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Interview : Elephant Man

Interview : Elephant Man

Interview : Elephant Man

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Dancehall’s energy god talks to Davina Morris about his new album, that incident in London and an alleged fight with Puffy


It’s always difficult to track down Elephant Man. After ringing his phones several times– and getting voicemail– it seemed that our interview wasn’t going to take place.

But I remained patient and hopeful (it was well after UK office hours, but I’m well-versed in the perils of interviewing dancehall stars) and eventually, Ele answered the phone.

Despite it being after 2pm Jamaican time, Ele’s response when quizzed on where he’d been was not surprising…

“Boy, I went to Fire Links last night, so I woke up not long ago.”

Naturally. But this dancehall star is by no means idle. No sooner had he woken up, the much-loved deejay– real name O’Neil Bryan– was busy in the kitchen. Turns out he’s a dab hand when it comes to cooking.

“Oh, I’m a very good cook,” he said gleefully. “Steamed fish, chicken– I cook everything. Right now, I’m cooking some curry goat. I tell you, if you come to Jamaica, you won’t wanna leave if you try my cooking.”

Well, if he packs up the music career, at least he has another career option. He could open up a Caribbean takeaway and call it ‘Good to Go’. (If he ever does it, remember you read it here first!)

But for now, dancehall’s king of energy– and king of ever-changing hair colour– has his sights firmly focused on the release of his new album, Let’s Get Physical. The hugely-anticipated offering is the first release from a venture between P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records and Ele’s original label, VP Records.

The album features an array of collaborations with artists including, Chris Brown, Shaggy, Wyclef Jean and Rihanna, to name but a few. But why was its release pushed back time and time again?

“We needed to get clearance for all the songs and that took a bit of time,” says Ele. “It wouldn’t mek sense to drop a big album like this when we know say a whole heap ah [legal] problems gonna follow.”

“We had to get all the legal things in place and make sure all the people who contributed to the album– and their managers– were happy with everything. A lot of times, when Puffy puts out music, he gets accused of robbing somebody or some other drama. So we had to make sure we did this right.”

The news, a couple of years ago, that Bad Boy was to team up with leading reggae label VP, was somewhat surprising. With Diddy not being known for his experience in dancehall, it seemed odd– and perhaps a little naïve– of the music mogul/ entrepreneur to step so far out of his hip-hop and R’n’B comfort zone.

So when a rumour emerged last year that Ele had got into fisticuffs with his new Bad Boy boss, people could only imagine what kind of drama had ensued between the pair. But as it turned out, the rumour was completely false.

“That was nothing more than people going on the Internet to spread lies and rumours,” Ele said. “Me and Puffy are good. Sometimes people have nothing better to do than to player-hate. But I just wanna let the fans know that nothing like that happened.”

“How am I gonna sign to a major company like Bad Boy and go and beat up Puffy? Reggae music doesn’t need any more bad press. As artists, we need to do our best to keep the music positive and that’s what I’m trying to do. Reggae gets such a fight as it is, and I’m not gonna be the one to bring it down, by being so dunce and fool that I would go and screw up a great opportunity.”

So does that mean that Puffy has Ele under manners? The number of tunes Ele’s voiced in recent times has certainly decreased, compared to when he wasn’t signed to Bad Boy.

“It’s nothing like that. Nobody has stopped me from doing anything. The only reason you haven’t heard me voicing all over the place is because I’ve been busy performing all over the place.”

Apparently, one of his next stops will be England, which is very surprising. He hasn’t been here since 2001 when an altercation saw him get robbed and his friend DJ Village shot dead. Still, Ele insists that he’s put that all behind him.

“I’m coming to London in the summer. I figure that the incident that happened last time… I’m gonna put that in the past. It’s not like something like that is gonna happen again. You just have to stay far from certain things and certain people.”

“When I come to London, it’ll just be to do shows. When I came the last time, I was going to studios and doing dubplates and all that. I wouldn’t do that again. I’d just come and do my shows and have a good time. It’s time for me to come to London and give the fans what they want.”

And Ele is sure he knows what dancehall fans want…

“We do need to step up our music and that’s why I’m glad my album is coming out. The happy music is what people are missing. People can’t stick to one thing forever. If I talk about guns and violence my whole career, how far am I gonna get?
We need to make sure that the dancehall doesn’t get too serious. I think it’s time for us to have some fun again. People love the positive side of Jamaican culture. When the dancehall was happy a few years ago, the music really went places. You saw all sorts of artists doing the Jamaican dances in their videos. People were having fun. If we make the dancehall get too shady, it’s not gonna last. We need to keep it positive.”

Guess dancehall’s energy god isn’t tired of ‘keeping it jiggy.’

“Nah, I can’t get tired coz it’s what I do. Being the energy god is like my blessing and my curse. I can’t get fed up of it of being energetic otherwise I’d be letting down a lot of fans and I don’t wanna do that.”

Let’s Get Physical is out now on Bad Boy/VP Records

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