Biko Kennedy, Youthlink Writer
You can get the boys to step outside of the box, but you can’t take their old soul away from them. Young Veterans Sheldon Pennicott and Sekou Davis trod to a different beat than most producers. Their impressive adaptability and propensity to twist and develop the simplest concepts have set them on razor’s edge – somewhere between ethereal perfection mixed with a mundane hissy fit and staying sincere to their alias. Their ever-moody, pulsing beats are comparable to none and have claimed their piece of dancehall/reggae’s enigmatic puzzle.
Youthlink (YL): How did you guys begin to collaborate on productions?
Sekou Davis (SD): Well, Sheldon was already in the music business; his uncle, Byron Murray, is a producer. I’d occasionally go to the studios just to learn the basics in production, and Sheldon and I met up and saw where we shared the same goals. We realised it was more feasible to work together to become successful as a duo.
YL: Why not pursue independent productions like most producers?
SD: You see, as a team things get done better because music is a thing that is kind of hard to grasp by yourself, especially as a producer. So, one person can concentrate on one task while the other is doing another. We simply found it better to work that way.
YL: When you guys got into the music business, where did you think you’d be today and where did you see yourself fitting in?
SD: (Laughing) We were looking at it realistically and we were at the rock bottom of the production table. Yet, we just knew that once we dedicated ourselves to this, there was nowhere for us to go but to the top. Now, looking back, we can see where we’ve definitely grown, but we’re yet to reach our full potential.
YL: Every producer has a unique style; for what element will Young Veterans become known?
SD: That you wouldn’t know that it’s a Young Veterans’ beat (laughing). You know, some producers use specific instruments to basically trademark their sound, but we’re really just trying to ensure that we don’t duplicate a sound/rhythm that we’ve done before, to simply keep listeners guessing what we can conjure up next.
YL: Why settle on the name Young Veterans?
SD: We needed something to express, basically, how we thought; we were really young in the business, however, our varying ideas and song concepts reflected those of veterans in the business. We learnt a lot from Sheldon’s uncle; from management to how to put out our work, and we’d normally surround ourselves with veterans so why not the name Young Veterans (laughs)?
YL: Young Veterans is known the ‘Rahtid’ mixtape compilations. How did that come about?
SD: Well, everyone knows that artistes showcase their work by releasing albums, and companies showcase producers’ work by releasing compilations. We decided that we wanted to showcase our work but we didn’t want to do it as a juggling, every so often, then not put out anything for another six months or so. A compilation was the best route. We decided that we’d put out an album, which is pretty rare for producers. It’s basically different rhythms, 15 to 18 tracks, to give it that eclectic sound yet remaining organically ours. As for the name, we just wanted a slang that is authentically Jamaican and something any Jamaican globally would recognise.
YL: What makes it stand as ‘The Ultimate Reggae and Dancehall Experience’?
SD: I think you don’t find reggae and dancehall being compiled quite like this. The mere fact that it’s all our production, we know exactly how to blend the songs together without making it seem like it’s not a cohesive playback.
YL: How have the first two in the ‘Rahtid’ series been received so far?
SD: I’d say good … not great, but we’re growing as a duo and we can only get better. We want to make it a compilation that persons look out for on a yearly basis.
YL: How are you marketing this project?
SD: Well, I can’t really delve into our entire process but it’s more marketed to an international/Asian audience, Europe and Japan mainly, because their spending power is far greater than what we have here. To be quite frank, you hardly find locals purchasing dancehall/reggae albums because it’s easily accessible here. Jus’ guh two dance and you’re sure to hear the latest (laughs).
YL: Can you see dancehall music evolving into something fresh and new in the next couple of years?
SD: Of course! Just like how it’s coming from ska, it can still evolve.
YL: What can you say about everyone basically adapting that Euro/techno/pop sound and not actually creating an unexpected melody?
SD: (Laughing) Well, I think dancehall can definitely be bigger than what it is today because the world is becoming smaller thanks to the Internet and the international connection and Jamaica is more influential in the world now than ever before; whether in sports, music or just the lifestyle. I feel it can be bigger and can evolve but it wouldn’t be authentic to us; in its purest form. It’d still be labeled as Jamaican but there would be some elements being influenced by somewhere else.
Sekou Davis and Sheldon Pennicott (right). – Contributed