Terror Fabulous Speaks: A Rare Interview with the Elusive ’90s Dancehall Star

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June 20, 2012

Words by Sherman Escoffery, Photos by Martei Korley—

In 1992, dancehall fans went crazy for what many thought was a second track by Buju Banton on the Bogle rhythm. The aggressive delivery, the cadence and tone mimicked Buju Banton perfectly. Eventually the fans came to realize that the deejay on the tune “Mr. Big Man” wasn’t Buju Banton, but a new Dave Kelly protégé called Terror Fabulous, who had previously gone by the name Terro.

Born Cecil Campbell, Terror Fabulous started racking up controlled hit after hit on Kelly’s Mad House label, playing second fiddle only to Buju as a new 90’s Dancehall star. He was signed to East West Records in 1993, immediately after releasing “Action,” the massive crossover hit also featuring Nadine Sutherland. The Dave Kelly/Terror Fabulous combination continued to produced hits like “Gangster Anthem” and “Number 2,” while it was the Pepper Seed rhythm as a whole that stamped Dave Kelly as the top dancehall producer for the 90’s, setting the tone for the rest of the decade. Mad House was the era’s most consistent label but, by the end of the 1996, Terror Fabulous had vanished from its roster, his star role taken by a new artist, Baby Cham. Though he continued releasing records for producers like Bobby Digital and John John shortly thereafter, by 2000 he had disappeared from the dancehall circuit altogether.

I caught up with Terror Fabulous via my old friend Super Beagle; it was about 8 a.m. when Beagle called and told me to interview Fabulous, because he was there and in a good mood. I was surprised to find that Terror Fabulous was still active on the music scene. It was rumored that he was crazy and had exited the business. This is not the Terror Fabulous versus Madhouse interview; it is just Terror Fabulous in his own simple words.

“Figure it out if you can, if you can’t lef [leave] it alone.” —Terror Fabulous, “Number 2”

LargeUp: What happened to Terror Fabulous? Why can’t we hear from Terror Fabulous?

Terror Fabulous: Terror Fabulous want some money fi spend right now. [laughs]

LU: How did you get started in the music business?

TF: I was writing and singing music since I was at Waterford School to Saint Catherine. From 9th, 10th, to 11th grade, man. My first release was “Dorothy,” it was sort of X-rated.

LU: Talk a little bit about your beginning with Dave Kelly and how you came to work with him.

TF: I left school in 1990 and I buck up Dave Kelly at Penthouse Studios. I slept, record and wrote in the studio. Me, Buju Wayne Wonder, Frankie Sly, Daddy Screw, Donovan Steele, Gary Minott, the whole a we you know, we were writing together.

LU: And most of those people were between Penthouse and Madhouse production, right?

TF: Yea.

LU: Your first really big song was ‘Big Man Have The Money’ on the Bogle rhythm and most people thought it was Buju Banton.

TF: Nah man it was Terror Fabulous but because Buju was hot dem time and hot right now still, so people might have mixed us up.

[audio:http://largeup.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Mr-Big-Man.mp3|titles=Mr Big Man]

LU: What did Terror Fabulous bring to dancehall that was not there before he came?

TF: Just more niceness still, cause when I say ‘show me your hand,’ it means show me your gun hand or gun finger, not the real gun. Because we already know about the gun but we are not promoting that, but the gun done mek already, so if we can turn it into fun and make them leave the gun, it’s a good thing. Nothing really new, just more niceness, more understanding, more Rasta vibe, a Fabulous thing.

LU: I had a conversation with Dave Kelly about the song Action, and he basically said in a nutshell Buju did Second Class with Carol Gonzales and he [Kelly] and Donovan Germain had a falling out and wanted to prove that he could do it without Penthouse and Buju. He sat down with you and came up with “Action” to show that he could come better than Second Class.”  Would you say that is true?

TF: All I know is the two songs them shot man; they were just two wicked songs.

LU: What is your relationship with Dave Kelly right now?

TF: Well I am in my place and he is in his. Him a gwan build his thing still, and him sound good same way; cause I hear some of his rhythm and I would DJ on them. We haven’t linked in a while, but me love how him doing his thing same way. He knows how to make his own lane.

LU: It seems like you are drifting in a Rastafarian direction…

TF: From long time you know papa, I man is a Rasta man. I don’t have to prove myself with no pretty locks or self-righteousness. I know I’m a Rasta so it doesn’t really matter. I don’t follow man; if you follow you get misled. I follow the right path. I am not Rasta like vegetarian, I still eat meat same way because I have to eat to live.

Read on for Part Two, as Terror Fabulous discusses his mental health: “Sometimes I have my moments, but I bounce back.”