More Ism from Mr Vegas

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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ANYONE who has followed the dancehall beat for the past 20 years is acquainted with Mr Vegas. He has successfully experimented with lovers' rock, roots-reggae, gospel and soca, and being a master self-promoter, knows how to manipulate tabloid headlines.

His latest album, Ism, was released in July by his MV Music label. Last Saturday, the 43-year-old artiste launched the 12-song set at Krave Lounge in Fort Lauderdale and had a packed house rocking and laughing as he traced his career back to 1998 when he had his first hit with Heads High.

He rolled through his impressive catalogue, beginning with the gospel stomper I Am Blessed. It was followed by Tek Weh Yuhself, Nike Air, Hot Gal Today, When You Love Someone and Sweet Jamaica.

Vegas also hailed artistes he admires by performing some of their songs, including Who Am I (Beenie Man), Murder She Wrote (Chaka Demus and Pliers), Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) and Wanna Be Loved by Buju Banton.

Ism, he told the Jamaica Observer before taking the stage, is “just another chapter in the book of the Apostle Vegas.”

He said the set reflects his spiritual and social growth. In the last year, he travelled to Israel and Egypt as well as the Vatican, which helped him become more aware of black culture, which he expresses on Ism.

“On a song like Black Roses, yuh hear how wi love di black woman. An' if yuh listen to Moma Africa, wi a talk 'bout segregation, wi a talk 'bout how dem a kill di youth dem,” he reasoned.

Wake Up, the lead song from Ism, was released two months ago.

The massive Heads High announced Mr Vegas (born Clifford Smith) in 1998, reaching number one in Jamaica and ethnic charts across the United States. It also made the British national chart and Billboard's R&B chart.

Heads High set the pace for a number of well-received singles including Hot Gal Today (with Sean Paul) which also entered the Billboard R&B table. His versatility can be heard on When You Love Someone (lovers' rock), I Am Blessed (revival) and collaborations with soca stars Machel Montano and Destra Garcia.

After 20 years, the genial Vegas is still hit song-hungry.

“Hit songs important 'cause dat keep yuh on di road; dat's why people turn out at your shows,” he said. “Dat's di target of dis album.”

Over his two decades of recording and touring, Mr Vegas has made headlines for non-music matters. There have been squabbles with artistes, girlfriends and recently a pastor.

He does not think that will affect his legacy as a bona fide talent.

“Mi have di people dem attention, whether negatively or positively. A jus' me fi push di music,” he said.

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