As a child, Mark Dyer became a high school star by mimicking the rapid-fire style of his idol, the “Warlord”, Bounty Killer. Today, the only similarity between the Five Star General and Mark “Warrior King” Dyer is their searing social commentary on the conditions that affect poor people in Jamaica and throughout the world. While the Killer chooses the in-your-face badman attitude of Dancehall to berate the adversaries of the underserved, Warrior King trods the Roots path as a Rasta Messenger, a conscious warrior here to liberate the masses with Jah message.
Declared as “one of the artists who made a positive difference in 2001,” by the Jamaican Observer, Warrior King has lead a roots revolution, carving a niche for roots artists in the gun-toting, skirt chasing culture that once dominated Dancehall. His critically-acclaimed debut album Virtuous Woman blew away the masses in 2002 with hits like “Never Go Where the Pagans Go,” “Empress So Divine,” and the title track “Virtuous Woman.” With his latest album Hold the Faith, three years in the making, he aims to feed the hungry masses with the conscious roots that they have been starving for.
WARRIOR KING: First and foremost, I would like to say greetings in the name of His Imperial Majesty Haille Selassie the First, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
MS RAINE: Greetings. Hold the Faith was release yesterday, right?
WARRIOR KING: Yes, most certainly. By VP Records.
What can we expect off the album?
Positive vibrations. Ya read the Bible?
My music is like Bible verses. From you read the Bible and get inspiration to keep you going, that is what my music will do for you. Uplift your mind. Be it as a black woman or a black man, to children—it don’t have nuh limit where race or color concern. From yuh a human being, or if yuh a animal and can listen music it will uplift you too.
Hold the Faith, come out in a time when whole heap a crime and violence, religious war and things a gwaan. People a face great tribulation in this time. This album will keep you strong. Don’t get distracted by what’s going on, just keep your focus on the Supreme Being.
Music for children. There is a song entitled, Education. Address it to the youth dem too.
There are 15 tracks on the album—
Sixteen. Fifteen songs plus a reverence, there is a prayer at the starting.
What’s your favorite track?
Mi love all a dem. You have a song, “Freedom”, and “Another Love Song”, ca’ mi is a yout weh love woman, seen. Mi always a uplift them and bring them up. So “Freedom”, because mi is a yout, as a Rastafarian, mi say everyone has the right to worship how dem waan fi worship. Whether Jesus, or Allah, or Haille Selassie, yuh have the right and the choice to do that, and no one is supposed to violate that right. Respect each other for who dem is. That’s why mi love that song.
“Another Love Song”, see as a man, when you get a good woman, you haffi jus treat her good. If you don’t treat her good, she’s going to leave you, and run far away from you. So, I show respect to woman that is good. And in turn, when a woman find a man weh good, she fi treat him right.
Did you ever find that Virtuous Woman you were looking for earlier?
(Laughs). Yeah, Jah provide her, you know. Give Thanks.
Any guests artists on the new album?
No, just I and I.
You worked with Bobby Digital, and Calibub Stewart—
Yeah. Donovan Germain, Michael Johnson, Coco Tea, and Mark from Big Yard. About five different producers I work with on this album.
What are your expectations for the album?
Well, we just do the good work, and hopefully people will tek on to the good messages, yuh know. A jus goodness mi expect. Cause when you do good, a nothing but goodness in return. I don’t really sing music to get fame or fortune. Mi nah go tell yuh say wi nuh need to survive, or help people wid money and dem ting deh, but that is not my priority. My priority is to get the message across to the people. Spread the love and the joy through music. Educate through music. I don’t see myself as an entertainer, I see myself as a messenger. Somebody who come fi teach through music–definitely a liberator.
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from you.
