“We need development and it’s a good thing, but take for instance in Brixton and other communities. It’s the people who’ve made the community a vibrant community, they’ve made the community famous, a place where people love to come to rave and all those kind of things and it’s become a colorful community. And it would be good if those people who made the community what it is reap some of the benefits from the building up of the community.”

Macka B, the UK deejay who’s respected for conscious mindset and lyrical skill alike, recently released the Gentrification EP. Addressing serious issues in his signature style, he’s also found viral success with two ongoing series: Medical Mondays and Wha Me Eat Wednesdays.

Current times, urban development, and healthy living – as well as lover’s rock plus Lover’s Rock – all get covered in this wide-ranging interview. Parts were also featured on the “Reggae Bloodlines” radio show with The Groove Thief on KGNU Community Radio, out of Boulder/Denver, Colorado, USA (March 10, 2021, with the 30-minute feature and interview starting at 27:50).

TGT: So what’s been going on for you in the last year, and how have you adjusted to the changes in touring realities – what positives are you seeing out of the current situation?

Macka B: Well, to be honest, I’m a person who always thinks positive, you know? In any situation you find a positive and a negative, so I tend to think positive and when you can do something about something, you do it. And if you can’t, you don’t worry about it, you just do what you have to do.

So, there’s no touring. As you know I used to tour a lot, for many years, for decades, it’s a different thing. But we give thanks that I have a nice family, good people around me, people who me love and respect and ting, you know. It’s kinda good vibes, even with all that’s going on, it’s a good environment for writing and reflecting.

So the past year, I’ve still been doing the writing. I give thanks that I have got a good social media process, the Medical Mondays, a lot of postings every week, and a couple of virtual performances as well. Even one with the live band, it went really nice and it was good to meet the band again and rehearse again, and get that little vibration. So, we give thanks for those small things and looking forward to when everything clear up and can go back on the road again.

TGT: I did want to ask about the title track, “Gentrification.” I’m here in Denver, Colorado, and that’s a very legitimate issue even in my own neighborhood. Obviously in the song, you’re focusing on gentrification in Brixton, and I think this really is a global issue. I did want to note you’ve got some excellent writing in the song, being very pointed and very poignant, but also rhyming eviction with dereliction.

What is the experience like with gentrification in Brixton, and perhaps the UK more largely, and how do you view this issue, since it is often a very challenging topic in that there are potential positives and there are potential negatives.

Macka B: Yeah, you’ll find the people on the so-called lower rung of the ladder, so to speak, the lower class of people, are the ones who feel the negatives you know?

It’s like, we need development and it’s a good thing, but take for instance in Brixton and other communities. It’s the people who’ve made the community a vibrant community, they’ve made the community famous, a place where people love to come to rave and all those kind of things and it’s become a colorful community. And it would be good if those people who made the community what it is reap some of the benefits from the building up of the community.

Cause most of the time, them are the ones who have to move out, them are the ones who can’t afford the rent, they’re the ones who they say ‘you’re house is derelict’ so you have to move away from your friends, sometimes your family, from your school, from your doctor. Sometimes it’s a big upheaval you know, so I don’t see why the councils and the landlords and all these, can’t just make it a better place for everybody, not just the new ones who are coming in.

You can’t have a society just thinking about money all the time, you have to think about the people. So, for all the positives and all the development, there’s a lot of people who’re nah gonna see the benefits of that development. Those are the people I want to see, those are the people I stand up for, the underprivileged, the voiceless.

Cause even in the UK, I have a politician who’s contacted me, and he said some people contacted him and they said, the council, that their houses are derelict and them have to move out far from the community. And they came to the politician, the MP, and they brought my song, “Gentrification,” and he listened to my song and he love it, and he’s going to use it in the campaign to try and get those to be relocated in the area, instead of having to move away from the area. So, it’s a great thing and it’s positive word song, you know?

TGT: I’m really glad to hear your outlook, and as a big fan I’m not surprised in the least that you’re finding the positives and focusing on those. To me as a listener and a selector, you’re always about the message. I’m curious, obviously you’re very passionate about healthy living, and are a big proponent of veganism, so when did you decide as an artist that food and health really needed to be a priority out of all of the social issues well worth exploring?

Macka B: When I started to deejay – I started to make music – I’ve been talking about food. From when I was 16, I stopped eating meat. From 16, I was looking at some meat and saying ‘this is not for me,’ you know? It used to be a living animal, and I wasn’t comfortable with it anymore.

So from then time the consciousness come in, from then time I find Rastafari. I tell people about ital food, and fruit and vegetables, for the longest time, so it’s from those times, and it’s very important. Without the right food, your health is gone, and a lot of the problems we have even in these times is because of the food. So the food is very important, it’s part of I and I livity, it’s part of I and I life.

Now I like to give a message: there was a time when I was going to too many funerals, me and my empress. A lot of people in I and I community were passing away, and a lot of them have pass away from things which can be reversed – just through food. So we can never underestimate how important food is. If you don’t eat no food – you gone! And if you don’t eat the right food, it’s a problem as well.

So all through my career, I’ve been doing some things about food, and when I did the tune “Wha Me Eat” in 2011, something like that, because long before that I was vegan.

