Konshens Speaks on Fat Girls and Bubble Dance
An interview with the man making ladies bubble on YouTube to his dancehall hits.
Koshens one of the biggest stars in dancehall premiered his mixtape with Complex yesterday, titled This Is Your Konshens. It’s a 23-track offering refreshing the core dancehall community with his catalog of hits, from “Gal A Bubble” to “Do Sum’n.” Stateside, “Gal A Bubble” is percolating in parties, plus getting major play on Mass Appeal‘s weekly radio show. When we sat down with Konshens at Miss Lily’s Variety & Bake Shop in NYC—just a few weeks before his mixtape dropped—Konshens talked about how simple it is to create the video magic of “Gal A Bubble,” and shared a regrettable memory of picking up a thick lady at one of his shows. Koshens speaking about fat girls and bubble dance? Pop off!
Mass Appeal: When was the last time you were here?
Konshens: For a soca show.
Do you do a lot of soca shows?
My thing is more dancehall with a soca mixture—can be added, but not always… can be injected.
There’s something about your energy and rhythm that speaks to the soca audience.
Me have the ability to adjust to whichever type of track whatever.
You recently performed at [Reggae] Sumfest correct?
That was a very good experience, mi best Sumfest, yet. Because me have the opportunity to bring out my upcoming artists and mi older brother and a reggae icon Richie Stephens for the same set.
He was known for a lot of ballads, love songs, yeah? What’s your connection to Richie Stephens?
He just have a bad track, we have a song together called “The Lord’s Prayer,” that type of Christian song. But I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent christian, because I’m not a baptized Christian. But Jamaican people are very religious, and it just highlights the facts that you need fi have the greater being inna your daily activities.
He just approached me with the song, say him love the work, and that is the great Richie Stephens, you can’t turn down that.
Especially with this new generation of dancehall being embraced from the older generation, for instance you and Richie Stevens or Donovan Germain and Romaine Virgo. I think there’s a bridging of the gap in dancehall music in general.
You find a lot of young artists showing respect for older artists and then the older artists admiring the work of a selected few of the younger artist coming up. Nobody nuh shy them, they just move in, and create, and make the magic.
When you were first coming up in the game, are there certain artists that you covered?
I wouldn’t say cover.
It depends on the mood, it depends where in the world where me deh. There’s a song that mi always sing, “Murder She Wrote.” Me have a song called “Pretty Devil,” which I think is the nowadays version of “Murder She Wrote.” Sometimes I like to incorporate that song in my set. It’s been out for a while now.
The riddim is called the the Beach Front riddim, it’s been out like two and a half years. And when in Europe, like since the incarceration of Buju Banton, I like to incorporate one or two Buju songs into the set. Everybody know Buju songs, depending on the vibe.
Does anyone else do that?
Yeah mon. A whole heap of artists do that. I think it’s a good way fi show respect and fi show show say, we as younger artists respect the work of the elder artists dem. And even with our set, mi have like thousands of songs, thousands of songs, that me can still find time to fit into my set two or three of Buju songs, just to pay tribute.
So with “Gal A Bubble” [bubble dance] as a worldwide phenomenon that it is, it continues the great tradition of great dance songs. Every year there’s a big dance song, or every few years, one comes along and just dominates. How long has it been now since “Gal A Bubble” has been out, and it’s been like number 1?
Not yet a year.
Has it really broken in the U.S.?
Just started now, we’re doing some work with VP [RECORDS], and VP basically adopt the song. But before that, it was all my team. We just a dig the road, that is our mentality, inna di core, right where the people deh. Even from a Jamaican standpoint, our ting haffi be in the streets, that’s what the people dem want and just feed them directly. So now we’re just trying to take it to the next level.
How was it when you performed it at Sumfest?
Crazy. Same response everywhere, whether with track or with band, or whether the song a play without me a sing—same response and mi just give thanks.
Has there been a moment other than Sumfest when a certain performance of yours stands out?
I can’t pinpoint one. More recently in the U.S., but inna di Caribbean, inna Jamaica, once the beat drop, a problem in a venue… venue mash up.
I had this idea about you performing at Sumfest, the performance is always one of the great selling points to a great dancehall artist. Like Elephant Man will pick somebody up, and they’ll straddle him on the stage. Are there certain things to your show that will make it stand out in people’s mind other than the song?
