Kulcha Don
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Kulcha Don

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


By DAMON C. WILLIAMS


Caribbean musician Kulcha Don is dispelling the myth that only Jamaican, Puerto Rican or Bajan-bred artists can create the ubiquitous dancehall and reggaeton sounds that blare these days from car and home sound systems.

But Kulcha Don, born Reinford Gibbons on the small island of Montserrat, is breaking such stereotypes with his third LP, "It's All About You," coming out today through Philly-based Ruffnation Records. The album offers a seamless blend of soca, reggaeton and dancehall reggae. Which should be no surprise, because Kulcha says he literally grew up on those vibes.

"I think every Caribbean child grew up with Bob Marley albums in their house," Kulcha recently told the Daily News. "We had Marley records, Jacob Calypso records and soca records, of course."

Kulcha left Montserrat at 18 and headed for New York. Once there, he caught on in a hurry, putting in early work with hip-hop acts the Fugees and Tupac Shakur, pop powerhouses C&C Music Factory and Martha Wash, and with reggae heavies Mad Lion and Spragga Benz.

Kulcha Don also parlayed his early musical experience into two albums: 1997's "Original Wucka Man" and 2001's "Blood Ina Me Eyes."

The combination of Caribbean sounds and the radio-friendliness of most of his new music might lead some to think that Kulcha Don has sold out for radio spins. More orthodox reggae fans may prefer a rougher sound from Kulcha. But he says his flow is by his own design.

"I had to tone down my accent, just so everyone could hear what I was saying," said Kulcha, whose patois is relatively heavy. "I remember everyone liking 'Macarena,' but I couldn't understand what they were talking about.

"But I do know of a lot of reggae artists that won't do reggaeton, thinking that they are taking over dancehall [sounds] to do calypso."

Kulcha is considered a straight reggae/dancehall artist, but with calypso king Beenie Man on the new CD's lead single, "Drive You Crazy," he's joining Beenie in building bridges among the genres. That's proven to be a challenge for many artists.

"Drive You Crazy" is a bouncy track featuring Beenie's trademark ad-libs over an infectious club rhythm.

"It's music the whole world can enjoy," said Beenie Man of this song, through a statement. "It's going to be a successful song and a successful album."

Beenie Man's contributions aside (he also shows up on the remix version of the single), "It's All About You" should register with fans. It includes the fantastic, up-tempo "Papi Dulo," and the El Feco-assisted "Say So." Andrea Hachett shows up on "Show Your Tattoo."

"Growing up, I realized what I wanted to do, [which was to] come to America and do reggae," Kulcha Don said. "The people can understand that and relate."
- Philadelphia Daily News


When writing about Kulcha Don, Honey Magazine says, "Kulcha Don truly captures the essence of what it is to be a great artist. He possesses an international appeal that transcends racial, cultural, linguistic and geographical boundaries." With collaborations with The Fugees and Andrea Hatchett under his belt, Honey Magazine was right. Kulcha Don’s newest effort entitled It’s All About You is a Reggae fans dream. This album contains collaborations with the hottest Reggae stars, including Beenie Man, and keeps the beat up in every song. This artist, though an almost veteran in the music world is sure to blow up after the release of this album.
- www.thecelebritycafe.com


Real name: Reinford Gibbons
Age: 30
Hometown: Montserrat. (Now lives in the Bronx.)

On signing to Philly's Ruff Nation: "I'm their focus right now, so it's a good feeling. It's not like my other situation when I was on a label [RuffHouse/Columbia in 1997] but nobody was paying attention-the Fugees were the focus and I was in the distance."

"Drive You Crazy": Kulcha Don's "Drive You Crazy" featuring Beenie Man is currently getting radio play on mixtape shows across the country. The video was taped at a studio in South Jersey and will be on TV later this month.

On Philly reggae artist El Feco: "He's a featured artist on my album. I was very impressed with his writing skills. I think he's a talented dude."

On his roots: "I'm from Montserrat, which way back was mainly a soca town. I always had a natural thing for entertainment, and I was going back and forth to Jamaica-where my father's from-so I was heavily influenced by dancehall."

On becoming a more commercial artist: "Originally I was traveling with soundsystems doing hardcore dancehall. But that was just too local and unprofessional for me. That's not where I wanted to be."

On his favorite track from the album: "'Get Wit It'-I love that song. Performing live is my thing. I enjoy that way more than being in the studio, and 'Get Wit It' is one of those songs that brings out my real performance skills."

