Jamaica’s musical history runs deep. It is constantly evolving, shifting in speed, and redefining in sound. Since the 1960’s and the inception of Ska and Rock Steady, the DJ has held a strong hand on the island. With the power to define and spawn new genre’s the DJ with the largest sound system was king. Over time the term sound has been redefined, whittled down, and focused. A large sound no longer just means size. The speakers still rattle and the people still dance, but new sounds are tools carefully tailored for contest, empowered with the power to create or destroy. These new sounds compete for size, the Federation Sound is one of the largest in the world. DJ Kenny Meez founding member of Federation has his hands on the volume with a grin on his face.
-THE BAG MESSENGER
THE BAG MESSENGER: How did you get into DJ culture? When did you get into shopping for records?
KENNY MEEZ: I used to work at armands records on 11th and Filbert here in Philly, and also after the move to chestnut st. Early before working at a record store I would also come into the city on the weekends to shop. We hit Armands, Sound of market (RIP RANDY FLASH) and Funk-O-Mart. I got into DJ culture early on. I would make remixes (what youngsters call mash ups now), press them on wax, and sell them across the country and around the world. I released my first 12 inch in 1995 and then a slew of 7 inches and 12 inches from there.
THE BAG MESSENGER: When did you first get involved with playing Reggae records? Who got you into this? What was life like for you before Reggae?
KENNY MEEZ: I first got involved with reggae after hearing this Beenie Man record called “Stop Live In The Past” (was renamed Memories for the U.S. release). I heard Cosmo Baker play it this one night in NYC and the next day I went out and bought the 12inch. Before reggae I was a Hip Hop djing playing that and R&B (for the ladies).
THE BAG MESSENGER: How did the Federation come about? Can you explain what it is?
KENNY MEEZ: Federation is an American and Jamaica Sound System that was started by Max Glazer and Cypher Sounds and myself. Federation is now Max Glazer, Kenny Meez (me) and Disco D (R.I.P.) in America and Alric & Boyd in Jamaica. A sound system these days is a group of dj’s who come together under one name to promote music. The biggest part of what makes up a sound system is cutting dubplates. We get a custom recording of a song where the artist bigs up our crew (most of my dubs say federation sound and big up all the dj’s in our crew). We have hundreds of these. Most Sound Systems pay upwards of 1,000 us dollars for one song, so you can imagine the investment that is made in just getting started.
THE BAG MESSENGER: What was your first trip to Jamaica like? Any specific memories?
KENNY MEEZ: If your into Jamaican music I would say going to Jamaica is similar what a Muslim does when they make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Its just something you have to do. Often it becomes a regular trip either once a year, or sometimes once a month. I love Jamaica and could tell stories for days! Lets just say my first trip involved voicing dubs with Elephant Man.
THE BAG MESSENGER: How has it been getting involved so deeply in Reggae culture without having direct ties to the island? We’re people always accepting?
KENNY MEEZ: In the beginning I used to question it. Not long into my career I began to grow with the culture, and really felt connected to the place. Eventually I was accepted as a Jamaican and no one really questioned me.
THE BAG MESSENGER: What’s up with Sound Clash? Can you describe how the event goes down?
KENNY MEEZ: Sound Clash is a battle between two or more sound systems. They battle for who has the best dubplates, who can counter act the opposing sounds dubplates, and in many cases they cut dubplates with custom lyrics dissing the opposing sounds. These dubs may only play the night the clash is going on. It’s a big deal.
THE BAG MESSENGER: What’s the clashing scene like? Who are some of your favorite artists to work with?
KENNY MEEZ: AGGRESSIVE! I like working with Chino, Laden, Stephen Mcgregor, Freddie Mcgregor, Big Ship Records, Aidonia, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel and El Feco
THE BAG MESSENGER: When did you first start getting dubplates? How does that process work?
KENNY MEEZ: We started voicing dubs from the start of Federation Sound. Our first artist was capleton. In those days you went into the studio worked out the business with artist (the money), then cut the dub to a dat tape. Usually we split with the instrumental on one track, and vocals on the other track. From there we mix it down and cut the dub to a acetate plate to spin it out.
THE BAG MESSENGER: Who’s really doing it at Sound Clash? What has been big in the past? Who’s hot in dancehall right now?
KENNY MEEZ: Their are always new sounds coming up. Some of the best are King Addias, Bass Odessy, Black Kat, Mighty Crown, Stone Love. I would say Vybz Kartel is hot in the dancehall right now
THE BAG MESSENGER: You travel a lot, whats the key to packing?
KENNY MEEZ: For me its always about simplicity. One bag for clothes etc. and one bag for my computer/mobile studio.
The Keo Project is currently bootstrapping on Indiegogo where, as of this writing, you can get a painting, a black book piece, or have a chat with the man over a vegan meal in Brooklyn (schedule permitting). Go support over here.