STR8WYZ is a reggae group from Kingston Jamaica who was founded in early 2018 by British singer, songwriter, and producer Str8 up. This group has been recording with some of the greatest names in Reggae, including Sly & Robbie, Big Youth, and Scientist and call the world-famous Tuff Gong studios home. They’ve spent the last two years recording and releasing music that’s bound to get you in the reggaeton vibe you desire. STR8WYZ has a vast range of releases in this year of 2019 that impacts their impressive tracklist. Some records hold features yet still delivers the heat. Songs like “Liberty” “Natty Ras” and “Yu Wrong” showed us that STR8WYZ knows how to correlate their sound alongside another artist, and manage to still bring a finely-calibrated sound and trailblazing hit.
However, this group doesn’t need any feature to still stand out! The release of their single “Quiet Place” proves that they are hard-hitting hitmakers in their own league who can resonate their music well with an audience and reel in new fans. If you find yourself falling in love with Str8WYZ music the way we did this year, you might be wondering when they will drop the next sizzling hit right? Well, you heard it here first folks! STR8WYZ is, in fact, working on their debut album that’s bound to leave a memorable mark on the music industry by this dynamic group.
Listen to STR8WYZ here.
Welcome to BuzzMusic STR8WYZ! How has it been performing with one another as a group? How do you manage to blend in each other special characteristics into one unit?
Hi and give thanks for having us. The core of the group is me - Str8 Up and Wiser Dhon. Put the two names together and you get STR8WYZ. Anyway, the two of us have a very clear idea of the sound we want - funky, modern, urban reggae that never loses sight of its roots in the culture of Jamaica. So there isn’t too much conscious adapting to each other’s style - it’s kind of automatic because we’re so used to working with each other at this point. STR8WYZ is a unit. I guess you could say the sum is greater than the parts and each of us just plays our role to the best of our ability. In the beginning, there were some difficulties and clashes while we struggled to figure each other out but now the group feels like a well-oiled machine - just humming along you know? When you look at the broader group which includes Masta Blasta there is some blending going on but that’s just the normal process of working with other musicians in the studio or on stage. We do adapt and by adapting to Masta Blasta’s sound we’ve enlarged and enriched the sound of STR8WYZ. That’s, even more, the case when you consider how much we’ve recorded with Sly & Robbie. Of course, they’re not members of STR8WYZ but working wid dem has been the highlight of our musical career so far. The sheer depth of musical knowledge, expertise and flavor they bring to a recording is almost beyond words. They are the all-time greatest drum and bass players in reggae and they’re still going strong, still recording and performing. When they came on board we adapted to them, no question. They enlarged and enriched our sound and also enhanced our connection to the very roots of reggae as we know it. So Nuff respect to dem, de Riddim Twins as they’re known.
Let’s talk about your amazing music this year. You released tons of singles collaborating with different artists. How was the experience collaborating with these major names in the reggae industry? Did you find any aspect of it challenging and why?
It was the highest honor and blessing to work with the likes of Big Youth, Sly & Robbie and Scientist. The first was Big Youth and I can say him bredren. Really. I always listen for almost twenty years to his music and when I first met him at Small World Studios in downtown Kingston last year he know dat, him feel it man. We had a connection, no question about it. We recorded Girl Named Pat together wid him on lead vocal and de tune just connect! Big Youth is one of the legendary originals from reggae’s golden age in the early to mid-1970s and he told me stories like maybe Jacob Miller borrowed, shall we say, the melody and lyrics for Girl Named Pat from Big Youth back in the day. Just to be clear, the STR8WYZ tune Girl Named Pat is a cover of Jacob Miller’s song of the same name from the Augustus Pablo sessions in around 1976 and Big Youth’s saying, and I believe him, “you know me think Jacob get dat tune from me”. Anyway, you can see that when you’re recording and hanging with the greats you’re literally hanging out with living reggae history and you learn all sorts of crazy stuff. Another thing is seeing how Big Youth deal wid de recording session. He go outside de studio on Charles St, smoke one or two or three massive chalices and den come inside and lay down the vocals in one take!! No drop-ins, no edits, just BOOM!! Do it in one go. Just like in de 70s. That was an eye-opener. Incredibly impressive compared to so many of today’s musicians that just piece everything together in the studio but they don’t have the ability to just bust out an entire track with all the brilliance and nuance and artistry of someone like Big Youth. Today’s artists could and should learn from de generals like Big Youth otherwise how will they improve? As for being challenging, yes, just working with Big Youth was challenging in the sense that I didn’t want to let him down, you know, with the quality of our music or anything else. Of course, I was a bit nervous when I first met him at our first recording session but the mark of a true professional and star-like Big Youth is how relaxed they make you feel about the music and the session. You soon adapt! Music is about vibes and the great generals dem know how fi mek yu feel de vibes man! The same goes for Sly & Robbie and Scientist too. Of course, you HAFFI be on your toes when yu working wid dem! It necessarily brings out your own professionalism. So it’s a learning curve man and it’s quite steep but just pay attention and do your best and you will learn. For example when we were recording Natty Ras with Sly & Robbie and I was laying down guide vocals and guitar while Sly was playing along on the drums and doing a take, I had to put out of my mind the mind blowing idea that the legendary Sly Dunbar was accompanying me on drums and just focus on playing the song properly and getting all the changes in the right place. I really had to concentrate but eventually through that concentration and focus you get this relaxation and bliss that is the experience of real music-making. In the end, it’s a kind of communion and this feeling is especially strong in reggae when it’s done right. How did you want your single “Quiet Place” to translate to your listeners?