On his goals: "I want to be different in reggae music. I want to be a businessman in dancehall-like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy. Every reggae artist I know is about reggaeton and a tour and that's it. I'm about expanding reggae music-signing labels, signing groups. I spent the last 10 years really studying the music business. Right now I'm just focusing on my album to get it out and to be in the position to negotiate and do my own thing."

On fusing dancehall and reggaeton: "To me reggaeton is reggae. If you ask the guys who started reggaeton, they tell you they get it from dancehall. The basic beat is a dancehall beat. Shabba Ranks' 'Dem Bow'-that's the exact beat they took it from. So whenever I hear reggaeton I think of dancehall."

Coming soon: Kulcha Don's It's All About You will be released March 21.
- Philadelphia Weekly


Discography

"Its All About You" 2006

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

With a keen business acumen and passion for evolutionary Island music, Kulcha Don is making his path seem easy. Fusing sharp verbal aesthetics with an elevated ear toward mainstream culture, his blending of hip-hop, dancehall, reggaeton, and Caribbean roots music is turning heads and hips coast to coast. Fueled by the first single, “Drive You Crazy” featuring dancehall superstar Beenie Man, It’s All About You is poised to break this Bronx-based performer onto radio worldwide.

Born on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, famous for its larger-than-life volcanoes, Kulcha Don is fueling an explosive agenda of his own. It’s All About You is everything modern reggaeton music has been evolving into over the past few decades. Whether in the midst of the cut-up bounce of San Juan reggaeton or the stark cadence of New York City rap, Kulcha Don moves through these worlds like liquid, maneuvering through a host of styles while keeping true to a unique, original sound.

Since moving from the Caribbean to New York at age 18, Kulcha has been hard at work at interweaving cultures. “The Bronx showed me a whole new direction in terms of what hip-hop and dancehall could be,” he says. Already a consummate performer upon arrival, Kulcha’s hard work and perseverance quickly paid off. He began recording with C+C Music Factory around 1993, and a few years later released two independent records, the first featuring rap supergroup The Fugees. “That first record was never fully released,” he admits, “because of the politics at that moment. It just showed me how important it was to do my own thing and control my business.”

Inspired heavily by the sharp lyrical sword of Ninja Man, as well as the mainstream explosion of Shabba Ranks and Shaggy, Kulcha transformed himself from performer to businessman. “I began to study the mainstream and understand how the masses were thinking,” he says. “In order to reach large audiences, you have to be in touch with what people want to hear.”


The first single and video is a return of sorts for Kulcha. “I’ve known Beenie Man from long time,” he says. “We’ve been friends since way before the idea of working together came up. So it’s like full circle, getting to record with him.” “Drive You Crazy” is an upbeat hit in the making, led by a catchy guitar line, and of course, Beenie and Kulcha’s distinct vocals creating a destined sing-along classic. As Beenie says of Kulcha’s music, “It’s going to be a successful song and a successful album.”

The rest of It’s All About You is equally inspired. Sampling Del Shannon’s famous “Runaway,” Kulcha works a ‘50s smash into a light dancehall riddim, chopping up the memorable “I wo-wo-wo-wonder why she ran away” into his own troubadour quest on “I Wonder”. “Papi Duro” is straight up barrio Reggaeton with the Kulcha twist, while we find sound system dancehall all over “Nuff Gal” and “Tonight.” This fusion opens new vistas for the volcanic performer.

The proof of Kulcha Don’s musical integrity is told in his resume. His first professional recording with C+C Music Factory, a remix with Patra in 1995, led to his work with The Fugees on 1997’s Original Wuckman. Five years later he was joined by hip-hop masters M.O.P. and reggae goddess Nadine Sutherland on Blood Ina Me Eyes. With appearances by, Andy Boy & Jeny, El Feco, Monifa, Andrea Hachett, Chanj and, of course, Beenie Man, It’s All About You proves to be a communal affair.

“Dancehall is a very hardcore thing that’s limited to a small audience,” he says. “What we’re doing is expanding that audience by presenting it in a way that’s more readily available for large audiences.” Kulcha’s call to arms is inherent in his music. His aim is to expose the longtime classic sound of the Caribbean to global ears. It’s not a toning down but a tuning up. Part educator, part historian and all artist, Kulcha Don is riding an undeniable wave of culture and music. By the time it reaches shore, we can very well spot him leading the charge.