We profiled dancehall producer Stephen “di genius” McGregor back in Issue 48 in our Beat Construction section, detailing his rise from son of Freddie to teenage riddim killer, and even projecting that his relationship with Sean Paul might launch him into the big time. SP is on McGregor’s new “Work Out” riddim, but it’s Assassin who really gets it with his “Money” version. Read the story after the jump and head over to McGregor’s MySpace to get the equally new “Overcome” before we put it up here and freak out some more over Mavado.
Download: Assassin, “Money” (Work Out Riddim)
Stephen McGregor’s unstoppably underage riddims
Stephen McGregor first caught the attention of bashment aficionados as the 15-year-old boy genius tapping out stuttery clap-and-kettle drum patterns behind the curtains of the “Red Bull and Guinness” riddim (produced in collaboration with, and officially credited to, veteran deejay Delly Ranx). Before long the “Red Bull” had given wings to Mavado’s “Weh Dem a Do,” propelling the singer into rotation on New York’s Hot 97 (not to mention the cover of this magazine) and soon non-bashment aficionados were paying attention too. In the two years since, the now almost-a-man-genius has built a riddim resume more suited to a studio vet twice his age. In fairness though, McGregor, the younger son of roots reggae legend Freddie McGregor, got a monster of a head start, literally growing up in the Big Ship studio his father built, picking up proficiency in five different instruments and taking his first turn behind the boards by the time he turned ten.
Besides a strong work ethic and natural ease at the controls, the junior McGregor’s productions so far have little in common with his father’s trademark lover’s rock, instead favoring a darker double-time sound more suited to gun tunes than sunny cultural jams. “Red Bull” was quickly followed by the “12 Gauge” riddim, a similar stutter-step rendered in rockish guitar and cold funk synths that could have been lifted from “Give It to Me” or any recent Timbaland production, but flipped into a straightforward, ’90s-style dancehall track—a perfect bed for Bounty Killer’s hit “Bullet, Bullet!” McGregor’s next riddim, “Power Cut,” spawned Mavado’s “Top Shotta Nah Miss,” one of the hardest songs on Gangsta For Life.
Yet a departure from his formula may end up defining McGregor in the long run. “Always on My Mind,” an acoustic composition for crooner Daville, was re-done as a collaboration with Sean Paul, and the platinum DJ’s “Watch Them Roll,” a trap-tempo, strip-joint take on a bashment track voiced on McGregor’s “Tremor” riddim, soon followed. The pairing is threatening to develop into a more solid relationship now that Sean Paul’s mentor Jeremy Harding has signed a management deal with McGregor—an unprecedented move for Jamaica, where producers are not rated as “talent” until they’ve made a name by bankrolling their own labels. Discussing these developments by phone from Kingston, McGregor sounds just as precocious as his resumé, reeling off assured platitudes like “Sean is an easy artist for me to work with because we have the same love for music.” But he’s quick to point out that his real strength lies in not growing up too fast. “I think I definitely have an upper hand when it comes to making ‘young music.’ I don’t have to guess what kinda vibes young people are into, cause I’m on a level with them.”
EDWIN ‘STATS’ HOUGHTON