On a December morning, I called Tarrus Riley to talk about his latest record, “Grave Yard.” You’d think a track like the one inspired by the killings in his hometown is a simple tune, but it isn’t. Not when you’re on the phone with me. Proper planning went into it to attract a specific audience. During our nineteen-minute call, the Jamaican singer shares a little about his upbringing, what his father liked to play, and talking that talk to get across to a demographic.
“Dancehall is the music of my generation. Reggae music was my father’s music in his time. But we the youth dem have Dancehall.”
He idolises people like Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Capleton and Sizzla. Riley considers all of the guys from that time as his musical heroes. Moreover, he counts Terror Fabulous, an acclaimed DJ who emerged during the early nineties, as a legend. For the people who aren’t well-versed in names of Jamaican artists, he’s the DJ responsible for “Action” featuring Nadine Sutherland (the first artist signed to Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong label). The classic record released in 1994, but it is still played at parties today.
“Later on when I started to get into the details of music, is when I started to express myself more.”
Subsequently, the Jamaican-American artist started to sing. Next, we talked about his change of style for the Rvssian-produced record. “If you pay close attention, I’ve been doing it before, but not like this,” says Riley as he sang lyrics from “Good Girl Gone Bad” featuring Konshens. After belting out those vocals, he jokingly said that he believes he takes too long to switch it up, so we (the newer fans) think it is a new thing.
“I need to do more,” he admitted.
People have to know that he has versatility and lyrical agility. For the remainder of our time on the call, he expressed the importance of being flexible within your creativity.
“It’s just an expression. I don’t look at myself anymore as a singer, alone. I’m an artist. I can express myself… People can do more than one thing.”
As far as the treatment for the official video, he wants it to be as raw as possible. Fortunately for us, he says he will do more of it/singing and toasting, so I’m excited to hear and see what’s in store for 2018.
Stream the audio to hear our interview. Tarrus Riley shares why he decided to go that route, and not preach his message to the choir. You’re going to love the live singing.