Doug E Fresh-Hip Hop legend speaks on soca,reggae & music business
Interview By: Marissa Williams
OUR AMBASSADOR5™ SERIES SHOWCASES 5 QUESTIONS/FACTS WITH A CULTURAL AMBASSADOR WHO IS ACTIVELY PROMOTING CARIBBEAN CULTURE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
You may know him as the original ‘Human Beat Box,’ or you may have tried to do his dance called the ‘Dougie‘ or maybe you know him from his massive break-out hit in 1984, ‘Just having fun‘ or even from his hits with fellow DJ Slick Rick like ‘The Show‘ or ‘La di da di.’
But, what you may not know is that that hip hop legend ‘Doug E Fresh‘ has some deep seated roots in the Caribbean. Over the years, he has dropped us some hints on his affinity for Caribbean music. One being his 2005 hit with Trinbagonian soca singer, Machel Montano called ‘We not giving up.’ And of course there is his continued work with Jamaican protégé ‘Lil Viscious‘ who has enjoyed mega success with songs like ‘Freak.’ In this interview, a member of the 2BKaribbean team digs deeper into this relationship with the hip hop pioneer and the Caribbean.
As I walked in, my towering five foot frame barely met Doug E at his waist. Yet, I sensed instinctively that this was a man who would meet me at my level both literally & figuratively. His calm and reassuring presence belied the over thirty (30) years of success he has enjoyed in one of the world’s toughest industries. As we continued to talk, it was evident that this artiste was not only musically talented, but also versatile, strategic and business savvy.
His Caribbean Roots:
Doug E Fresh’s genuine interest in Caribbean culture and his Caribbean heritage was evident from the minute we sat down to talk. He shared a vintage picture of his grandfather from Trinidad and spoke fondly of summer vacations at his family home in Barbados. He says that he always spoke of his Caribbean heritage with pride-even in the days when it was not ‘cool’. And that pride has definitely translated into some of his musical collaborations over the years and his ability to keep any party going until wee hours of the morning. It’s in his DNA.
His Rap Career:
Doug E is the first to admit that he may not have been the only child in New York to make musical sounds with his mouth, but, he was definitely the first to spin it in a way that made people pay attention. He coined the term ‘Human Beat Box’ as a way to differentiate himself in the industry and has developed it to become an integral part of the hip hop experience. In his words, beat box is the ‘5th element of Hip Hop. You have the DJ, MC, Grafitti artist, dancer and there is beat box.‘
His Key to Staying Relevant:
‘The key to staying relevant is doing just that –staying relevant.’ Simply stated that is how he has stayed in the game for as long as he has. Doug E mentions the inevitable conflicts that many people face when trying to balance personal life & a career. But for him, he continued to work at balancing it all while keeping a healthy focus on his career. He believes the key is understanding that, ‘the game is ongoing & ever changing so you have to continue creating & networking. Your netWORK determines your netWORTH’
His Business Portfolio:
As an artiste, Doug E stresses the need to ‘manage & monitor the way your money is spent‘. He states that if money management is important to an artiste then it is necessary for them to ‘control & stay focused on it.’ He also challenges artistes to diversify the ways that they create both music & income because diversifying their business portfolio can help to ensure multiple income streams. He lives not by words but by example. Along with his many successes as a musical pioneer, he is also is the executive producer of the Soul Train Awards for the past 2 years, he is on a show called Apollo Live, he works with Michelle Obama ‘Lets Move’ campaign and he is the owner of a restaurant just to name a few.
His advice for Caribbean music:
He singled out his collaboration with Machel Montano as an example of how musical collaborations can create opportunities for exposure and expansion for Caribbean artistes. He also praised Destra Garcia‘s song , ‘It’s Carnival.’ A song that he believes has the potential to be a Carnival anthem. He believes that Caribbean artistes should approach their music with an attitude of ‘no fear,’ and with a desire to expand and experiment. He cites the work of Bajan artiste, Rihanna, as an example of someone who did not stray from their Caribbean roots but was willing to try different styles. An open and non-judgmental approach is what is needed to create the space for this in his opinion.
Listen here for our inaugural Ambassador5 interview with the one and only Doug E Fresh:
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