‘Like a lot of other children what originally drew me to music was television. As a little youth I would watch Top Of The Pops and it looked fun you know. I wanted a slice of that game instantly; I was just drawn to performance naturally.

Every week after watching Top Of The Pops I would go to school and perform little versions of the current chart-toppers. These little versions would quickly become underground playground hits at school, other kids would steal my lyrics and go chat them around the place, soon the whole schoolyard would be jamming my lyrics. Ive always had a talent for rhyme and song, and as you can see this has been obvious to those around me from a young age. 

Its funny though, cause I grew up in Manchester in the UK, I went to primary and infant school there, years later I came back through the town to perform at a show and when we were at a friends place this child came through the living room singing this little song which I recognised as one of the songs I used to chat back in the playgrounds as a youth. I asked the child where he learnt it and he told me it was a playground song and all the kids knew it at his school, hahahhahaha.  

Man, myth and legend. Top Cat is known and revered across the globe as one of the finest Ragga vocalists the United Kingdom has ever produced. Originally cutting his teeth on the burgeoning English reggae sound system circuit of the eighties, Top Cat has traversed style after urban style of music since then, laying his voice over jungle, hip-hop, drum and bass, breaks, dancehall and more, always laying down his signature style and making hit after hit in the progress.

In 2004 I met Top Cat in Montreal and had the privilege of watching him perform with DJ General and Jah Prentol, then took part in a dubplate recording session with him the following day at Wikkid Records. In all aspects of his performance and conduct Top Cat was a true music professional and inspiration to all who interacted with him during that trip.

Fast forward three years and I’m on the phone to the UK calling Top Cat to interview him, the results are detailed above and below, read on.

At the moment I am promoting my new release with Tenor Fly, entitled ‘Two Veterans’, it is a collaborative album that mixes dancehall reggae music with jungle and drum and bass. We have taken old songs and remixed them, laid down a few new songs and brought on some established and unknown guest artists such as Ray Keith, Knowledge and Wisdom Crew and Kid Rid. Weve been busy promoting the release with various shows around the place and appearances on xtra1 and the like. 

Tenor Fly is working on his own solo album and I am building my next solo release ‘A Friend In Need’ which will mostly be dancehall reggae music.  

I love and listen to all forms of urban music, jungle, breakbeat, reggae, garage, dancehall, hip-hop, RnB.  I also make all of these forms of music and it is very difficult for me to pick any one style over another as I respect all styles for what they are and where they fit in. It’s the same with established and unknown musical artists. I respect and admire the established artist and wish nothing but the best for the up and comers out there in the game.  

If I was going to pick a style though, it would have to be Reggae, as Reggae is my foundation and the basis of where I come from musically. Reggae is my strongest influence. Artists like U-Roy, Brigadier Jerry, Josie Wales from Charlie Chaplin sound. These artists are original pioneers and the fathers of all of us who call ourselves rappers, mc’s, deejays. These were some of the first artists I listened to and saw perform live. These original deejay inspired me to really enter the business. I respect a lot of younger artist and lesser known artist as well, but there is too many to name really, especially after 19 years in the industry.  

For Top Cat, music is about expression of the mind and soul, whatever I am feeling in my mind and soul I put into words and express in a manner that allows other people can relate to my message, where I’m coming from and really feel the message. Sometimes I am serious, sometimes I am light hearted, but I always express that which is really inside me in my music.  

Like I said Ive been in the industry a long time and have been a lot of places, performed a lot of shows. I have done so many that have been so memorable in so many different ways.  

If I really have to pick a few though there are some I can mention as standouts. 1999 in Toronto with the full Congo Natty music. 2000 in Toronto at my solo show. 1993 in Bermuda and the 1996 Japansplash Tour, oh that was a few memorable shows that tour.  

We were running out of time, so to round things out I asked Top Cat to give a quick rundown of key events in his career as some final background for those of you reading who aren’t reggae geeks like myself.

I was taught to MC by my cousins in Jamaica in 1982, by 1984 I was based in the UK, regularly MCing on Sledgehammer Sound and regarded as the top local youth MC. In 1988 I recorded by first record Love Me Sess, which went to number one on the English reggae charts for 6 weeks in 1989. About 1991-92 I joined Fashion Records and recorded Gallist, Sess When Ya Want, Request The Style and outside project with Fashions engineer Gussy P called Push Up Unu Lighter.

I left Fashion in 1994 and established my own label Nine Lives and went straight into the charts with a song called Wine Up Ya Body, Tenor Fly voiced a hit on the same riddim and from June to December in 1994 we had songs in the charts at the number one spot, this was followed by numerous top 5s, number 1 hits, various releases. Jungle remixes, breaks remixes, recording and touring with Congo Natty, oh we had some big hits with Congo Natty.  

Funny Story, when I started Nine Lives there was a bootleg Jungle version of Push Up Unu Lighter floating around, you know what I did? I went and bootlegged the bootleg, released it on my label and took it straight to the top of the charts. Im probably one of the only artists in the UK to have ever done that!   Like I said, its been a long career and I could keep detailing things for a while if you wanted.  

At this point in the conversation my phone call with Top cat cut off. I tried to call him back but the phone lines werent having a bar of it and I figured it was about the right time to let go anyway and let the man get back to whatever he was doing before I called anyhow.

More info:
Top Cat Myspace

Martyn Pepperell