Celebrating a decade since the release of his critically acclaimed debut ‘Man Like I’, British reggae icon Natty has now returned to the album, re-working some of its classic tracks and adding new material.
Having completed the original album in just two weeks, Natty says that he went back to the work after giving it time to breathe, and brought a new vision to the album 10 years on.
Entitled ‘Man Like I & I X’, the album is out today via Bob Marley’s legendary label Tuff Gong in Jamaica.
Recorded at Livingston Studios, Natty invited some close friends and inspirational artists to feature, including Seun Kuti, Benjamin Zephaniah, Maverick Sabre and El Fari & Ramzi from Palestinian band 47soul. The release also features ‘Jay Jay’, an old track which never made it onto the original album – a heartfelt plea for peace in his home city of London. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of the real lives behind the statistics.
We caught up with Natty to find out more about the new record.
How did it feel re-visiting your debut album after 10 years? In what ways do you think you’ve grown as an artist? It started off by fulfilling requests from people who wanted this, but I don’t believe these songs are mine – they are yours too. We had already started switching up the tunes for live shows, so to record them and get some amazing artists involved as well actually felt great and was a joy. As a man I have grown and this reflects in the music, also I have travelled more and so naturally this brings a bit more patience and varied influences.
How has that development translated on the album? The songs breathe a bit more, so naturally the re-worked songs are a bit longer. The new songs definitely have more of an African feeling towards them. I chose these songs because they sat in a similar upful vibrant feeling that my first album had.
What made you want to work with Benjamin Zephaniah? I love a lot about his work, probably too much to list, but he has never faltered or done any work that goes against his principles. This makes him a badman so I got him on that song. As a young Rasta he was very influential and a role model to me – plus he is a friend – so it only felt right to reach out to him.
Did you come to him with the idea to work on 'Badman' or was that a decision you arrived at together? As I mentioned before he is a man that stands his ground, and this whole song is also an ode to Rastafari. Him being one of the most global prominent figures it was an honour to get him. I wanted spoken word on it because the music is quite amped up. I like contrasts and balance. So it just fit.
Reggae has always had political messages, and also themes of love, unity and solidarity. With that in mind, how do you feel about the world right now? Are you optimistic about the future? I am a firm believer in the motto love conquers all. Even on a dreary Monday morning, life is a blessing, and to grab it with both hands is our duty. In terms of the entire world my mind is too small to comprehend all of it and I have travelled far enough to realise the western privilege that can sometimes border on arrogance when we have discussions about the state of the world today. The state of the world today would probably be in a much better place if a few men over in the west stopped thinking that this world belongs to or can be controlled by them.
In the years since Man Like I came out you’ve travelled a lot and been involved with charity work. How have those experiences shaped you as a person? Wow, I don’t know, one of the things I have learnt is not to dwell on my perception of self too long! Things become less important as well. Once upon a time my music meant the world to me and anyone who got in the way – fire blaze – just ask a couple A&Rs! But nowadays I’m definitely more chill and listen and observe more instead of filling whatever space with my thoughts or actions.
What’s your strongest memory from your travels, maybe a particular person you met along the way who made a strong impression? So many. One that springs to mind is meeting Credo Mutwa at his home in the desert lands of Natal. It was a very inspiring meeting where he told me certain things about myself that I didn’t know at the time, but have come to see as time passed. The trips to Japan and Sudan I will also never forget – they’re almost like another planet.
Where in the world would you like to go that you haven’t visited? Honestly my mind doesn’t work like that. I don’t wish for anything… I thought about this question and drew a blank. Maybe the rainforest in Gabon; I have been to the South American rainforest but to experience that in Africa and even to visit shaman there would be a blessing.
After you’ve completed your tour what do you plan to do next? I’m probably going to re-start my club nights in London. Then I’ve got shows in Europe to organise and a new album to record… it doesn’t stop and I give thanks for the work as I love what I do!
'Man Like I & I X' is out now and you can cop it from pledgemusic.com here. Natty embarks on a 22 date UK tour, starting in Milton Keynes on November 2. You can find out where to catch him at http://nattymusic.com.
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