This is the first of a two-part interview with Ward 21
Ward 21 is a rounded musical force to be reckoned with. The four talented young men, Mark ‘Mean Dog’ Henry, Andre ‘Suku’ Gray, Ranaldo ‘Rumblood’ Evans and Kunley McCarthy, are like a volcano waiting to erupt, and they have been brewing from 1998. All emerged from the inner city community of Waterhouse in Jamaica and took the musical scene with a slew of hits including Judgment Day, Melody of War, Haters, and Bloodstain.
The blend of talent within the group is usual, especially in the dancehall circle. Ward 21 consist four creative, lyrical and multi-talented individuals, who are versatile musicians, engineers, sound system operators and producers.
When one talk about Ward 21, the idea of creativity, originality and innovative comes to mind. The young men are able to fuse dancehall with the various genres without diluting the foundation of their product - dancehall. According to Suku, it is something that comes naturally.
“It happens naturally. We listen to all genres of music and tend not to stray from the root, which is dancehall. We might pinch ideas from different genres and beats, but we still keep the dancehall vibes,” he said as Mean Dog nodded in agreement.
What sets Ward 21 apart from any other dancehall artiste or group?
“Ward 21 take risks and experiment a lot. We have a gift to always find the ‘new sound’. Our unique sounds usually take off after a time and then those sounds are cemented into the whole dancehall genre and tend to rises again even after being somewhat dormant for years. Right now we can take up back the Badda Badda or Bellyas rhythm and them still have a vibe that people enjoy,” they explained.
The group have been away from the recording spotlight somewhat, however they have managed to maintain a strong presence as a producing force, creating some of dancehall’s current top rhythms.
“Lately our main focus has been on production. Every artiste go through their little phase, and we are going through ours. We are now working with new people now and in the same instance working on an album,” reasoned Suku, who quickly pointed out: “Ward 21 make albums for persons all over the world to listen to. We don’t put every song we do on an album. We make albums, not compilations.”
According to the members, production works hand in hand with recording, and therefore it has not hindered their focus on the recording aspect of the music.
“We are now building back our music catalogue under the brand Ward 21 Music. Therefore we spend a lot of time in the ‘lab’ (studio) these days as we have started voicing locally once again. The radio and soundman dem just start playing Ward 21 again. We don’t know why, but they start playing our music again, therefore we are going to be doing a lot more work locally.”
Ward 21 is currently working on several rhythms including Stinkin’ Rhythm, Dutty Water, Dem Gyal Sinting, and Estrogen. Their ‘90s Rhythm is now enjoying a lot of airplay and they are about to drop the Big Easy and Tear Up Jeans Rhythms.
Look out for more tomorrow as Ward 21 talks about the artistes they are working with and their stance on violence in dancehall music.