We wanted to take a reggae classic originally recorded by John Holt and then by Horace Andy, a pretty well-known track, and really give it something new and different. With Wiser Dhon doing his semi rap in the middle of the song we kind of mashed up the genre making it solidly urban and a bit hip-hop as well as clearly being reggae. I also wanted to have more adventurous production than is typically used in contemporary reggae. For example, the ADT effects used on the vocals - the double-tracking sound used a lot by the Beatles, especially John Lennon, was something that gave our version of this reggae classic a crossover appeal in my opinion.
What was your personal favorite element to “Quiet Place” and why?
Probably the horns. We got really lucky with the recording session at Tuff Gong. Here’s another example of ‘challenge’ and ‘learning curve’. I’m just gonna say it - I’m an experienced musician, I’ve been playing instruments since I was five years old. I studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, so I have a certain amount of music knowledge and ability. But I hadn’t directed a horn section before. On our earlier recordings with horns, like Girl Named Pat, etc, I’d only had to discuss what I wanted in a general sense with the legendary saxophonist Dean Fraser and then he told the trumpeter and trombonist what to play, and that worked out great. On Quiet Place there was no Dean Fraser - still it was an excellent horn section, but I had to direct them almost note for note, in real-time, right off the top of my head there in the session, and boy did I have to concentrate and not get lost and confused!! I had to keep track of three different instruments that by the way, all have different tunings. For example, the tenor sax is in the key of B while the piano, which I use to visualize notes, is fundamentally in the key of C, as well as being in 11 other keys. I stepped up to the plate and got it done and in the end, we got a fantastic horn track laid down with real soul and bite and riddim. It was a triumph. It’s still probably my favorite aspect of the track.
How would you describe the songwriting approach you took behind “Quiet Place”?
Since it’s a cover there wasn’t that much songwriting to do, just some arranging. Wiser Dhon basically freestyled his original section in one take so we nailed the backbone of the song in one session at Tuff Gong. In the next session, we added the backing vocals with Nicky Birt. As for the approach, I’d just say we had mad vibes to just add our version of this reggae classic to the canon and have people love it. As such our songwriting tool was the studio. We did everything in the studio - the world famous Tuff Gong. By the way me just haffi shout out here to our engineer, triple Grammy winning Roland McDermot (Damian Marley / Stephen Marley) - without him we couldn’t have done such a great version of Quiet Place, so nuff respect to Rolly! For most other tracks we work a lot on the material outside of the studio - mainly at Wiser’s place in the bush outside Port Antonio or at my place in Kingston, but for Quiet Place we just worked it all out right there in the studio. There was a freshness and excitement there that me just love.
We hear you’re working on your debut album! What can we expect from this project? Mind hinting some details to us?
Yes Iyah!! We’re going to include probably about five or six of the singles we released this year including Quiet Place and Liberty. We’re recording three brand new tracks for the album plus a Nyabingi chant intro wid all the STR8WYZ crew as well as, hopefully, Big Youth, if his schedule permits. That’s all we can reveal right now. There will be some other guest star appearances too!