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

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 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 produce 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.

LU: Are you working with any particular producer today?

TF: Edgewater studios, RC1studio and we do some production but Dave and me don’t link up back yet, so that mean it not suppose to happen yet. I have a song with a singer named Andrew Melody and I have one call ‘Mama Cry’ with Super Beagle.

[audio:http://largeup.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/01-Mama-Cry1.mp3|titles=01 Mama Cry]

“Mama Cry”

LU: Is there anybody in dancehall now that you, as a veteran and one of the top deejays back then, can say you rate their delivery, songwriting abilities, how they ride the rhythm?

TF: Vybz Kartel, the way him ride the rhythm and his delivery. I don’t know if he writes his own songs but he can DJ and him a gwan with a thing. You have some singers out too; I like to listen to Romain Virgo.

LU: I spoke to Super Beagle and Junior Mitchie, and they told me you are bi-polar. I know about that personally because I have cousins that are bi-polar.

TF: Bi-what… what name so?

LU: It’s like one minute you have an extreme creative energy and you feel like you can conquer the world and the next minute you don’t want to do nothing like your thing not moving, you´re depressed.

TF: Okay, that happens to me sometimes, maybe it’s the environment that I am in at the time still.

LU: Well a lot of people have said that you are crazy, that Terror Fabulous gone mad, but they don’t know that you are bi-polar.

TF: [Very agitated] No! No! No! ‘That you are’ No! That word can’t reach me; I don’t know what those words mean. You can’t put that pan a man iyah; that can´t reach me. I can’t spell that word and I don’t know what it means, and I don’t want to know what it means, either.

You see in life, it’s not what you do, but how you do your thing. Anywhere we go; anywhere we end up, we say ‘it’s just life.’ Nuff people go to the doctor and since I have been in high school, I have had a doctor, so, I know who to speak to, and when to speak to them. I have never been diagnosed with that [as being bi-polar] so I’m a bit offended that people are saying these things. It’s not like I have AIDS or like I have a disease or I eat of the garbage. It would be better if people said ‘Sometimes he feels a way.’ Like sometimes I have my moments, but I bounce back. Cause when man say crazy, those words have meaning you know fire! Crazy people do crazy things.

LU: Do you have a manager at this point?

TF: In the beginning, it was Brenda Hamilton from Madhouse but it’s a long time since I haven’t seen those people and they’re doing their different things. I’ve had Super Beagle around me, so I’ve been rolling with him and he has been taking care of business.

LU: Is there any final thoughts or words from you to your fans?

TF: I Terror Fabulous just want the I them to pray for the I, and have a better understanding and thinking. Because you see that word that you just mentioned, those are like big words that I don’t want to learn, and if I don’t know the meaning, I don’t use it. I stick to what I know and what I understand about myself. I like when people cheer for me when they hear my music, but more than anything, I love when they pray for me.

LU: So it’s about prayers and simplicity?

TF: Aright daddy—yea man.

[audio:http://largeup.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/You-Would-Ah-Bawl.mp3|titles=You Would Ah Bawl]

“You Woulda Bawl”

LU: I like how you break down the simplicity of the lyrics because sometimes I go back and listen to  your songs like even You Woulda Bawl, it’s a powerful but simple song.

TF: Yes! Simple songs. I write them songs myself you know, simple but effective. Rastafari.

Three weeks after this interview, Terror Fabulous pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property for smashing the house window of a Justice Of the Peace. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, suspended for one year.