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Reggae Legends

Beenie Man

Beenie Man

By Judson Kilpatrick
Published September 11, 2005

Known for his throaty chuckles and “Zagga zow!” catch phrase, this rapid-fire DJ born Moses Davis in 1973 earned the alias Beenie Man as a toddler because he was “a little boy with a man’s brain.”

Known for his throaty chuckles and “Zagga zow!” catch phrase, this rapid-fire DJ born Moses Davis in 1973 earned the alias Beenie Man as a toddler because he was “a little boy with a man’s brain.” He grew up in Kingston, where he was exposed to some of Jamaica’s greatest sound systems. By the age of eight, Beenie was a bona-fide recording star himself with the single “Too Fancy,” and he released his first album when he was 10.
          
But unlike many child stars, Beenie Man kept rising.  By the mid-’90s, he was collecting DJ of the Year awards, and he signed with Island to record the Rastafarian-influenced Blessed. Featuring the hard-hitting smash “Slam,” Blessed established Beenie Man’s international reputation immediately. He was even given a doctorate (“of all lyrics”) from the University of the West Indies’ music department.

He began flaunting his Doctor status on Maestro (VP). The party atmosphere of the album’s big hit “Girls Dem Sugar” was balanced out by several cultural songs. He followed that with the album he considers his best, Many Moods Of Moses (VP),  featuring the rootsy “Steve Biko” (complete with an intro based on Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”), the country song “Ain’t Gonna Figure It Yet” and the inescapable “Who Am I” (“Zim zimma, who got the keys to my Bimma?”).

Beenie continued exploring new territory (gospel, R&B, hip-hop) on The Doctor (VP) and then took this crossover impulse to the extreme after signing with Virgin. For Art & Life, producer Salaam Remi resurrected the hip-hop beat of “O.P.P.” on the Wyclef Jean collaboration “Love Me Now.” “Gals Dem Sugar” was softened up by the R&B singer Mya. “I Got A Date” adapts the Staple Singers’ staple “I’ll Take You There” while “Tumble” features trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. The only track that’ll satisfy dancehall purists is “Haters And Fools” over Dave Kelly’s eerie “Bug” rhythm. This pop-music hodgepodge won Beenie the Grammy he long deserved.

With Tropical Storm, Beenie Man sank further into the depths of shameless commercialism—the lead-off single “Feel It Boy” featured Janet Jackson. But fate intervened with a near-fatal Hummer rollover that put the Doctor in the hospital with serious injuries. Beenie’s comeback album, appropriately titled Back To Basics, marked a return to the hardcore dancehall sound that made him a star in the first place. He remade “Slam” with Ms. Thing, scoring a massive hit (“

Recommended Recordings

 

Blessed (Island)

Maestro (VP)

Many Moods Of Moses (VP)