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MoBay's new lord

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Friday, April 05, 2019

Until May 7 2015, Theophilus Edwards had fleeting interest in a full-time music career. It took a devastating tragedy that evening for him to change course as deejay Shane E.

His cousin, Derrick “Corey” Edwards of the Merital Family, was murdered in Ironshore, Montego Bay. Losing his biggest influence spurred him to take music more seriously.

“Mi used to jus' freestyle with friends but after mi cousin get shot, mi decide fi carry on him legacy. Him was mi idol, mi motivator, more like a brother,” Shane E told Jamaica Observer's Splash recently.

The 29-year-old artiste, also known as Drag Lord, is part of Montego Bay's dancehall influx. In the last three years, he has released a succession of hardcore songs that have endeared him to underground and mainstream fans.

Those songs include 100 Duppy, Blessings A Flow and the current, Gone Sleep. Yet, even with his stocks rising, Shane E considered 2018 a mixed bag in terms of momentum.

“It wasn't really a bad year, things start off slow but wi push through an' saw di benefits of di hard work late last year. Dis year, is like a reboot,” he said.

Released in late 2018, Gone Sleep is co-produced by Hampton Music and Ultimate Street Team. In true dancehall fashion, Shane E records for several producers; some, like Temple Swing, are from his hometown.

That label is responsible for much of his success, producing songs like 100 Duppy, Hold Dem Yah and The Dream; the latter was recorded with Chronic Law, another rising artiste. 100 Duppy, released shortly after Corey Merital's death, got the ball rolling.

“It an' song like Clap it Up get a lotta play inna di underground, then it jus' get bigger an' bigger. Dem song dey help put wi on a certain level,” said Shane E.

Edwards has a story similar to many youth who grew up in Montego Bay's tough communities. He was born in the town of Mount Salem, but grew up in nearby Rose Heights and Flankers, three of the resort city's crime-prone areas.

He remembers being raised by working-class parents who struggled financially, but ensured a comfortable life for their children. Though Shane E attended, but never graduated from Anchovy High School, he said his education was never impeded.

“Wi neva form di fool…wi read a lot. A lotta books, newspapers, anything fi keep wi up to date,” he said.

Once known for producing balladeers like The Blues Busters, A J Brown and E T Webster, Montego Bay's music scene has long outgrown its cabaret past. The rise of acts like Jah Cure, Merital Family and Tommy Lee Sparta inspired an outburst of dancehall acts including Rygin King, Teejay and Shane E.

Shane E, who performs at the April 22 Kite Festival and Family Fun Day in Richmond, St Ann, believes Montego Bay is on par with Kingston in terms of dancehall swag.

“Wi get more opportunity now fi show our talent. Wi have di swing an' di sounds, so a wi a do it,” he said.

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