No, I think it’s all up to me. It’s a spur of the moment thing, how mi feel at any particular time, something mi might say, something mi might do, it nuh really matter. Just feeling the vibe of the people. I think the song them speak for themself. It’s just up to me to come and deliver them properly. There’s nothing really set where you a go see inna every show for me—alright, Konshens show him a go pick up a fatty; Konshens show him a go climb a railing. You nuh sure, anything can happen. You might get a show where mi just give you like a one-on-one vibe with everybody, or mi might give you a show where mi just a jump for the whole show, it nuh really matter.
Has that happened, have you picked up a large lady at a show?
Yes, yes, and I regret it. (Laughs)
What show was this?
Inna di Caribbean, whole heap of stops in the Caribbean.
Where we couldn’t see it! (Laughs)
Mi can’t pinpoint them, but there is no evidence of this! (Laughs)
That’s too bad. As far as mainstream U.S. artists, or underground artists, is there anybody that has a certain flare to their show that you might wanna adopt one day?
I haven’t seen many mainstream artist show. Mi see the big pop show them, where the show are more production than artist talent. I wouldn’t say there is something from an artist perspective that I would grab from the shows, but mi definitely wan do them big production, where the show is not just me and mi DJ. Where the show is not just me and a DJ, or me and a five-piece band, but more behind the scenes people that get up everyday thinking about this show before me get involved in it. Them thing a what me a look forward to.
Colors seem to be something that stands out with you.
Yeah recently. The colors became a part of my thing physically or through sight, it was always in the music. My music is always colorful because I’m a very moody person and the songs adjust to the type of mood mi get inna.
How would you describe the mood of “Gal A Bubble” when you created it?
(Laughs) That’s the definition of happy. Like you walk in a club, and you see all the girl dem pon them BB [Blackberry], or they pon dem Twitter or on Instagram, the party can’t work. When you walk into a party and all the girl them just wild. Naturally that a somewhere you want to be for the rest of the night.
I definitely think that’s a problem with a lot of social media distracting you from the music, from a stage show to a party. Does the DJ have to call them out for using their phones and not for partying and enjoying themselves?
Luckily, I haven’t faced that issue where people inna mi show de pon BB. People normally interested inna who de pon stage, seen? But you find say, the crowd response is different now because most artists that hit the stage, and them a record. Them have phones out and a record as opposed to a show dem reaction and a show dem love. But you just haffi adjust. Times a change now. People have a collection that one day [they’re] at dem yard a look pon their videos and their recordings.
In the past few years, in the generation of social media and YouTube and everything, your dance going viral, and of course someone like Tony Matterhorn with the “Dutty Wine,” this is an age when dances are a whole nother level. Somebody could be at a show and they’re not necessarily videotaping you, they could be videotaping somebody next to them who is dancing. That’s like a performance within the performance.
It influences ladies to make home videos. Thank god for home videos. God bless home videos. I would sit all for an hour and just de pon YouTube and just look at all the different videos and their reaction and the way how the ladies dance to it and try to incorporate it into the show. Like when me a play with band, the song has different stages, it have the intro, it have the high part, and it have the part where it just dedicated to dancing. And you find when mi deliver the song on stage, mi deliver it with the same progression. It works for me too.
When you created the “Gal A Bubble” video, how did you go about casting the ladies?
Do you like the ladies from the video?
Alright, these are the average Jamaican girls—never the supermodel type, never the one where you go to the model agency and you call them. You just walk pon the street and you say, “hi, you wanna be in a video?” Them say, “yeah.” Or if you know them from before you can send a message, and the girls show up.
The concept for the video was the shooting of the video,with just a vibe, like how we’re here a sit down. And we say, take out a camera, call some girl, and the video just start. Just show that 100 percent real vibe—no pretty up, no make up. Just dance and a play.
But if you held a casting now, you’d probably start a riot.
Me probably wouldn’t try it.
You have to go with who you know as opposed to a bunch of strangers.
Some of the girls were strangers. But me wouldn’t do a casting unless me have two days to spare.
What is the meaning behind [your album] Mental Maintenance?
Mental Maintenance, maintain you mentality. The concept of the album though is a song for every situation. So people like me, and you who really love music, who know say, once you wake up in the morning to when you drop asleep in the night, there’s a song that apply to almost every situation, and that was the aim with this album. I think it was well done, people love it too. It just so happens some of my favorite tracks off the album are some of the people’s favorite tracks as well, so it work out.