Yeah, the first album came out 2002. So it’s been three years. I don’t really like to rush music, ca’ you know they have other messengers out there too. I am not competing with no one, yuh know. I am just putting out the message as the inspiration come. Music come like old people, Beres (Hammond) always tell me. Music come like old people; if you rush old people, dem get miserable. But if you tek yuh time wid dem, they cooperate easy. Music was there before you and I was born, and shall be when we are not here physically. So mi jus tek mi time and try and do it properly. So that when I am not here, people look back and say, Warrior King, dat yout really did some positive work, we have to give thanks for the bredda.
Do you think it will be harder for you, this time around, since you have to make a comeback, since the people haven’t heard from you in the past three years? Do you think it will be harder to break into the market?
No, because mi always in the people’s hearts. People a ask what’s wrong with Warrior King, a ask where is he. I’m always there in their minds. I don’t really feel like it’s a comeback, ca’ see, when I was in America—life is like a cycle, seen. You start here and you go right around, and you come back just where you started. I started in Jamaica, go to New York, the Jamaican people miss you fi a likkle while, but a so it go ca’ Jah work yuh a deal wid. You go to New York, you go to where and where, and then you come to Europe. People dem a Europe jus see yuh. So you fresh and nice there. Then you come back right back to Jamaica, where di people nuh see yuh, and hungry fi yuh.
So the people in Jamaica have been anticipating you.
You cyaan jus flood the people. Yuh have fi mek dem miss you, mek dem hungry fi yuh. You cyaan mek people tired a yuh. You know dem old time saying a Jamaica, not every morning yuh wake up a go a John Tom house, him wi get tired a yuh after a while. Yuh have fi mek John Tom seh where is she, where is him. Yuh have fi mek dem hungry fi yuh, man. A dat strategy wi a use, the natural strategy of life, for life is a cycle. So yuh have fi go round and come back
Sounds like you have been in music in one form or another all of your life. However, you started your career as a teenager, performing with Marlon Stewart.
Yeah, dat a Little Blacks. But him change him name now to Persistence. We have a thing coming out call “Nah Forget Where We Come From”.
Coming out when?
Soon. Foundation thing.
You originally modeled yourself after the Warlord (Bounty Killer).
Yeah. In everything, you always have a starting point. So there is where I started. Bounty spread a different vibe from what I spread, but you still have to respect where you are coming from, so I respect the foundation. Nuff respect to Rodney Price, Bounty Killer, no matter which part yuh deh, respect. I used to paternize him style. Through mi head quick, every Bounty Killer song come out, mi ketch it quick. I was very popular at school through dat, dem call mi Bounty Jr. Every concert mi deh deh, an mi sing him tune. That’s how it started, I was around 13 or 14.
Now your style is quite different from Bounty. What shaped your personal style?
The Most High shaped my style. And naturality, it was a natural growth through a space of time.
A jus destiny, how the Most High set it.
You grew up in Portmore—
Yeah, I came to Portmore around age 11 or 12. Before then, I grow in Clarendon.
–Portmore has been getting some forwards for it’s artists recently. Two of the hottest artists on the scene today, I-Wayne, and Vybz Kartel are also from Portmore—
Yeah, we are all from the same community. Vybz and I used to sing on the same sound system. I-Wayne too. Mi used to call him up pon stage wid mi, before him buss. Yeah.
Dancehall and Reggae are experiencing a lot of attention on an international level, particularly with the artists like Sean Paul and Damian Marley bussin’ big in the mainstream. Where do you see yourself or your music going, internationally?
Well, in times to come this music a go be the greatest music in the world. The word reggae is a Latin word, according to the encyclopedia, meaning from Jah to Jah. Yeah, you can check it, man. From a Jah music, a the greatest music. But it a go get undermined, but just for a time. Good things always get overshadowed, but for how long? You put a candle under yu bed, how long before the whole bed catch a fire, or even the whole house would a bun down. It a go get brighter and stronger than it start, yuh know. Reggae music a the only music that praise the Most High, and deal wid certain issues, social issues, other music don’t do that. This a liberation music. Whether Dancehall or Roots, a liberation music.
