New York is often referred to as a melting pot, a place where various people and cultures from around the world meld together to form one distinctive breed: the New Yorker. A vast ethnic hodge-podge, New York is home to one of the largest immigrant populations in United States, and hosts the largest concentration of Caribbean people outside of the Caribbean itself. You can hear, smell, and taste the Caribbean in every nook and cranny of New York, from the lingo you hear in the streets to the beef patties and cocoa bread that you can buy at every pizzeria in the city. Even before Sean Paul was burnin’ his way up the Billboards with his upbeat brand of dutty dancehall rock, Reggae and other forms of Caribbean music were as much apart of the New York pop scene as Hip Hop. For New Yorkers singer BluFox, singer/actor/musician Leon, and the R&B duo Deep, fusing the drum and bass sounds of the Caribbean with American sounds such as Hip Hop, Rock, Rap, and R&B to create a unique distinctive sound is what they were trained to do as native New Yorkers.
Born and bred in New York to Jamaican mother and Jewish father, and having lived in New Hampshire, Washington DC and Jamaica, singer BluFox’s music reflects a rebellion to the notion of being a product of any one single factor—one race, one environment, one culture, or one musical influence. Her brand of “rebel soul” doesn’t follow one path; it is a fusion of Roots Reggae, Alternative, and R&B, with a strong Soul undertone—its funky soul music that breaks the rules.
“Reggae, and not talking really about Dancehall or Lover’s Rock, but Roots Reggae, the soul of Reggae, has always moved me since I was a child. I always wanted to get up and dance, to feel it, you know,” says BluFox of her passion for Reggae. “To fuse the music I love, which is Alternative and R&B, with Reggae music which is in me, that’s pretty much all I wanted to do my whole life.”
BluFox began seriously pursuing a music career after a family friend introduced her to reggae legends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, who served as her musical mentors and have since been guiding her every step of the way. Her upcoming album Herstory, produced by Sly & Robbie, and Brooklyn-born Reggae band Morgan Heritage, is not just her story, but a collection of experiences from living in the country in Jamaica to the hustling and bustling life in New York and everything in between—love, heartache, self discovery, and self development. Like the collection of stories, her album is a collection of Alternative Rock, R&B, and Reggae melodies, complimenting her warm velvet voice and powerful lyrics. She describes the album as “coming from a different angle, a soft sound round the edges which packs a powerful punch once it has you in its grip.”
Another native New Yorker, acclaimed silver-screen actor Leon, best known for his roles in films like Waiting to Exhale, Cool Runnings, and the award winning television movie The Temptations, is also riding the drum & bass rhythm with his Reggae band Leon and the Peoples. With a penchant for making music highlighting the positive aspects of life, their debut album The Road Less Traveled, due to be released this fall, is a blend of upbeat Reggae and Dancehall, and classic soul and R&B, Leon brands his musical blend “Reggae-Soul.”
“My music has soul influences, so just saying my music is straight up reggae wouldn’t be accurate,” Leon offers. “It’s basically music for everyone. One good thing with us is that people say it’s hard not to like the album because it doesn’t pinpoint any demographic, its just good music.”
Unlike BluFox, Leon doesn’t have any direct Caribbean roots. When asked what inspired him to delve into Reggae music, he expresses that it is Reggae music that got into him. Hearing Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” blasting out of a friends window at the age of 11, Leon was immediately hooked. Traveling back and forth to Jamaica as an actor, it has become an adopted homeland. Even before he formed Leon and the Peoples, he had been involved in the music for a number of years, hosting almost every Reggae show imaginable, having friends in the Jamaican music industry, and portraying Jamaicans in some of his most notable screen roles, and taking an active role in social issues affecting Jamaica. Along with BluFox, Leon has worked extensively with Upliftment Jamaica, a social service organization aimed at providing education, recreation, and health services for the Jamaica’s most impoverished parish, St. Thomas.
For Brooklynites Elijah and ShoTime, collectively known as the R&B, duo Deep, it is impossible to make Reality (their upcoming album) music with out incorporating the influences of their Caribbean backgrounds and surroundings. With Elijah’s parents hailing from the Dominican Republic and St. Kitts, and ShoTime’s Haitian background, adding a dash of Caribbean flavor to their eclectic Soul/Alternative/Hip Hop tinged R&B sound comes without thought.
“In Brooklyn, you naturally have a Caribbean influence, just being here, period,” explains ShoTime. “Having that Reggae flavor, that Caribbean type flavor is one of the ways we incorporate Brooklyn into our music. It’s the type of music we love a lot, what we grew up listening to.”
The love Deep shows Reggae is being reciprocated ten-fold. Their single “What Kind of Man” brought down the house at popular Dancehall selector Nico Bam Bam’s birthday bash in Ocho Rios recently, while legendary sound system Stone Love has been spinning Deep tunes regularly throughout Jamaica and the tri-state area. They duo even opened for VP Records 25th Anniversary Show in Miami. Although they haven’t performed in the Caribbean as yet, ShoTime is confident that they have what it takes to win over any crowd.
“We’ve performed in front of Jamaican crowds before, in Brooklyn and in Miami, yeah, they threw us in the lion’s den with sheep skinned jackets on,” ShoTime laughs. “We’ve done a bunch of shows, we did Barney’s birthday bash for Stone Love in Brooklyn, and the VP Show in Miami. Everybody was there, Capleton, Jr. Gong, everybody. We were the first ones to touch they mic, and they embraced us. They are not an easy crowd to win over, but they really opened up to us.”
Signed to the independent label Tycoon Dynasty, Deep is slated to release Reality later in 2006.
BluFox, Leon, and Elijah and ShoTime are a hybrid of bass heavy Caribbean rifts, R&B melodies, Alternative Rock, smooth R&B, Hip Hop, and Classic Soul. For these native New Yorkers, in blending their background cultures, and everyday surroundings, they have created a new and very distinctive face of both Caribbean and American musical styles. Like the large metropolis, the Reggae-Ragga-Rock-Soul-Rhythm & Blues of coming out of New York is a multi-cultural, multi-national melting pop culture pot of sound.
You can find out more information about BluFox, Leon & the Peoples, and Deep at respective their websites: