Delicious Vinyl goes island hopping

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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The number of American record companies signing Caribbean artistes has declined significantly in the last 15 years. One of the last labels to show an interest in music from the region recently got back in the business.

Delicious Vinyl, which had acts like Mr Vegas, Jovi Rockwell and Machel Montano on its books, has launched Delicious Vinyl Island to promote Caribbean talent. The label's first release will be Reap What You Sow, a collaboration between Jamaican acts Natural High Music and Royal Blu.

Other releases, from sound system operator Yaadcore and British sound engineer/producer Prince Fatty, are also scheduled this year.

Delicious Vinyl Island was conceived by Delicious Vinyl founder Mike Ross, Leslie Cooney, who signed most of the Caribbean acts to Delicious Vinyl; and industry veteran Adrian L Miller.

Cooney and Miller spoke to the Jamaica Observer about the new venture and its immediate and long-term plans.

“Approximately eight months ago we started throwing the idea around. It was a natural manifestation of our mutual reverence for reggae music. We all have a special place in our musical hearts for the culture and, from that love, we wanted to provide a platform to support the music of the Diaspora from the Caribbean to Africa,” said Cooney.

According to Miller, Delicious Vinyl Island is a “natural progression” given its parent company's track record with Jamaican acts.

“We decided it was a cool opportunity for us to work together as a collective and bring a new platform for artistes to incubate with our resources. Mike's Delicious Vinyl brand has been touching the Caribbean music scene since its inception, and it's just a natural progression,” he said. “Leslie has always been bringing demos in of artistes like Shaggy to the label. Recently, she has been throwing a Caribbean music (reggae/dancehall/soca) event called Boomyard at the new Delicious Pizza space, which is a pizzeria opened by Mike Ross and his brother Rick Ross in LA.”

Cooney, who began working with Delicious Vinyl over 25 years ago as an intern, has strong credentials. She signed pioneer reggae/hip-hop duo Born Jamericans to the label and played a similar role with Mr Vegas, Montano and Ce'Cile.

Miller has done the rounds as artiste, producer and songwriter. He currently manages rapper Anderson Paak.

Ross and Matt Dike founded Delicious Vinyl in 1988. It became one of the most successful independent labels of the 1990s with a succession of groundbreaking hit songs like rapper Tone-Loc's Wild Thing and Funky Cold Medina. Dike died in January from cancer at age 55.

When Cooney teamed with Ross and Dike to sign Jamaican artistes in the 1990s, dancehall was making inroads in the American mainstream and major labels were willing to sign them. Shabba Ranks, Mad Cobra, Patra, Super Cat and Diana King all signed to Sony Music, regularly made the Billboard pop charts.

Though they were linked to smaller companies like Delicious Vinyl, Born Jamericans had encouraging returns, enough for Dike, Ross and Cooney to sign other Jamaican acts.

Despite the odd hit song like Omi's Cheerleader and Bunji Garlin's Differentology, the business has changed considerably with music out of the Caribbean selling poorly.

That does not deter Cooney and her team.

“We are not sitting around trying to figure out how to get rich; we are just putting out good records that we'd listen to, that people wanna hear,” she said. “Money is the icing on the cake, not the cake. From the 1990s to now, nothing changed for Caribbean music except the way people ingest music. It's still as popular as it was then, and has the ability to get heard by more people now... so the strategy is the same today as it was in 1995: Make good records!”

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