Uptown Dutty Livity
I was driving down Goyer Street this one day in April, on my way to the studio for a long evening of hard work. I had Knue Era with me. I wanted to show him around, to make him a part of the process and introduce him to an experience that could make him grow as an artist, like it was making me grow. We dancehall cats tend to stick together pretty close in Montreal – we cultivate each other, we help each other out with whatever we can – partly because there’s so few of us. The terrain is not suited for us, neither are the conditions, so we try to band together to protect the flame of our dreams. Should we allow ourselves to drift apart, there is a high chance the flame would be snuffed out in the long, hard night. It’s not like Jamaica, where every tenement yard generates DJs, and every street corner has a sound system. We can’t afford to compete, to burn each other others’ houses down, to Gully vs. Gaza.
Earlier that day, I had paid a visit to my dear colleague C-Koo Slim to figure out how we were going to edit the video to his new single “I Want U”. As I was driving down that nasty stretch of Goyer St., I was still thinking about how lucky we were: even though we didn’t come from the most pleasant environments, we were still able to follow a higher purpose, something bigger than our personal interests. In a way, our dreams made us immune to what we were seeing: people who grew old too fast, with an empty look in their eyes, dragging their feet to the corner store to blow their welfare cheque on 40′s and lottery tickets.
I say to Knue Era lightheartedly, this place is hopeless.
“Uptown livity, daag,” he says.
“A dutty livity dat!” I say.
Knue Era then remarks how ironic it is, that uptown is someplace real nice in Jamaica, whereas here it’s a dump. He tells me about a friend of his that came over here and screwed up his face like a lemon when he reached “Uptown”.
“A nuh uptown dis! A nuh uptown dis!”
We start laughing. But the neighborhood is laughing even harder. We pull up to the curb right next to Bedford School and see two policemen pestering a man who’s doing some work up on a balcony. With their silly little red caps screwed tightly to their domes and their hands on their hips, the officers are saying something about the music being too loud. As I step out of the car, I recognize my man DJ Barry Bondz. So Knue Era and I walk up next to the cops and say hi to Barry and ask him what’s wrong. He had been playing some dancehall from his big red stereo to make his manual labour easier to bear, and apparently some mystery people found it too loud. As the DJ resumes his arguing with the two weenies, a sixth character emerges from the apartment with the balcony, with the demeanour of a woman coming out of the shower, or a housewife stepping out on the porch to see what the racket is all about. I had seen the fool at the park before, but his name escapes me right now.
He takes a look at the exchange between Barry Bondz and the officers, then nods at me with a big scowl.
“Wassup man,” I reply very politely, as you can see by my adding a second word to the greeting.
“What are you doing here?” (I now sense the conversation is about to turn sour)
“Ah here for him, not for you.”
“You’re here to complain?”
At this point, Barry Bondz steps in and basically tells the man to get his ass back in the house. But in a nice way, of course. Knue Era and I decide to bow out of this situation and to head for the studio. Over the course of the evening, I forget all about showergirl and her attitude. The work is hard, the vibe is some mystic love, there’s two songs, lots of vocals and no room for badmind. But later on in the night, when we’ve left the studio, Knue Era reminds me. We decide that no violence is necessary. Verbal or otherwise. After all, it’s not the man’s fault. Weh wi fi do? Uptown dutty livity mek im so.