Lime interview - Music
Jazzie B - Soul Brother
Lime caught up with legendary DJ Jazzie B.
As a founding father of the British neo-soul movement of the late 1980’s, Jazzie B is respected as a music innovator. Along with his funky r&b outfit, Soul II Soul fused an eclectic beat with a soulful message. Recognised and made an OBE for his contribution to sound, this British icon certainly keeps it moving.
The name Jazzie B stood out a lot for the era, how did the name come about?
It was a school name because I had a reggae sound system at the time. It was either a completely weird punk/rock name or Jazzie B so I went with it.
Do you feel your music became part of a wider movement where black people became more visible and there was almost a trend towards being ‘proud black British’?
I don’t think so; the whole concept of Soul II Soul is that we just wanted to be the biggest sound system in the world. So by releasing records we recognised that our opposition would have to play them.
Were you surprised at the level of success you achieved in the US? There is even a Soul II Soul day.
Yes, we came up through the era of the 1990’s when the music business was quite segregated. In terms of America, prior to that we had residency in New York at a club called ‘The Mars’, so we were pretty busy on the East Coast in terms of djing and being a part of the club scene. The biggest cross over was basically black America pre the descent, understood that black people existed, and fortunately for Soul II Soul many Americans thought it was a US band so we became very exposed.
A lot of people remember the parody of Soul II Soul on the Real McCoy – did you enjoy it?
Yes I’ve got Eddie Nestor right in front of me in the studio, he was a part of the Real McCoy and we talk about that a lot. I think we have it on tape somewhere, I’m not sure if it is on our website.
Where do your musical influences come from?
Reggae music, people like Dr Pablo, Studio One and a lot of rockers stuff because we were playing these people in our latter school days. We moved from playing a lot of Jamaican reggae to more English reggae and tried to establish that whole idea of being inclusive as opposed to exclusive.
You’ve been in the music business for over 30 years, it must be flattering to still be doing what you love.
You make me sound old!!! (laughs) I guess I’m blessed, when I’m in England I dedicate my Friday nights to my radio show on BBC London which has been phenomenal. I love playing music and digging through archives of vinyl and cassettes I have acquired over the years. In the past year I’ve spent time editing music from great artists so I am really lucky to be in this position.
Are you involved in activities outside of the music scene, politically, socially or otherwise?
Yes I do lots of stuff in the community with kids.
Describe your sound and how it has evolved?
Our sound is a happy face for a thumping bass for a loving race.
For readers who haven’t heard your Radio Show on BBC London – tell us about it.
If you check out soul2soul's website, you’ll see a rundown of the type of music I play, it is an eclectic mix of all the stuff that I like. In a funny way it’s quite personal. Lots of different people listen to the show, it’s not just an older demographic.
Describe the experience of picking up an OBE in 2008.
It was a proud moment for the family; it didn’t really sink in until the day before. I had to get ready for it and my friend who is a stylist decided that he was going to make me something to wear; he made me and my son the same outfit. It was a little bit like getting married and going into the unknown. It got to me on the day being amongst so many of my peers, it was very intense.
What would you class as your proudest achievement?
My queen being my wife and my children.
How is the tour going?
We recently got back from China and Japan for a break and to take care of my other commitments. Then we’re off to New Zealand and Australia.
Your daughter Jessye B is an aspiring model on the E4 reality show ‘Dirty Sexy Things’, are you happy she has followed you into the public’s eye?
The children do what they do, I’m just happy she’s happy. All the experiences that she’ll get will help her in the future.
Who has signed to your label Soul II Soul Recordings and who should we be looking out for?
At the moment it is mainly compilations of stuff. The two acts that you should be looking out for this year are ‘The Chancellor’ and ‘Emma Louise Soul’.
What will you be working on next?
Always my djing. I have a show at the O2 in London coming up on Saturday March 3rd 2012.
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