IN the competitive dancehall arena of the 1990s, Dave Kelly stood tall where giants roamed. The reclusive producer had a number of hit ‘riddims’ and songs that decade which are still anthems.
Kelly’s success will be revisited at Reggae Sumfest on July 23 at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay. Artistes who recorded hit songs for his Madhouse Records are expected to salute the label’s heyday.
Those acts include Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Wayne Wonder, Spragga Benz, Frisco Kid, and Cham. Wayne Wonder, who first met Kelly when they were with Penthouse Records, describes his time with Madhouse Records as “an amazing journey”.
He is looking forward to a reunion of artistes who respected Kelly’s unconventional approach to producing dance music.
“Dave is a genius who come up with di weirdest ideas but when him put it together, it turn out to be classic,” Wayne Wonder added.
Kelly and his older brother Tony cut their teeth as engineers at Tuff Gong studios in Kingston. He moved on to Penthouse in the early 1990s which at the time had Wayne Wonder and a hot deejay named Buju Banton on its books.
The Pepperseed Riddim, released in 1994, was Kelly’s breakout production. It spawned hits like Big Tings by Daddy Screw, Tings A Gwaan from Spragga Benz, and Loving Excess, a massive hit for Wayne Wonder.
Two years later, Kelly had dancehalls and radio jamming to the Joy Ride which was driven by Tanya Stephens’ Yuh nuh Ready fi dis Yet. Wayne Wonder had two hits on that riddim — Joy Ride (alongside Cham) and Bashment Girl.
The zenith of Kelly’s career came in 1999 with Look, a provocative song delivered in chilling fashion by Bounty Killer. A graphic look at the challenges of inner-city life, it was temporarily banned from Jamaican airwaves.
Like Kelly, Wayne Wonder lives in South Florida. He still produces music but is not as prolific as 20 years ago.
Wayne Wonder, who scored a solid hit in the United States with No Letting Go in 2002, remains busy. One of his latest songs is Tuff Times with Mr G.