“What people actually appreciate is being appreciated.” — Randy Valentine
In the States when we think of Reggae music, frequently Dancehall, Lovers Rock or what my rasta friend calls “culture music” comes to mind but when I watched Randy Valentine’s video for “Does She” for the first time, a unique style of music transpired. Lightly singing over Jill Scott’s debut single “Gettin’ In The Way,” the Jamaican-born United Kingdom-based artist uses his alluring British-Jamaican vocals to tell a story about a lucky lady he thinks about all the time. The sultry and smooth single comes from Randy Valentine’s latest 19-track mixtape titled, “Radio Music,” which premiered on LargeUp, the global platform for Caribbean music, arts and culture in association with Okayplayer. During his promotional tour in New York City last month, I interviewed the budding talent, and we talked about his new music, his (then) upcoming trip to Trinidad and more. We were supposed to meet in-person, but I was on vacation.
Do you come from a musical background? Is your family from a musical background?
Randy Valentine: My family owned the sound system. It was the heart and the soul of the music in my community where I came from in Clarendon (Parish). Every weekend, you’d be the one playing music for the whole community and even when we left in 2002, everyone was crying [and] saying, “What are we going to do? The sound system is gone. What’s going to happen?” I went back there last year, and I saw how important it was. We weren’t there to play the music, and it wasn’t like a ghost town, but it was quiet. I did come from a musical background. Thanks to my father for that.
Were you born in Jamaica?
Randy Valentine: I was born in Clarendon, the countryside. I left when I was 17 in 2003, and we’re here now.
Oh wait. See, I’m about to do the math.
Oh, you’re trying to figure out… I wasn’t supposed to say that. I wasn’t supposed to say that.
Could you shed some light on why you chose to release “Does She,” and what it means to you?
Randy Valentine: Right now, I’m driving through traffic, and I may have to pull over to the side. Why? Because you just crossed my mind. You might not even know that, but when I come home, you want to have an argument, and you end up thinking that I don’t think about you. Even though you’re not aware that I just took a good 20 minutes out of my day to make sure you were in my thoughts. It’s just me saying, “You’re always on my mind, always on my mind.” Even if I’m not immediately thinking your name, every step that I make is to ensure that when I do come home, I’m standing in a happy place next to my partner. All of my moves are dedicated to my immediate right-hand partner. This is me just expressing that.
Randy Valentine? Is the “Valentine” part purposely added there for love or is that your name?
Randy Valentine: It’s not my name. My name is… Yeah.
Oh, see. You didn’t say it.
Randy Valentine came from… Well, originally I was named after my father. Then, my first name is Randy. I got that from my mother. She always called me that. “Valentine” is just me finding the best way to say, “Hey, I stand for love.” Before that, “Randy Love” was my name in high school and that was it, and I had to carry that. Valentine’s Day is February the 14th, but we’re going to make sure Valentine’s Day is every single day of the year, so it’s 365 days of love, and that’s what this is. This is the concept. This is the core of what we do. Love is what we push, you know?
Well, 366 days this year.
See, look at that. Yeah, we should have definitely met in person. Next time. I’m leaving in 4-5 hours going to Trinidad.
I’m leaving in 4-5 hours to go to Trinidad.
Oh my gosh, are you doing a show?
I’m doing a show in Trinidad. Yeah, I’ll be there for a few days. Then when we come back to New York, we’re going to be in the airport for 5 hours. I’m telling you that now.
Yeah, in the airport for 5 hours and the will be the last opportunity until we come back, which is in July.
Well, I’ll make sure I’m available all of those 5 hours, so I could fit in.
Alright, that would be nice.
A busy life is a good life.
Being productive, you know?
How did you enjoy your time in the States?
Randy Valentine: It’s been amazing. For this to be the last interview, I can’t find a better way to close it. Everybody is happy. It’s all smiles. It’s all love. Nothing bad happening. The energy we are surrounded by is definitely pushing that to the side because we’re not seeing it. Trust me. From the outside looking in, when you’re in any other country, and you’re thinking of the States, you’re thinking everything that is wrong, kind of like, what’s promoted the most, you know?
Yeah, that’s true.
I’m here. I got to talk to a police man. Chilling with this man, and having a conversation, talking about the music. Everybody’s thinking: As soon as you go to the States, get ready to put your hands behind your back. That’s how the perception is really painted. It’s really bad.
It’s love here, man, so thank you for making sure that we can go back and represent for what we’ve seen, and the experience, you know?
Absolutely. This is awesome! So when you come back here, are you going to have a show here?
Yeah, we’re looking to set up a tour. We’re still in the production process, but it’s definitely happening. In July-August [on the] Eastcoast. We just confirmed Reggae on the River for the West Coast tour.
Oh, yeah! Is that in Cali?
Yes, you should be there for that.
Invite me. I’ll be there.
Yeah, you should be there for that.
Are you recording or releasing any more music this year?
Randy Valentine: We’re going to be working on some more singles. We have a producer that recorded 4-5 new songs last week. I’m always working. I’m always in the studio working and recording new stuff with different producers and singers. Plus, the majority of the time, I’m producing my stuff and for artists. That’s actually what I prefer to do more than anything else is production, production, production and production, so I’m always in the studio being creative, you know? It’s always musical, every step I take. By the end of the year, you’re going to hear some new singles. By the end of the year, you’re going to hear the new album that I’m working with alongside Empire, Junior Blender, and maybe some other producers, but we’re just going to Switzerland. Go there in two weeks, stay in the studio and come out with what’s going to be the next best sound or your favourite sound.
I’m not sure if you get this a lot, but your style of music is very different. Like, I think in the States, we’re very much so used to the Dancehall style, but with you, you’re actually singing. Like, holding notes… but still in your voice, in your accent, which I think is amazing and it’s very different.
I have an accent. I didn’t notice.
Every time I say that to someone, they’re like “I didn’t notice.” I’m like, “You definitely have one. I know I have one.”
Yeah, yours is very strong. Definitely, but I like it.
Is there anything else you want to add? Anything you want to tell your fans?
Randy Valentine: Yeah, I want to say that the last time I came here, I can definitely see the difference. I can definitely feel the difference. There’s a lot more people embracing the sound, so I want to say that before anything else, I appreciate that. I appreciate the support. I appreciate strength because it’s coming from a place where you don’t have to do it. You’re doing it from somewhere that’s love. The love being the heart of what we do is real. You know, because a lot of people don’t get to be appreciated. What people actually appreciate is being appreciated. That’s it, so let me just thank you, and thank anyone who supports me for making all of this possible. I really appreciate that.
You’re a gentleman.
Thank you, Queen. Thank you very much.
Also in Randy Valentine’s list of accomplishments, the artist reached number one on the iTunes Reggae Charts, for “Still Pushing” leaving “Legend (Remastered”) by Bob Marley & The Wailers in the number two spot. “Radio Music,” which is his one-hour showcase of what his radio show would sound like if he were a radio personality or disc jockey, is now available for free download on Randy Valentine’s website, randyvalentine.com. It features Cali P, Kabaka Pyramid, Ninja Crown, Bobby Konders and more, and uses 90’s Hip-Hop instrumentals.