After a short, but undoubtedly successful European tour we talked to Prezident Brown at RUNN Studio the day before he returned to Jamaica, Wednesday 1st April 1998.
What started as an interview became an impressive conversation full of reasonings, with an humble man who not only felt the positive vibes, but who also experienced room to tell his own story, a story about the man behind the artist. Exclusively for "Reggae Vibes" Prezident Brown went deep, something which touched us emotionally and fulfilled us with deep respect. So, what you get is not an ordinary A & Q interview, but an impression of not only a great artist but also an extraordinarily and amiable person.
In general most babies to come on this earth are born in hospital, but in case of Fitz Cotterell (now known as Prezident Brown) it turned out to be a mud hut where his mother gave birth to a son. "Although a passer-by came to watch what was going on when he heard her screaming, he left this young woman alone, because of not wanting to get involved. So she had to give birth to new life all by herself, including cutting the umbilical cord. That's the reason why I, unlike others who were born in hospital, have no signs of vaccination on my arm."
Prezident Brown grew up in the north coast resort of Oracabessa in the area of St. Mary, where he visited infant, primary and second school. During his schooldays he loved to paint, which perhaps can be regarded as an early expression of his artistical abilities and skills. However he had to leave school in order to take care of his mother, two sisters and two brothers after his father had passed away. He was about 14/15 years old when he started deejaying in the dancehall with local sound "King Stereo Mix". "Among others I admired U Brown and Brigadier Jerry most, the latter being "king of the dancehall" at that time. Especially Brigadier Jerry - who is still active and very popular among Jamaican communities in America and England - I liked 'cause of his conscious lyrics and melody." So taking these artists in mind it's obvious he concentrated on conscious and uplifting lyrics from the very first beginning.
In 1986 Prezident Brown recorded his first song for RG, a little record shop in Ocho Rios. It's rather nice to know that it also was the first time Prezident Brown worked with Bobby "Digital" Dixon, at that time working as an engineer for producer King Jammy. "After that I didn't do much recordings and after the hurricane "Gilbert" in 1988 I decided to go to the city, to Kingston, to try my luck as a recording artist and earn some money." It was a very frustating experience, as it turned out that he, being a countryman as Prezident Brown calls himself, didn't like the city mentality. "The city vibes (in Kingston as well as in New York, Toronto, London or any other city in the world) are not my vibes, so I decided to go back to "country living". With the word "poverty" written in capital letters, life wasn't easy in those days. I suffered a lot, had nothing or little to eat, didn't know what the next day would bring, had no shoes or wornout shoes and had to take care of my wife and kids. I had to stand strong in these desperate times, 'cause the pressure was so immense it easily could have pulled me on the wrong track. Smuggling or living by the gun seemed to be the only alternative." In that period of his life he has been through real rough times. Talking about this subject - with poverty as the keyword - Prezident Brown is convinced that in the end it's easier to survive in Jamaica, regarded as "third world", than in the so called "first world".
Next to his friends who helped him in this struggle, it was the late Jack Ruby who kept him on the right track and gave him confidence. Jack Ruby (sound-system operator and probably best known as producer of the Burning Spear albums "Marcus Garvey" & "Man In The Hills" released on Island Records) was a spiritual advisor and Prezident Brown learned a lot of him, not only as a recording artist but also as a human being. Ruby told him things which he still remembers today and some of them turned out to be prophecies. "Once I was so desperate I asked Jack Ruby for work. "Work ?!" replied Ruby, "take a look over the fence and tell me what you see !" I did what he asked me to do and told him I saw a rusty truck and bulldozer. Then Ruby explained me that this would be just the kind of thing a working job would do to me." Jack Ruby took him into the studio often, so that he could observe and learn how to work in a recording studio. At that time Donovan and Foundation were recording for Jack Ruby.
It was then that Ruby said to Prezident Brown that he soon would become the first deejay to record an album for him, which would bring Prezident Brown to a deal with Island records, but the death of Jack Ruby prevented that. "However years later, in 1995, it turned out Jack Ruby spoke prophetic words as Island-Jamaica Records wanted me to sign a deal with their label. There was a lot of fuss about my signing for Island-Jamaica, but in the end it didn't result in concrete things due to the fact I felt I wasn't treated right and didn't get the respect I deserve from the New York based representative of Island-Jamaica. You know, at that time I was staying in New York in order to talk with them about some agreements that we'd made, mainly concerning legal rights. I regularly phoned to their office trying to get in contact with the aforementioned representative, which never seemed to succeed. She never ever did phone back. Then I asked myself: what I'm I doing here, these people don't take me serious and don't respect me as a person ! So, I returned to Jamaica."
Back to the year 1989. In that year Prezident Brown started working with Barry O'Hare, a fresh engineer working under Stephan Stewart at Grove Music Studio. After everyone was gone Prezident Brown and Barry O'Hare often stayed in the studio all night long to work on their own things. In the beginning Prezident Brown recorded tunes for Ocho Rios based Courtney Cole's "Roof International" label, which can be found on the RUNN Records' "Ragga Party" compilation series. Later on, when Barry O'Hare more and more started producing and set up his own record label, he recorded for Barry's XRated imprint resulting in two album releases ('Big Bad and Talented' & 'Prezident Selections') on the "RUNN Records" label. In the beginning his style sounded much like U Brown's, but throughout the years Prezident Brown kept on working on his style and developed it from "deejay" to "chanting stylee".

