Photo by Martei Korley
Over the last few years, podcasts have become an increasingly important and diverse media format, giving voice to cultural critics, DJs and interviewers from the margins and those in the mainstream seeking a more uncensored, sprawling forum for their words. Hip-hop, in particular, has gravitated to the medium, with programs like The Combat Jack Show and Juan Epstein capturing the culture in a way hip-hop radio hasn’t been able to in years. But while there seems to be a decent enough podcast out there for almost every music genre or topic, until recently there was a wide open void for one covering dancehall—or Caribbean music, period.
Enter LargeUp contributor Marvin Sparks, who since last year has compiled an impressive series of interviews with such present-day luminaries as Spice, Walshy Fire and Assassin, as well as veterans like Tippa Irie, in his No Long Talk podcast (subscribe here). To celebrate the arrival of his 10th installment, an in-depth interview with producer Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, Marvin’s given us the episode to premiere, below. But first, he shares a few words about the series and its origination.
How did No Long Talk begin?
No Long Talk began as a loose idea. I’d been talking to many favourite artists and producers including Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Popcaan, Sean Paul, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Beres Hammond, Damian Marley and Jah Cure for years. I’m a passionate reggae and dancehall fan with a natural curiosity to learn more about them. As such, many were lengthy conversations. The convos were always memorable, but editing as a deeper fan was difficult because I’d have to cut out bits I didn’t feel would appeal to a more casual fan. Something had to go so that’s how I’d decide.
When did you decide to start a podcast?
Some time in late 2014, I became addicted to podcasts; a lot of hip hop ones like Juan Epstein and Combat Jack, boxing podcast Ringside Toe2Toe, amongst others. I realised there is a way to get my long conversations out without compromising on the bits fellow fans like me wanted.
Hootie Who from London DJ crew Hipsters Don’t Dance suggested I do a dancehall version of Juan Epstein before I knew what it was. No Long Talk isn’t that but that also got the mind thinking I could do it last year. And big up Gabriel from The Heatwave, he gave me the opportunity to interview Bay-C from T.O.K. live on one of London’s leading specialist radio stations, Rinse FM, on Notting Hill Carnival morning in 2013. That let me know I could go from text to audio.
What appealed to you about the medium?
As a reader, I admit I scroll to the bottom so I know how long the feature is. I also know the struggle of transcribing an extremely long conversation with the thought of “Will anyone even read this?” crossing my mind often. But listening to a podcast while I commute was perfect.
There are many media platforms for Jamaican music, providing artists with an opportunity to speak on topical subjects, that I watch religiously. However, I felt there was also space for something which gave more of the person’s story. I always wanted to know more about what shaped them. What caused them to find their voice through music? How did they make it where so many others fail? How moments came together in the studio to create what’s now my favourite song? Also, what it was like back then, how they see the present, and what needs to happen to ensure a better future.
If I’m honest, I’ve never seen myself as a “journalist.” I do journalism. First and foremost. I’m a fan who is fortunate enough to speak with my favourite people involved in music. I ask them what I want to know and feel my friends want to know, and thankfully, like-minded people enjoy them enough for the cycle to continue. That’s basically how I sum up no long talk. Honest conversations with my favourite artists for people who love this as much as me.
How did it get started?
I met Kabaka Pyramid at Tony Rebel’s annual good vibes festival, Rebel Salute, shortly after his potent morning performance. We linked up at Bebble Rock studio in Kingston for a sprawling two-hour conversation. Once again, I faced the same dilemma of figuring out how to get all of this insightful convo to fellow fans. Transcribing would’ve taken aeons, then breaking it down for different publications would’ve been like a goose chase when pinning down the whole thing. So it was then that the idea fully came to life. no long talk is pretty self-explanatory. We live by the mantras, “If you ain’t got anything constructive to say, don’t talk” and “Better to say nothing than chat shit.”
Listen to the latest episode of No Long Talk with Stephen McGregor, followed by all nine previous installments below. To keep up with future editions, subscribe on iTunes here, and follow No Long Talk on Soundcloud and Twitter.
For the tenth chapter, I had to make it special so I got the most influential producer of the last ten years to talk about his decade in this. Yes, it’s been ten years since the Red Bull & Guinness.
I represent for my generation. First and foremost, I’m true to me. Hate to stress it but no matter how people criticise the output, what I love is what I love. I know what I see in the clubs. I live by a simple law: Gun fingers and hips/wines don’t lie.
Arguably the most influential, McGregor is probably the most divisive producer. Most either love his riddims or hate everything he brought to dancehall. He’s either the one that injected much needed new energy or killed dancehall. I’m the former. He soundtracked most of my greatest raving experiences. Me and my bredrins reminisce on the days we screamed “Top shotta nuh miiiiss!” or the numerous wines we secured to Vybz Kartel “Bicycle.”
When we debate Vybz Kartel vs Mavado war on track, most were on Di Genius’ riddims. Powercut, After Dark, Dark Again and Day Break riddims were the scenes. Who topped who? Or even who had the best piece on Set Me Free riddim? The Red Bull & Guinness riddim is where it all started ten years ago when a schoolboy changed the speed of dancehall. If Anger Management introduced a darker sound to dancehall, Red Bull & Guinness was a sonic nightmare. If you hated Anger Management, you absolutely despised Red Bull & Guinness. Not only was it dark, it was frantically fast compared to most in the climate at that time.
Stephen and I talk about when he knew Kartel was the sickest, Mavado’s undervalued influence, his rivalry with Don Corleon, and getting feedback from idols Robbie Shakespeare (from Sly & Robbie), Dave Kelly and Timbaland.
Kabaka Pyramid Pt. 1
Kabaka Pyramid Pt. 2.