IN THE BEGINNING
The year was 2005 and I had spent most of my days at the domestic terminal of the Lynden O Pindling International Airport (formerly Nassau International Airport), with a machine that was used to wrap luggage and cargo in plastic. I was also employed as a baggage handler for a local charter company. It was at the airport where I would find my passion for music. My father came to this conclusion that I was headed down the wrong path with some of my life's decisions and he decided to intervene, as any responsible father would. I never lived with my father and I probably don't keep in contact as often as I should. Regardless, somehow we've managed to maintain a close relationship to this day. He took me to Florida in 2002 and he bought this machine, which was probably one of the first of it's kind, from a cuban guy who had built it himself. Paps negotiated a ten year contract with the Nassau Airport Authority to have the machine stationed in the domestic terminal and conduct business. My father had handed me my first and very own business, he called it Safe and Secure Wrap. At the time though, all I saw was open opportunity for fast money at a port of entry.
I stayed at the airport for five years and become very familiar with airport personnel and store owners. One store in particular, "Mr. D's CD's" became a lunchtime hangout for myself, a cleaning guy by the name of David Hanna and a security guard whom I knew only as Kio. The store's owner, Nat Saunders, would always welcome us with a CD of hip hop instrumentals, which he would load into his player and we would cypher for one full hour until lunch break was complete. No food, no water, just..... BARS. Talk of this "lunch break cypher" began to spread through the airport until eventually, other airport personnel and even the occasional traveler would pop in, spit a few quick bars and head out. I remember two young men in particular, only by their street names. The first one I recall was nicknamed Zoe Star, and was employed at one of the local charter companies, Western Air. He was an underground rapper in Nassau, which was news to me because I didn't even know there was any type of platform for hip hop, much less underground rappers, in the Bahamas.
As far as Bahamian rappers were concerned, I was only familiar with the names "Muh Bui Dem" and "Funk Squad". Muh Bui Dem were in my opinion, the originators of the "Muddoe Flow", a style of rap incorporating the Bahamian dialect. They had recorded a single called "Ovaseas" that made it to the local airwaves. This was a huge accomplishment at the time because the radio stations were not playing songs by Bahamian rappers at all. In fact the term "Bahamian rapper" was almost non-existent. The Funk Squad was a group of rappers who I had seen open for DMX at a concert in Nassau. I didn't consider either of these groups underground and I figured they were the only groups representing hip hop in The Bahamas. Zoe Star proceeded to educated me about an underground rap scene in Nassau that I was completely unaware of. He then introduced me to the second young man, a reggae artist from Great Harbor Cay who was called "Scar", rightfully so because he had a long scar on his face. Both of these individuals had passed through the doors of Mr D's CD's and cyphered with myself, David and Kio. They were both impressed with the lyricism displayed and invited us to attend an even bigger cypher, at a place called Digiwave Recording Studios.
I was hesitant to accept the invitation at first, it took about a month or two before I made it out to this underground cypher. Not because of fear, more so because I thought it would have been a waste of time. It wasn't until a few weeks after the invitation, as I was driving my car one day, listening to the radio station as the host was promoting this new Bahamian rap artist. I'm hearing the radio host talking about "... this is the hottest rapper in The Bahamas.... D-Bo". I turn my radio up to take a detailed review of this new rapper. I could remember thinking to myself, "He's nice, but he ain't better than Muh Bey Dem. In fact, I could beat this cat rappin'!". I also thought to myself, "Bahamian rappers are getting radio play? This is good".
I ended up making arrangements with Zoe Star and Scar to attend the cypher after I was informed that it was really an audition for a chance to get your raps featured on the radio. I knew then that this was the beginning of something great.
IN COMES THE POET
Every Tuesday night, Digiwave Studios became a meeting place for underground rappers to showcase their skills, many of whom came with some very heavy street credentials, I felt right at home. Scar took me there for the first time, it was there where I was introduced to quite a few talented rappers. Ovadosa, Baigon, Krypto and Roman Redd just to name a few. Digiwave Studios was also the place where I first met the world renowned Bahamian artist Jamaal Rolle. Back then he went under the rap name "Anthrax" (and he was good). I can remember some nights there would be 40 plus rappers in the building looking to audition for a spot on the radio. The top radio station was and still is 100 Jamz. A radio host by the name of DJ Reality (one of the original members of the rap group Muh Bui Dem) had a show that would air every Saturday called the PHAT SATURDAY show. I should mention here that Reality was fighting long and hard for Bahamian rappers to get rotation on the radio. He had a small 5 minute segment called the Phat Saturday Cypher (which he still has today), where he would showcase the top performers of Tuesday night's audition at Digiwave. There were usually only about six or seven slots open, so if you were one of the 40 plus audition members on a Tuesday night, you knew you had to bring the heat.
It was my first night and I was ready. As I observed other rappers who walked in the recording booth before me, I felt as if I was better than most of them. Then Zoltan Johnson, the studio's owner and one of the top hip hop producers in the country, turns around and looks at me... "Who next.... you?" as he pointed at me. I went into the recording booth, did my thing, then me and Scar left. I don't even know if I made the audition that day, I didn't return to the studio until three weeks later. What I do know is that upon my return to Digiwave, I was greeted at the door by a gentleman I came to know as Rich " The X Factor". He looked at me as though he wasn't sure, trying to place the face. "Hey bro... what you name?", to which I replied "Poet". Rich nods his head in agreement, "Yea it's you, look here bro", inviting me inside the studio's control room. Rich called out to Zoltan, "Hey Z, this him right here, the poet" . To my surprise they were waiting for me to show up at the studio again, so I guess I can safely assume that I had made the first audition.
