Words by Jesse Serwer, photos by Ashley Sebok—
You can’t talk about dancehall in New York City without the name Red Fox. The rough-voiced deejay’s combination tunes with Screechy Dan (“Pose Off”) and Naturalee (“Down in Jamaica”) and performances during what some might call the “Biltmore era” are definitive artifacts of an time when NYC, and BK in particular, was carving its own lane within Jamaican music. And his collaborations with people like Brand Nubian and DJ Premier reflect a moment when the exchange between hip-hop and dancehall was at its most fruitful.
After some years on the the sidelines, Red has been particularly prolific in 2013—having dropped numerous singles, not to mention a third child, born just a day before our interview —so we thought the time was right to re-introduce him to those who of you who haven’t gotten the memo. Our man in Sweden, DJ Shirkhan of Safari Sound, brought the Fiyah Fox concept to us, and executed the mixtape with a combination of freestyles (like “We Run the Party” feat. Screechy Dan), dubplate versions, and brand-new material.
Download Fiyah Fox here, and read on for the full Red Fox story from front to back. Pull up a chair and fix yourself a drink, cause this isn’t your ordinary dancehall artist interview. Red goes in on everything from his conflicted youth in JA to his Chris Rock-like high school experience in Brooklyn, to parenting and the meaning of life itself. Catch up to him if you can.
LargeUp: Where did things begin for you?
Red Fox: I was born in Jamaica, UC Hospital. My mom migrated to the States, to New York, when I was probably three, and my father dropped me off in this place called Brown’s Hall in St. Catherine, way up in the bush. I was there until I was maybe 13 then I came back to Portmore and when I was 16 came to the States.
LU: Was it in Jamaica or in Brooklyn that you began making music?
RF: Well, I was always dancing. People used to watch me dance. I was so little and skinny and I used to whine up myself a lot. When I was about 10, I was a big, big fan of Yellowman. Because I have such a light complexion people used to call me “Yellow.” So I used to imitate his songs. One evening, I and this kid called Gibbs were hanging out, and singing some Yellowman songs, and I twisted the song in my own way—put it in my own words. I felt like I wrote something, so I was excited. We were actually in a clash and he killed me [because] he knew all of General Echo’s songs [and] was singing the songs like it was his—I didn’t know any of the songs. I was amazed by the lyrics, so I got even more interested. I started to write rhymes, and I got two of my classmates involved and then that’s how it started.
LU: Were there any artists or musicians around you?
RF: My grandmother had a grocery store, and across the street was the primary school I attended, Brown’s Hall Primary, so whenever they keep a dance, that’s where the dance will keep. It was literally a couple seconds for me to get there. They used to have all of the big sounds like Metromedia, Black Scorpio. That would be Easter, Christmas..and Independence Day, so three dances. And the community people [would] make sure that I get the microphone early in the evening to spit whatever I wanna. My first artist really to watch to get the real feel of it, on a big scale, was Peter Metro.