So when I used to travel around the world promoters would get confused – they see me, a big man, 6-foot-3 and XX-Large, and then them say ‘you don’t eat this and you don’t eat this – what do you eat?’ So, I made the tune “Wha Me Eat,” all the things vegans can eat, so it get popular among the vegan world, and the vegan things start to develop, until we come to 2017, we do the social media, me a talk to the youth dem.

So we come together, try and help people with the food thing, with the health thing, and it compliments the music cause it’s a message the same way, you know? And it helps people, so we decide to come up with the Medical Mondays, telling people the benefits of fruits and vegetables. And it go well, you know?

And me say, let me do it in a Macka B style, a Macka B musical style. The marriage of the health and the music thing! Because when I first did it, I just talked, like I am talking with you now. But when me start doing it in a Macka B style, that’s when it take off and go viral, with the “Cucumba” and all those kind of things. The greatest thing is, the health thing is still Macka B. So you can’t differentiate. Them is one, them is both Macka B.

TGT: Yeah, I think you’ve really struck a chord with society in the broad sense here, people seem to really respond positively to this blend of unique specific information, in a Macka B style that makes it more friendly, accessible, and very enjoyable. You really have that right blend of education and entertainment.

This actually leads into a song you did with Solo Banton, on his latest album, with that same name “Edutainment.” What do you think about that term – is that a derogatory term that’s cheapening education, or is that really what we need here in 2021, where it’s something that’s enjoyable but it’s also going to give people knowledge and motivate them to make action?

Macka B: Well to be honest, this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say it might be derogatory, to us. It’s always been an uplifting thing, because it’s exactly what we do, we edify we try to educate in an entertaining manner. Sometimes it can break down the barriers you know?

We put a little humor in it sometime. Some people put a fence, put up a barrier, they don’t want your message if it’s too strong, but when you put it in a music, when you put it in a lyrical form with melody and rhyme, and it can get to them! Even a little bit of humor, just let them smile, you see their mouth corner curl up a little bit, and then you see the defenses coming down and it take you in the lyrics. But it still entertainment, cause you can dance to it, you know?

You find roots music, the message is deep and hard, ‘burn down Babylon’ and ting, and people can just dance to it – same way, you know? That’s the beauty of it, so it’s edutainment all the way. Education and entertainment, with a message we put across.

TGT: It’s nice to hear that you don’t see there being a negative side to that, and I do wonder more if it’s my American perspective here, with how that term is viewed. I personally view it as a positive [laughs]! Given that you and Solo B are, I think, like-minded artists, though of slightly different generations, do you think collaborate more in the future?

Macka B: Yeah we might collaborate more, he my bredren still. He don’t live too far from where I live, me bredren have a good vibes and he’s conscious, and the generation is not as far as you might think [slight laugh]….

TGT: What are your thoughts on the lovers rock genre then, given that’s a uniquely British sub-genre of reggae that really melds that r&b and soul tradition with reggae music, and obviously the recent Steve McQueen film series has really highlighted that era in the UK, and the film Lover’s Rock embodies that whole moment in time. Are you familiar with that film…

Macka B: We know the films, you know… good films. The Steve McQueen one is kinda a bit different, because if you’re there, you’re there, and some of the things in the film I don’t recall them, but that’s another story.

But I’ll say, the lover’s rock genre is a nice genre, when we were youths, as Ras coming up still, at a certain time in the dance, some lover’s and you get romantic with your empress and those kinda things, you know? Different from now, where it’s more explicit and things, it was more like a romantic kind of thing and lover’s rock have a place.

It’s not something you can listen to all day, cause sometimes you need the inspiration. But there is definitely a place, for the lover’s rock and, as you say, it’s a unique genre to the UK, and me big up the lover’s rock singers them out of the UK: Janet Kay, Carroll Thompson, John McLean, Sister Kofi, and Sandra Cross. Two of them are me bredren and sistren, and we did good amongst each other – so, it’s just one love.

TGT: Well said – I’m glad to hear your thoughts there, my take was that’s a fictionalized account, and a romanticized account – the film – how accurate is that? As someone who’s very far removed from the Black British experience in the 1970s that was highlighted in that film, is that sufficiently authentic? Especially if the film is serving as an introduction to that culture?

Macka B: Some parts of it were authentic, some of the tunes which were played. The only thing we have a problem with, and a lot of people did have a problem with it, is some of the scenes, especially with the Ras there.

When the Ras them was going on the floor and all those things – we don’t remember nothing like that, you know. Rastafari never do that – we jump around and we do a dance, we do the warrior dance, that look like people get mad and all of them kind of things. It wasn’t really like that unless I wasn’t in those kinda dances. I went to a lot of dances, I went to a lot of parties – remember that’s a party, it wasn’t a dance, and the parties wasn’t too much like that. So they kind of mix up some of the parties and some of the dance kind of thing. But, it’s all good still – people who see it, they can get a little insight into wha gwaan, and who was there, there, and they know, you know.

TGT: I do appreciate your thoughts on that, and no disrespect to Steve McQueen in the slightest, it’s a fantastic film and a fantastic series, but I do appreciate your clarifications about the times and events there.

Macka B: Honestly, we big up Steve McQueen, he’s a great film maker every time.

TGT: For sure! Really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to chat, and it’s been a pleasure on my side.

Macka B: Alright, blessed, give thanks.

More info:
Macka B YouTube
Macka B Facebook

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