Words by Jesse Serwer, Photos by Martei Korley—
If you’ve heard Busta Rhymes’ recent single “Twerk It,” you may have wondered, “who is that mad Jamaican ooman shouting Yuh dun kno! and all that we come fi flatline everything inna dis bumboclaat til clash dun business?” If you look into the voice behind the shriek, Tosh Alexander, you may be surprised by what you hear. Hailing from Jamaica by way of Brooklyn and South Florida, Tosh is a singer whose own music evokes contemporary R&B stars like Kelly Rowland and Ciara more than the soundbwoy-killing banshee on “Twerk It.” But that’s not to say she doesn’t rep her culture—another recent tune, “Killamanjaro,” refers to the long-running Jamaican sound system by that name.
And while Tosh might sound all tough on “Twerk It,” she’s pretty kind on the eyes. You may have seen her in our recent countdown of “The Baddest Jamaican Gyals Right Now.” We recently got to know the starlet-in-the-making at Miami’s vintage art-deco hotels, where she told us about her history with Busta Rhymes and Pharrell, her favorite places to party in Kingston, and her many voices. Given the venue, it only seemed right to conjure to Miami’s past with a classy shoot evoking classic ’50’s glamour. Feast your eyes on Tosh—and your ears, too.
LargeUp: Tell us a bit about who you are, and where you come from?
Tosh Alexander: My name is Tosh. And I was born in Brooklyn, NY—Flatbush. But I was raised in Jamaica. And then I moved here for high school and college. I came to Florida, the Coral Springs area, at age 13.
LU: Does music run in your family?
Tosh: My father always told us about his father that was a guitar player, like the real original Brushy One String or something like that. He’s supposed to have came up with the concept of using one guitar string. I have an older brother—he sings and he writes—and growing up, he would push me to sing. If there was talent shows, he’d always push me to do it. It was him that believed in me first, before I really believed in myself.
LU: How did you link with Busta Rhymes?
Tosh: I’ve had a relationship with Pharrell and Busta Rhymes for a while now. I think since I was 19. That’s when I first worked with them. We did a song with Sean Paul that wasn’t released. But we worked well together, so we maintained that relationship. So whenever Busta needed like a Jamaican accent or something, he’ll call me to do it. I’ve done like three songs like that [with him] but this is the first that actually became a single.
LU: What were those songs?
Tosh: There’s a song with him and Vybz Kartel [“Wine and Go Down”] that he put out two years ago, I’m on the chorus of that. And there’s one Busta put out with Pharrell probably five years ago [“Kill Dem”] and I was on the chorus as well. Whenever you hear this high-pitched, Jamaican, annoying voice, who is a female, on any of Busta’s records, it’s me. I never really liked them. I did that, because [Busta and Pharrell] liked that aspect of my voice and, in this industry, you kind of do what works. I’m pretty amenable when it comes to my voice. I can sing, I can deejay. They liked that, so I did it, but I didn’t love it, as far as Tosh’s music.