I began to make a name for myself at Digiwave as one of the better lyricists, on par with the likes of the Ovadosa and Baigon, who represented an underground rap organization called TEKK ( The East Koast Killas), an organization that I myself had represented considering I resided in the eastern district of Nassau. It seemed as though we were all on the Phat Saturday Cypher just about every weekend. I was educated on the history of Bahamian hip hop by these two gentlemen. They taught me about the Bahamian hip hop founders and personally introduced me to quite a few of them.
Digiwave holds an enormous amount of memories for me, it was the first place I remember seeing the popular Bahamian DJ, Selecta Chronic and the Legend himself, Papa ShadowFox, the greatest Bahamian rapper ever to hold a microphone. It was also at Digiwave where I first met DJ Reality, who would later tell me that if I had shown up before D-Bo, I would have been sure to land a record deal with Klapboard Records.
Klapboard Records was the record label D-Bo was signed to and the first Bahamian owned record label that I'd ever heard about. Reality was a part of Klapboards management team, along with Rich. I was introduced to D-Bo some time later at the studio, he was a humble, quiet guy, in my opinion, a bit different from the man you heard on the radio. I was asked to feature on a track called "Where I Come From" for D-Bo's album, "My Mother, My Money, My Music". I was also asked to join Klapboard records alongside D-Bo and another talented young rapper, now international producer, Dennis "Offshore" Brown. I was excited for both opportunities, and although I never signed any official paperwork, I was considered a Klapboard artist.
THE BLUE DOOR
Klapboard released and promoted D-Bo's first album and mixtape and it seemed as if things were headed in the right direction. Unfortunately there wasn't enough funds in their budget to promote another artist at the same time and things didn't seem to materialize the way they had anticipated with D-Bo. Although they did manage to land him some sort of deal with Slip N Slide Records, I think ultimately Klapboard had invested more than they had profited, which had left them in a predicament. Personally I was grateful for the opportunity to feature on D-Bo's album, it was good exposure for me. Thanks to DJ Reality and his Phat Saturday cyphers that would play on the radio, I had become a familiar voice over the airwaves, although a far cry from rotational spins.
Ovadosa took me to another studio called the Blue Door, the funny thing is, I passed this place almost everyday and had know idea it was recording studio. It was a two story building, the side of it faced the main road. It was all concrete on that side, no windows, just this one blue door that almost seemed out of place. At the time it was the recording home of the Bahamian reggae superstar Mdeez. I had crossed paths with MDeez during my high school days and on another occasion years later, at the DEU headquarters in Nassau. He and a local rapper known as Biggety were in custody on drug related charges and so was I (separate incidents). We met yet again at The Blue Door where I was introduced to the studio's owner, Ian "Biggie" Cleare, who was impressed with my ability as a rapper. The Blue Door eventually became my recording home and Biggie would be credited for producing my debut single, "Street Kredit". Street Kredit was my first song to feature on radio stations.
I was so excited at the thought of radio play at the time that I was totally oblivious to the business side. The only thing I wanted to do was make more music. Biggie and MDeez became my big brothers and mentors as I began to take music a lot more seriously. The reality though, is that we were outcasts in our own home. The most influential people in the local music industry wanted nothing to do with what was later termed "242 artists". They wouldn't even refer to us as Bahamian artists, saying that our music wasn't Bahamian, therefore they wouldn't support it. One of these influential people was in fact my father, Ronald Simms.
The Bloor Door became a family of talented musicians and artists, inside the walls of that building is where the musical revolution truly began. Anybody who was somebody among "242 artists" back then, had to enter the Blue Door at one point in their career, for whatever reason. Tada, Julien Believe, Sammi Star, Christian Massive, Big AC, Billy Steelz and Daddi Whites, just to name a few. In all honesty though, it wasn't until the arrival of Kenneth "Kemis" Moncur, a computer genius, and Rory Bowe, known by many as "Padrino", that the 242 artists truly began to stamp their footprint in Bahamian soil.
There are many names that can be credited for the birth of hip hop in The Bahamas, names like Charlie Brown, Reality, Papa Shadowbox, Mad Brad, Mystic Elite, Funk Squad and others. There are other names though, names that should be credited for breaking the airwaves and setting a standard, bridging the gap between the radio stations and the rappers. I'd like to think that my name is certainly among them :)
Kemis was a computer whiz kid who had moved back to the Bahamas from florida. Padrino was an awesome producer who had moved back from North Carolina. I met both of them at the Blue Door studio. I was introduced to Padrino by Daddi Whites, whom I had known from the streets (don't mind his color, he has his credits).
I can't remember exactly how Kemis and I met, but I'm glad we did, because of him you can read this, as I've acquired quite a few of his skills over the years. Kemis worked quickly, setting up Myspace accounts for myself, MDeez and a few others. Kemis was a graphic artist, he was a promoter, he was a hustler. He saw an avenue he could create for revenue while helping to promote Bahamian talent and he did. He was always thinking, he worked his way right into a programming position at a local radio station and eventually as a radio personality. He had begun to work closely with MDeez, through online promotions and live events.