As Dancehall and Reggae get bigger, you do have the fight. There is an international fight against the music. People see some of the music as being anti-human rights.
What kinda anti human—Human rights say everyman has the right for him owna worship and freedom of speech and them thing deh. Reggae music is an expression, and wi always speak wi mind. So a jus maybe dat dem nuh like. People don’t like hear the truth. Bob Marley say the truth hurts, but it is not a sin. A so it go.
At some of these major venues, sponsors refuse to work with certain artists. It’s like they want to censor the music, you know.
The more dem fight wi, the more wi get bigger. All last year, look how much fight wi get, and this year, look how much bigger wi get. Fight mek you stronger. For myself personally, some time you go through tribulation, but it mek mi work harder. There must be something they see in this music that is powerful. This is the first music mi see get so much fight, and is a less publicized music. From mi come a New York, mi nuh see no radio station play Reggae right through—they play for a hour, or two hour, dem ting deh a joke—and yet still it so popular, and it grow more and more. Weh dem fight it so much? That’s why right now mi appeal to the artist dem, have the right attitude and do the right things, for this music is the music that a go make the changes in the world. I strongly believe that.
Roots music made a big comeback. The 1990’s were all bad man stance and gun tunes. In the early part of the 2000’s, Virtuous Woman was a surprise hit. It came out of nowhere. It was shocking to see it get so big. You have been a big part in the Roots resurgence of the new millennium.
Give Thanks. A suh Jah work mystical. Life is like a cycle, you have a time when the negative reign for half the cycle and then the next cycle the positive tek over. A positive time now.
Who else’s music do you listen too?
Mi listen all kind of music. Yuh see Beres and Luciano, dem person mi look up too as living musicians. Yuh see Beres Hammond, mi love him. Him is like mi mentor. Luciano also, spiritually.
Mi listen all form of music. Mi love Kanye West, mi love Erykah Badu. Mi love, da’ yout deh, Nas. Lauryn Hill. Mi love Nat King Cole, and Percy Sledge. Akon, right now, mi love him vibes. From you draw positivity, you draw my attention.
Mi love every form of music, all music is a gift from the Father.
The industry in Jamaica is very different from the industry in the U.S. When Virtuous Woman took off, I understand you didn’t have any management or recording contract or anything set up—
Nah! Dem ting deh a Jamaica different yuh, know. It different! Company nuh sign yuh until yuh buss. You have to try on your own. You see, a foreign, you will voice an album for a company, and they will choose a single and mek it play. Nah! Is the other way around in Jamaica. You haffi have a single a play, and then the company link you and put together an album. It sad, but a so the Reggae thing stay. That’s why in the expression of the music you hear so much trial and sufferation, a jus weh dem go through. It ruff, ruff, ruff.
Mi a sing from mi 13 and is 21 mi buss. You know how much tribulation? You try go a studio and a man lock yuh out an tell yuh move from yah so, man and gwaan go do fishing. It ruff. But them ting mek yuh grow stronger, so mi nuh regret it, ca’ it mek mi who mi is. Mi give thanks for the tribulation, same way.
For someone so young, you have an old soul.
(Laughs). Yah, sometime mi feel like an old man, an mi look inna di glass and remember say mi young. A jus the Most High wid dem ting deh, mek me know speciality is there. Nuff yout my age, nah check how mi a check. Dem more bout de bling-bling, and the ray-ray, I am not about that. Mi jus haffi hold the faith, and do the work weh mi come to do.
What’s the next move?
More work. Promotion of the album is key right now, release some singles. Working on a next album, but mi nah go rush it, seen. (Laughs.) We want people say what happen to Warrior King. Mek dem hungry. Dem ting mek mi know say people love mi. If the people never love mi, dem wouldn’t even business. Dem wouldn’t wonder which part mi deh. That love mus deh deh, so mi give thanks.
Yeah, I have heard that over the years.
(Singing) I’m here! So have no fear…(laughing) a new song dat mi a go build. Yeah man! Give Thanks.