Then he explains us how he deals with the M & M's. "One M stands for Music the other for Money. I'm not focussing on money, but more on music. Money is not the chief goal in life. Trust me, I've been through real rough times and from experience I can tell you that there are more important things than money. In Jamaica everybody thinks I'm rich, because I drive in a car and live in an appartment with a refrigerator and a television. But material things aren't that important for me. There are other things that makes this life worth to live." Being and staying involved in the music business is not an easy road, that's why e.g. Oxygen, a friend and co-writer of some of Prezident Brown's songs, left Jamaica. "Nowadays he's living in the U.S.A. where he has a daily job, which means he has to work from 9 till 5. So, he rises at 4 o'clock in the morning to catch his train to be in time at work and he comes home at 9 o'clock in the evening, every working day again. What kind of life is this ? I certainly couldn't arrange my life in this way !"
Prezident Brown's sign of Zodiac is Leo. "As a Leo I'm cool, graceful observing everything that happens. However when I'm provoked, I turn into a 'killer'. Indeed, there's an explosive side within me which sometimes worries me, but I try to keep it on the right road. On the other side I'm a modest person, a real observer. Just like a painter observes to create his paintings, I observe to create my songs. Yes, you're right, you can call me a painter with words." Prezident Brown is one of the few Jamaican artists who is not going from producer to producer. "I prefer to work with Barry O'Hare because he's used to my voice. Musically we were and are growing together and both we're not primarly looking for overnight success.
For Bobby "Digital" Dixon I recorded an album called "Original Blue Print", the title speaks for itself. Nowadays I'm finishing an album for Kariang, which will probably be released in the summer of 1998. This Kariang album will include "Rough Road", a song about my life. Furthermore we're working on a new album release on the RUNN Records label. We've already enough good material for this album, but it may last till the end of this year before it will be released 'cause I don't want to have a clash of albums like e.g. happened with Sizzla's 'Praise Ye Jah' and 'Black Woman And Child'." Then it finally comes to talking about his relationship with RUNN Records. "The people at RUNN Records are always there. They organise tours to bring me to a wider audience, despite the fact that they have to spend more money than eventually can be earned with such tours. When I'm here (in Maastricht) it's like home. When I'm in Ocho Rios, I go from my appartment to the studio and back. Here's the same, it's home for me. Give thanks. I'm very grateful."

Teacher & Mr. T.

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