken from Pure Pleasure, Shaggy's breakthrough album for Virgin.
Rayvon's vocals also complemented Shaggy's gruff toasting on In The Summertime which peaked at number five on the British national chart in 1995, and Angel which topped the British list and the United States pop chart seven years later.
As a solo act, he has had his moments though nowhere as successful as his collaborations with Shaggy.
His biggest solo hit, 2-Way, reached number 67 on the United Kingdom national chart.
Rayvon says he never worries about being remembered as Shaggy's sidekick.
"I consider myself an entertainer and I'm looking at a long career, and anything can happen in that time," he said.
"I never sit down and think about duplicating hit records."
His promotion of Rayvon and Back It Up continues throughout April with dates on the US east coast.