David M.'s Intelligent Music

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[Byrd's Eye View]

Multi-talented David M. is an intellectual artist who took some time a few years ago to earn a law degree. He's now working on a new project and keeps long hours in the studio. But I caught up recently with him at a Mid-town Manhattan hotel and he spoke about his music and also shared some words of wisdom.

You come from a musical family correct?
DM: Yes, My father played the organ in church and my brother played violin. My Brother played violin I played piano for the youth orchestra.

SB: Most of your songs have a really strong message--can you talk about the importance of the message and the inspiration for it?
: I came from a household where my father was a very strong Black man, who had been through the tough 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's changes in Jamaica like the changing world. And we were subject --meaning Jamaica-- to racism and discrimination as well.

My father marched with Marcus Garvey, who is from Jamaica and came to the U.S. My father marched with several others who went through these things during the 50's and 60's. We had no Black role models then. They had to seize their Independence, in the case of Jamaica, and in the case of the U.S. they had to fight for their Civil Rights. So these are the things we grew up learning about. Each generation had struggles and for us the struggle continues. So in terms of inspiration and motivation, it came from these struggles and everything thing that my father taught us. And as we grew older we learned more about the struggles in other countries; South Africa, Zimbabwe, and also the U.S. So these things also motivated me. These people were willing to do whatever it takes to have equal rights.

SB: Your song "Lest We Forget" was written 16 years ago?
DM: Yes, I started writing it when Nelson Mandela was becoming President of South Africa but never finished it and never recorded it or anything. And now when Obama became President there was this sense of Black pride. And I was told that I have to do this song. At first I didn't remember it, then I was hearing 'you have this song Lest We Forget' so I decided to go back and finish the song. I didn't plan to record it at first. I gave it to other people and then a  producer called me who got it and asked 'who wrote this song' and I told him I did. He said 'you have to record it, you have to record it!' and I told him 'naww I'm not going to,' but I did. And it's doing pretty well for itself. It's a song that I hope will never die, that will play again and again and again. But there's people that have left a special journey as well.

SB: The Video for this song made it on B.E.T. Can you talk about the challenges of getting your music on T.V. and radio?
DM: Yes, I think for "Lest We Forget" we have been very fortunate. First of all, when I did, this man came to me who is my manager now, said 'I'm going to be your manager' and I told him 'I don't have anything to manage.' Noel, who has become friend and manager, and to get it to where it is didn't present a challenge. I think for a lot of people especially last year, there was a real sense of Black pride, and a lot Dj's loved this song. And they were willing to play it. B.E.T J at the time, it's now called Eccentric, went out on a limb because here I am, no name, no back, and that's normally what they look for to play your music if you had an album or time working with a  label. And B.E.T. J was willing to out on a limb.

They were overwhelmed by the video and song. It was received very well and people were very nice in terms of playing this song so we didn't have a lot of challenges for "Lest We Forget" so going forward it was kind of easy and I think  it has a special place in people's heart. I have been stopped in the airports and people giving me hugs saying how much they love the song and so people really really felt it.

I think though that there are other channels that didn't receive it the same way and I was a little disappointed that alot of Black stations and alot of Black video stations, it's easier for them to play something that is commercial-- how many women you have, the grills on your teeth, how many baby mamas, how much money you're making, and that's what they want to hear and the audience love it.

But they won't go out on a limb and play music that's socially conscience and that's disappointing. Not that all videos have to represent something special; but it's the programming for Black video stations and I'm not gonna call any names, we think it's really crude that these lowest common denominator of Blacks are these peoples expectations of us and its a bit disappointing. But the programmers and owners who are in control of Black radio and video think that the only thing that will sell is the degrading un-conscience videos and that type of stuff. But the music with substance have to fight their way to be played. Not for me because I have been lucky but when I look at the Black music in general this is what I see and it's very disappointing. The age my kids are now, they absorb so much, I don't allow them to have these stations on in their rooms. And I won't call any names.

SB: Writing comes natural to you; who have you written for?
DM: In Jamaica I wrote for Gregory Issacs and Freddy McGgregor. I did a J.C. Lodge and Shabba Ranks collaboration, and also Coco Tea. I worked with good artists from Jamaica and I have been very lucky. I've worked with producer Gussie Clarke who was once one of the most prolific producers and publishers in Jamaica. I was signed to Dublin Publishing for two years and that's where I wrote for these different people.

So I have had the opportunity to work with Jamaican Reggae artists, but again I felt the music was catchy and commercial. And after two years, I didn't sign again even though they asked me to come back and write some more and so did
other people. But I wanted to write what I felt was non-commercial and doesn't have as easy of an outlet. And that's why I ended doing it myself. People want to catch commercial and that's not what I'm about. Although there is nothing wrong with doing it, I would have to do that as well. I mean "Girls Night Out" is catchy and commercial but the songs that really move me and inspire are "Lest we Forget" and "Hearts of Everyone".

SB: What Projects are you working on now?
DM: I'm working on finishing the album, I'm about 10-12 songs deep. I want to do more than 10 or 12 more like 15. in terms of performance,it has been put on hold because we want to get the album finished and get it out this year. and we are about 90% finished so hopefully we are done later this year, we are really focused on that.

Are there any artists from the U.S. that you would like to collaborate with?
DM: I like Alicia Keys alot. Again she's a keyboardist-song writer. Working with her would really be good. I mean I like hip-hop, I really like Jay-Z as an artist and what he's doing. Before, he was street, now his music is a lot more
conscious. So working with him would be really good as well.

SB: Out of all the songs you have written either for yourself or someone else, do you have a favorite?
DM: I remember hearing Smokey Robinson say that his songs are like his kids, and so you don't want to play favorites so I don't have any one favorite song, but there is something really special about "Lest We Forget."

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

The author can be contacted at [email protected]  Also visit www.shavaughn.com

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