Update 2020: Moses “Beenie Man” Davis is the self-proclaimed King of the Dancehall, but I don’t think you will find too many people to disagree; especially after the Clash seen and heard-around-the-world in May 2020. Beenie and Bounty Killer, his arch-rival from the 90s Dancehall era, joined forces to deliver a Verzuz online sound clash witnessed by more than a half a million fans around the world.
The 46-year-old writer, producer & performer continues to work hard and put out numerous singles, EPS & LPs. Following the Verzuz Clash, Beenie released the single “Do You Want to Be That Guy?,” referring to the police officer who entered the studio during their live-stream. He never misses an opportunity to capitalize on the success and notoriety he’s earned over the past 35 years. What follows here is an interview with the “Maestro” while his star was blazing in the mid-90s Dancehall arena.♥
Beenie Man – The Maestro
By Sara Gurgen V15#1 1997
Maestro, the title of Beenie Man’s recently released album, perfectly describes this premier Jamaican DJ. After all, this proud member of the successful, hard-working Shocking Vibes crew has been wearing the crown of DJ of the Year for two years in a row; a dizzying array of his songs dot Reggae charts worldwide; and he is responsible for setting and/or popularizing numerous trends in Dancehall music. Two of his hits that best illustrate his trademark creativity are “Maestro,” which combines opera-style vocals with a Dancehall beat, and “Nuff Gal,” on which he chats over a finger-snapping, horn-laden Jazz line. Always one to try something new, this innovative music master has even fused good ol’ Rock’n Roll with Dancehall on his new album!
“Where Dancehall is concerned you have to give people things they never hear about,” explained Beenie during a brief interview at an Island Jamaica Records party held Oct. 11  at label founder Chris Blackwell’s Miami Beach-based Marlin Hotel. “You have to be a leader; you can’t be a follower,” added Beenie, who was in town for the annual How Can I Be Down? Hip-Hop convention.
Summing up what he thinks he’s contributed to Dancehall music, the quick-witted, down-to-earth entertainer said: “More styles and more fun.”
At the time of the interview, Maestro was set to be released on Island Jamaica (a follow-up to last year’s Blessed), but when this writer spoke with Beenie again a month later, he said that VP Records was releasing the album instead. Beenie briefly commented on the switch: “Well, Island didn’t want to deal with this album.” Beenie made it clear, however, that there are no hard feelings and mentioned that he is still working with the label.
Moving into Movies
“At this moment, I am doing some work with Island for a movie called Dancehall Queen,” Beenie pointed out. The movie, which relies heavily on performances and cameos, is slated for a March release by Island Pictures. The soundtrack will include at least two of Beenie songs. “I [play me] in the movie,” Beenie continued. “I’m like the king DJ in Jamaica, and the dance hall queens always come to my shows.”
Beenie is well known for his high-energy, humorous performances. He offered an explanation as to why he thinks his stage shows are so well received: “What I really think about me performing on stage is that I really put all my heart in my performance. All my work is on the stage. Whenever I have a bad day and I want to have a good day, I just go on stage.”
“Whenever I have a bad day and I want to have a good day, I just go on stage.”
During the October interview, Beenie said that he had recently wrapped up a successful summer tour of the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Caribbean. “All my shows were sold out,” Beenie said proudly. As we go to press, he is scheduled to perform at Sting on New Year’s Eve and in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 1. VP Records is organizing a mega promotional tour for Beenie’s new album. He will most probably be touring with the label mates Lady Saw and General Degree, who both have albums due out in February or March on VP.
Maestro was recorded at Penthouse Studios in Kingston. Production was handled by Patrick Roberts for Shocking Vibes productions; Aiden Jones for East Coast Records; and Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare for Taxi Productions.
The 18-track album contains seven popular Beenie singles: “Maestro,” “Nuff Gal,” “Black Board,” “Girls Way,” “Yaw Yaw,” “Si Mi Yah,” and his newest release, “Girls Dem Sugar.” Previously unreleased songs on the album include “Halla Fi Di Jordan”; “Any Mr. Man”; the conscious” “Oh Jah Jah,” featuring Silver Cat; “His-Story”; “Man Royal”; “One Big Road”; “Long Longi Lala,” featuring Lady Saw; the Rock’n Roll track “Be My Lady”; “Nuh Lock,” featuring Little Kirk; and the cultural “Africans” and “Jerusalem.”
The guest artists on Maestro are all members of the Patrick Roberts-led Shocking Vibes crew. In addition to Beenie, the aggregation consists of Little Kirk, Snag a Puss, Frisco Kid, Alley Cat, Silver Cat, Anthony Red Rose, Tanto Metro, and the most recent edition, Lady Saw, who has a hit duet out with Beenie called “Healing.” It is the first single off her forthcoming VP album. “That song is all about me and she; a man and a woman,” said Beenie before breaking into the lyrics of the song. Although the chemistry between Beenie and Saw is palpable, he said there is no romantic involvement. In fact, when asked if there was a special someone in his life, Beenie replied: “Not really.”
