Mavado, AKA Real McKoy and more recently The Gully God, is one of Jamaica’s most famous new dancehall singjays, known for his minor-key cries of “Anywayyy!” and “Gangsta for life!”
Mavado’s 2nd dancehall album, Mr. Brooks… a better tomorrow, released in March 2009. Mavado’s sophomore dancehall release continues his autobiographical theme with a story of struggle between good and evil, past and future. Sonically, Mavado continues to blend aggressive synth riddims with minor-key chanting and singing.
The dancehall album was preceded by the hit single So Special, produced by Linton “TJ” White.
So Speical was a #1 Jamaican and UK hit and remained on Billboard’s Top 100 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Airplay and Song chart for over a month, after peaking at 52.
You can download I’m So Special along with the Unfinished Business riddim and a free ringtone from VP Records today. VP Records has also released behind-the-scenes footage of Mavado’s So Special music video being filmed, as well as the official So Special video:
Mr. Brooks includes other great dancehall/hiphop tracks, most notably On The Rock, featuring Jay-Z. Don’t Worry, produced by Daseca, and Overcome, produced by Stephen McGregor are rallying cries to ghetto youth to uplift beyond the corrupting influences of their environment. So Blessed is a rastafarian thanksgiving counterbalanced by the hot In Di Car Back, both produced by Stephen McGregor.
Born in Kingston’s Cassava Piece micro-ghetto community in Jamaica on November 30, 1981, David Constantine Brooks was raised by his grandmother and worked as a barber before he began his professional dancehall career at the age of 22. As he explains, it was gospel music that originally inspired this rude boy vocalist to take the mic:
“To tell the truth, it was me grandmother that first really bring me in the studio, ‘cause she bring me in the church to sing. She always tell me to sing for her and that really give Mavado the courage to get to love music.”
Mavado’s early singing was also heavily influenced by Sanchez and Wayne Wonder, but after hearing dancehall star Bounty Killer‘s gruff voice, Mavado began to idolize the star and his rough sound. After Foota Hype, a Cassava Piece selector introduced him to Bounty Killer, the dancehall star began to show Mavado the ropes of the Jamaican music business and introduced him to Daseca. In 2004 Mavado became a Jamaican dancehall reggae star in his own right when he released his first dancehall single, Real McKoy on Daseca’s Anger Management riddim. The release was managed by Griffith and heavily influenced and endorsed by Bounty Killer. The debut immediately installed Mavado as a “gangsta dancehall” voice, combining the melodic abilities honed under his grandmother’s tutelage with a tough ghetto message.
Real McKoy was followed with the 2006 release of Weh dem a Do on the clubby Red Bull and Guinness riddim. Mavado’s second single continued his success with a blend of dancehall and hiphop: it was a hit beyond Jamaica, peaking at number 27 on the Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Chart and receiving air play on radio stations across the world, including New York’s Hot 97. Fader magazine praised the new work, declaring that
“If you think reggae died with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, think again. Jamaica’s latest star, Mavado, combines hip-hop-influenced beats with ominous minor-key vocals about street life and salvation.”
Mavado’s next dancehall single, Dreamin, was also popular, though it didn’t reach the same heights as the 2 predecessors. During this time Mavado also created his own crew, the Alliance, with Daseca, Vybz Kartel, and Busy Signal (who were also proteges of Bounty Killer). But it seemed that gangsta life was seeping out of the music and into Mavado’s own personal life as his Rastafarian father was murdered in Switzerland and Mavado almost lost several fingers after being pushed through a police station window.
In July 2007, Mavado went on to release his debut album, Gangsta for Life: The Symphony of David Brooks on VP Records. Gangster for Life described the narrative of Mavado’s life and took a nearly permanent spot on Billboard’s Top 25 Reggae chart.
In addition to the previously-released dancehall singles, notable tracks on the album include:
- Dying, which was a tribute to Tupac Shakur
- Fathers Prayer
- Cassava Piece Radio
- Sadness, a one-drop that describes his father’s death
- Pon The Gully Side and Last Night, which described his early life in Jamaica
The dancehall album caught the attention of Rolling Stone music magazine, who reviewed it by stating that
“Mavado is putting the streets under his thumb right now. The “Gangster for Life” brought his name back to the forefront of the rude-boy reggae mix, and “Dying” has shown off his pensive side. Mavado is winning not just with his hard-core clashing, but with rough melodies.”
Rolling Stone also named Mavado the “Best New Reggae Artiste” since Bob Marley in it’s list of “The 125 Plus People, Places and Things Ruling The Rock and Roll Universe” in their Best of Rock April 2008 issue.
The dancehall/hiphop crossover was completed when hiphop productions began to seek him out for guest performances on their albums, including 2007 appearances on Uncle Murda’s Informer, Wyclef Jean’s Welcome To The East and Foxy Brown’s We Are On Fire. In 2008 Mavado appeared on Lil Kim’s single Caribbean Connection, and 50 Cent’s G-Unit’s Terminate on Sight.
But the pinnacle dancehall/hiphop crossover moment was Mavado’s hit single, I’m On The Rock, featuring a guest appearance by Jay-Z. Billboard stated that “when Jay-Z, who has never recorded on a reggae track, rhymed on a remix of singer Mavado’s current hit “On the Rock,” it became arguably the greatest endorsement ever given to any dancehall record.”
Mavado’s dancehall songs have been used in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise, including Everyone’s a Rat, which was used in the video game trailer and in one of the in-game radio stations. He also appeared in a cameo in Steve “Tehut-Nine” McAlpin’s 2008 movie, What Goes Around, where he played the role of “Gully Gad”.
However, Mavado’s violent and homophobic lyrics were creating trouble for the Gully God. He fended off police investigations and accusations in spring of 2008 amd was banned from Guyana, St Vincent, and the Grenadines. Stop Murder Music, a LGBT rights advocacy group began campaigning against at least 3 of Mavado’s homophobic dancehall tracks and asking him to publicly renounce his hateful messages. A UK performance was cancelled when British police received “a credible security threat,” and he was denied entry to the United States when he arrived to perform in New York City for a performance with Jay-Z, resulting in the cancellation of several shows. After a Zurich show was cancelled, Mavado’s European promoter stated that “Mavado have no homophobic lyrics in his songs. If you listen to his new album you will see that none of his song says to hurt gay people.” However, this claim is contradicted by assertions that some of the exclusive mixtape versions of his songs (published for sound systems) have new, anti-gay lyrics.
Mavado has not signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, instead focusing attention on good deeds in other areas, making financial contributions to support the recovery of battered women and creating the Connect Jamaica charity organization, which provides computers to poor Jamaican schools.
Mavado’s reggae music career has been marked by an ongoing feud with Vybz Kartel going back to 2006 when Vybz Kartel left The Alliance, a dancehall group that Mavado was also a part of. Both Mavado and Vybz have released numerous diss tracks culminating with a deejay battle at Sting 2008.
But the eyes, and ears, remain primarily focused on Mavado’s innovative dancehall sounds, as he won a MOBO (Music of Black Origin) award for Best New Reggae Artist in October 2008.