Words by Jonathan Cunningham
Reggae artist Richie Spice doesn’t take his platform as a music singer lightly. The tall, hawk-eyed crooner was raised in a musical family (dancehall singers Pinchers, Pliers and Spanner Banner are his brothers) and understands the full value behind the famous Rasta utterance of word, sound, and power. He’s never held his tongue about what he sees in society and has released album after album with songs (“Earth A Run Red,” “Youths Dem Cold,” “More Terrible”) that hit like something straight out of Revelations. So is it really surprising that just as the cradle of civilization is in its deepest conflict in years and tsunamis claim lives by the thousands that Spice releases an album entitled Book of Job? –the biblical chapter that focuses on deep faith in the face of deep suffering. Consider it a coincidence if you like, but it’s not the first time Spice’s music has had a prophetic tinge to it.
While Spice isn’t singing about global catastrophes on Book of Job directly, he is encouraging listeners to keep the faith during rough times. But, as on past projects, he makes space for a ray of positivity, indulging his tendency to shower love on his idealized black woman via song. The album’s first single, “Black Woman,” is something of a sequel to his previous hit, “Brown Skin,” and is helping Spice becoming relevant again on radio and in the clubs.
Richie recently checked in with LargeUp to talk about the creative process behind his newest album and how this particular book of the Old Testament ended up being the name of this project.
LU: Where did you write the bulk of this album, and how long did it take you to creatively put this together?
RS: You know, I’ve been writing this album for about two years or something. I didn’t write it in one place. I would write some in Portmore or other places. Different melodies and meditations might come in different places. All of it was right here in Jamaica though.
Q: Did you face any obstacles on a personal level that slowed down the process of you finishing this?
A: Yes, most definitely. We make it at the right time. The actual release and some of the songs, we changed them over time. Most definitely. Nothing don’t really come easy, yuh know. But we never give up. We never give up. Whatever come, we try to face it and eventually it manifest in a positive way.
Q: How far into writing did you realize that the album title would be Book of Job?
A: From the beginning. I said I wanted to put an album together and call it Job. That was the mindset from the beginning. But it manifest after that… it became reality. I always read the Bible and all these ancient books and I compare that scripture with my music. I put the two of them together. So it’s really about building confidence within yourself and believing as Job did. The two of them combine. It was a perfect thing to name the album. It give youths more and more courage to go and read that scripture. For them to read the scripture and understand that self-confidence and perseverance is the greatest thing.
Q: What has been going on in your life, either with music, or beyond the music, that has made you feel a connection to the trials of Job?
A: It would be like a reminder. Everybody know it. But you need to have reminders to remain conscious. In my career, there’s a lot of temptation and need for perseverance. That is the reason. Not just me alone, because I don’t play the music for me myself alone. This is for other people. The masses of the people, whenever you write, you write to uplift them and give them confidence in their day to day.
Q: Did anybody in your camp ever express that Job might be too serious of a title?
A: Well, yuh know… I wouldn’t say it’s too serous. What it is is what it is. There are people who suffer out there. I go through long-waiting and suffering to get my music and be recognized out there. It’s nothing too serious that the people can’t handle.
Q: There’s always a lot of consciousness behind the message of your music. And people respect you from that. Does it get hard to watch other reggae or dancehall artists who realistically don’t take their music half as serious get all of the attention and press?
A: Yes. But many times, I don’t meditate on those things and watch those things. I always keep a focus on doing what I’m supposed to do. I just play music for the people. And I play for myself, too. It’s a joy to me when I go out there. I live as a survivor too. When I get a crowd of 5,000 people, I want to say something positive. That is a great enough achievement.
Q: What made you want to work with (Penthouse Records founder) Donovan Germain for this?
A: It’s just a natural vibe because, alright…we start the project in Jamaica, from a lickle company called Bonner Cornerstone. Donovan heard about it and said he’d love to assist, as a person in the business. So I paid him a visit to see what he had to say. He said he’d like us to do some work together. We share the music and he’s a man of experience. So we create the album together.
Q: Were you excited to work with Germain? Or were there times when working with him was difficult?
A: Well, with my music I really don’t care much for that. He’s produced a lot of artists. But no matter who the person is, music is a free flow. Now, certain things are very important. You can’t have an apprentice recording an artist who have lots of experience. The producer plays a main role. All in all, it was a great vibe working with Donovan. He gave a great amount of input. He would say, no I don’t like that. He’s the type of person where, if it ‘s not right, he won’t work with it. It has to be right.
Q: Is there any song on the album that means a lot to you in particular?
A: I don’t have a favorite song on the album. All of the songs are my favorite. Because why? All of them songs are representing something different. 12 songs is like, having 12 kids and you couldn’t say you choose one over another. All of them are your seeds. “Black Woman” is the single right now though. I want to give the woman them more courage in their day to day life. The black women should have confidence and know that she should love herself.
Q: What response do you get from women, black women especially, for the way you give them specific attention on your albums?
Great. The young ladies are loving it to the fullest. The masses of the people are saying ‘yes Richie. That’s the way I know you.’ As an artist, it is I and I duty to make sure the black ladies have confidence in themselves and know themselves and know they are great. Because there is a brainwash thing going on. So I and I are here to help make sure women respect themselves.