Patrick Roberts and the Shocking Vibes crew are like a musical family to Beenie. He and Robert go way back. “We have always been friends,” Beenie exclaimed. “Long life friends forever.”
The first song Beenie did for Shocking Vibes was “We Run Things” in 1986. It turned out to be a tremendous hit in Jamaica. Even though he was only 14 when the song was released, Beenie’s career began when he was much younger.
“I was singing from when I was 3,” recalled Beenie, who was born Moses Davis in Kingston’s Waterhouse District on August 22, 1972. He received the nickname ”Beenie,” which means little in Jamaican patois, when he was a baby. “Everybody called me that because I was small. I was born a premature kid.”
Incredibly, Beenie began DJing on his uncle’s Master Blaster sound system when he was 5 years old. He cites General Tree and Johnny Ringo as his early influences. Although his father has 25 children, Beenie said none share his musical talent: “Most of my brothers are footballers [soccer players],” said Beenie, who likes to play the game during his spare time.
At age 9, Beenie enters the Tastee Talent Contest with his song “Too Fancy” and beat many competitors. It was there that the popular disc jockey Barry G introduced Beenie to producer Henry “Junju” Lawes, who was so impressed with young Beenie that he produced “Too Fancy” and had it released on the Volcano label.
Beenie’s first album, The 10-year-old DJ Wonder, a Bunny “Striker” Lee production, came out a year later on the Justice label.
The next big step in Beenie’s career came in 1986 when he recorded “We Run Things” for Shocking Vibes. He followed that up with “Kip Wey (1987), “Which One” (1988), and the album Cool Cool Rider (1989).
Although already popular by this time, Beenie’s big break came in 1992 with a song called “Hey” for Shocking Vibes. Then came “Wicked Man” (Shocking Vibes, 1993), which brought him out as a top Jamaican Dancehall DJ. Other hits that were released on Shocking Vibes in 1993 include “People Dead” and “No Matter the Money.” That year, Beenie had five encores at Reggae Sunsplash’s Dancehall night; similar success at Reggae Sumfest; and a memorable clash with Bounty Killer at Sting [’93 & ’95]
In 1994, Beenie scored his first No. 1 song in Jamaica, ”Matey” (Shocking Vibes), and his “World Dance” (Shocking Vibes) was voted best single for 1994 at the annual Jamaica Music Awards—at which he was also named DJ of the Year. Two of his albums were released by VP that year: Face to Face and Beenie Man Meets Spragga Benz.
Beenie’s popularity continued to climb in 1995. His song “Modeling” (Shocking Vibes) had a profound impact on how women dressed in the dance halls; his duet with Determine, “Kette Drum” (Digital B), popularized that rhythm; “Slam” (Shocking Vibes) topped Reggae charts in New York City, London, and Miami for weeks and received Song of the Year at the Jamaica Music Awards (where he was also crowned DJ of the Year again); and “Blessed” (Shocking Vibes) and “Crazy Bald Head” (Taxi), a powerful cover of the classic Marley protest song that he did with Luciano, showed that Beenie was equally adept at DJing conscious lyrics.
Last year was no exception. He had a string of hits that dominated the charts, such as “Old Dog” (X-L); “Nuff Gal” (Island Jamaica); “Girls Way” (East Coast); “Black Board” (East Coast); “New Suzuki” (X-L); “Yaw Yaw” (Shocking Vibes); “Girls I See” (Shocking Vibes); and “Girls Dem Sugar.”
On the Feud with Bounty Killer
Although Beenie has scored numerous No. 1 songs and received many awards, he is still not satisfied: “I don’t really see myself as the top artist yet because I haven’t achieved my goal in life: the Grammy and a platinum record.”
Beenie’s goal for Dancehall music is equally ambitious: “I want to see Dancehall be where Rap music is. I want to see Dancehall get the same respect as American music. It’s not really there yet, but it’s getting there.”
When asked what he thinks about the resurgence of cultural lyrics in Dancehall music, Beenie said: “Well I think it’s great. It’s good to get back to your roots.”
“I want to see Dancehall get the same respect as American music.”
Beenie doesn’t have a favorite DJ. He likes to listen to all types of music and all Reggae artists, including Bounty Killer. “It’s long gone, finished over,” asserted Beenie, referring to the feud between Bounty and him. “Every man is moving on with their own life.” Beenie went on to explain why it began: “It start because of a grudge and bad ‘mindism’; friends who try to mess up something that’s great.”
This father of two girls (a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old) doesn’t have time for feuds, he’s too busy creating music and praising God. In Beenie’s own words: “The more you praise God, the more musically inclined you’ll be.”