Singer Cocoa Tea is one of reggae music’s most consistent artist, an artist who helped to lay the foundations of dancehall with tunes like “Rocking Dolly”; “I Lost My Sonia” and “Riker’s Island”–among many, many others–yet remains a champion of old school reggae musicality in an era of “Pro Fools” production. In this exclusive interview with LargeUp editor Sherman Escoffery, the reggae vet speaks on the highlights of his long career and his new album In A Di Red, as well as touchy subjects like payola in Jamaica. Get a refresher course on his contributions with a throwback to his classic Shabba Ranks collaboration “Pirate’s Anthem” and then hit the link at bottom to get the full piece (including 2 new Cocoa Tea tracks).
LU: You did a lot of work with Gussie Clarke in the late 80’s early 90’s; songs that became big international hits, talk about that period in time.
CT: Gussie Clarke is one of the pioneers when it comes to Lover’s Rock music. Gussie is a perfectionist and, if it isn’t the ultimate song, he won’t touch it. He utilizes the best personnel; first him draw for an engineer call Steven Stanley, who is the best engineer in Jamaica—in my opinion. Steven Stanley will take three days to mix one song to get it perfect, when Steven is finished with a song, every instrument in the song talks to you but they all work in harmony. Me, Shabba Ranks and Mikie Bennett started working together from around by King Jammys, from the song “Who She Love.” Gussie loved the songs, and he wanted to work with us. Now a lot of people would not think that Gussie would want to work with DJ like Shabba Ranks, but Gussie can identify talent and he is a conceptualist. At the time in England, the [Department of Trade and Industry] was shutting down all the pirate radio stations across the country, so Gussie said we had to do a song about this because it will be an immediate hit. Shabba, Mikie Bennett and myself wrote the lyrics but Mikie was the one that was really the architect after Gussie provide the idea and all the resources. After “Pirates Anthem” was completed, Gussie said this is going to mash up the whole a England, and it did.