Ever since joining Major Lazer, Miami's Walshy Fire has been circling the globe, dropping bass, and transforming international party people into wild, explosive, and twerk-elated versions of themselves.
It's the logical progression for a Jamaican kid from Carol City who picked up on music at an early age and never let go. He started with parties, then came clubs, then came festivals, then came stadiums. Now harnessing a solid global fanbase, the financial wherewithal to invest in himself, and newly acquired business knowledge, he's launching his own label, Planet Raux.
Walshy Fire is currently manufacturing and distributing conscious reggae and Miami bass for release around the world. And in the meantime, he's hosting Vice's "Noisey Brazil," slamming speakers with the new Major Lazer album, Peace Is the Mission, and ascending from performer to executive. Here's what he has to say about Barry White's “King Kong,” his favorite tunes, and what to expect from Planet Raux' releases.
New Times: Wasup with your new music and label?
Walshy Fire: I've always been producing on my own, but I never put out anything officially under my name. I had to get all the publishing and all that correct, and now I'm ready to go. I've got everything right. I've got a whole catalog of music. And I'm gonna put out a new song every two months.
What are you releasing?
The first two singers are called Kelissa & Keznamdi. Their "Live for Today" is the first song I dropped that everybody saw. They're on tour with Chronixx right now.
Were they on that "Noisey Jamaica" series you did?
Yeah, that's them! I'm actually gonna be doing another Noisey. It's "Noisey Brazil." Dawg, they liked the Jamaica one so much, they were like, "Do you mind doing another one?" For me, I'm Jamaican, so that one made sense. But they liked how I did it, they looked at the comments, they said I did a good job. So, as of right now, I'm doing Brazil. I love it there. I love Brazil, and baile funk, and samba. So, for me, it's perfect.
And Miami shit. Old Miami bass is still, like, pop music in Brazil right now!
Yeah, it's crazy that Miami bass is still so huge there. All those 2 Live Crew and Uncle Luke samples. Breakbeat albums. If you're from Miami, you can't believe it. Me and Diplo went to a baile-funk party in the ghetto. It was just huge walls of speakers with loud-ass muthafuckin' bass music. And I was like, “Wow. We're so far from Miami, but it's like a tiny bridge.” From the language to the songs to the call-and-response, the same kick, the same 808, the same BPM. Just like Miami. It makes me feel like what we were doing here in the late '80s and '90s was actually bigger than we thought. We thought it was just a cool moment. But nah, you could go to Germany, Africa, and Miami bass is selling out stadiums. Huge. And home team doesn't give it the recognition.
Where are you going in Brazil?
It's gonna be São Paulo and Rio. They got a small list of MCs for “Noisey Brazil,” like Bin Laden. He's huge. I'm excited.
Your label's first release was pure reggae. Is that mainly what you're gonna be putting out?
I really love reggae, roots reggae. I really promote that. So I'm gonna do Planet Raux for Miami-ass music on one side, and under my name, I'm putting out reggae. Planet Raux may be doing some Major Lazer remixes too.
How'd that come about?
Planet Raux was a dream of mine from a jit. I really wanted to be part of that movement, but when it fled for New York and L.A., I realized I missed it. Later, Miami bass went from being the party to being a segment of the party. Like, a'ight, they definitely gonna play “Esa Morena.” And I remember that was the most fun part of the party. Like, why'd it get so jumping when they played “Scrub Da Ground”? I want to do more of that, so now I'm producing it and coming up with it.
There's a correlation between Miami bass and the roots of Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and reggae with all the big speakers and DJs and remixes and partying, and we have bands in Miami, like Inner Circle, who were part of that and have also been here a long time.
Inner Circle, you're talking Miami icons. They have done more for the local music scene than a lot of people give them props for. But overall, being Jamaican, growing up in Kingston before moving to Miami for high school, all these sound systems and the roots reggae have been a natural part of my life and the conscious message too. Now that I have kids, I wanna be able to promote that conscious love and peace and unity, and nothing does that more than reggae, so I love that. Then, when I got to Miami, I saw the bass side as I grew up in Carol City. I love it — the fun and the good energy. And the people love both of those energies too. I like hip-hop, and I like dancehall, but they're not my number one and number two, they're down the line. I stay true to what I grew up on. And what I really love will translate to people that fuck with me. I'm really passionate about bass and Miami.
You gotta remember, Miami is the mothafuckin' melting pot. You're not gonna have decades of Latinos and Haitians and Jamaicans all living on the same block and fuckin' with each other as friends, making music and laughing at each other's cultures, and not come out with dope shit that's got love for everybody. If you're from here, we love you. And that translates to what we're doing here in Miami. And there's so many different elements. Definitely has that Bahamian flavor in it. When I first heard that Goombay beat, it had me mesmerized. We used to go down to the Goombay Festival, like, “This is amazing!”
Then when I started buying records, I started noticing the songs that were the foundations for our music. They weren't from Miami, but we still love them. And most people here don't know the original songs or the people who made them, but when they hear them, they do! When you listen to Barry White's “King Kong,” you gonna automatically be like, “Holy shit!” And yeah, it's 12 minutes, but I guarantee you listen to it all. It's in you. It's like a key and certain songs unlock a spark inside you. Start a fire. And those songs like Celia Cruz, Barry White, and Octagon will make you feel it. Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra has a song that was sampled for “C'mon N' Ride It (The Train).” Uncle Al got “Santa Claus Comin'” on the same beat. So many songs on that “King Kong” beat.
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What are you up to right now, touring the globe?
Yeah, I'm touring. A lot of solo gigs. So so many. I ain't even gona lie. It's a blessing. I'm just a kid from Carol City who was never supposed to be in the world, representing all over the world. I look at where I'm from and all the people that didn't make it, and all the people with the small box mentatlity like, 'I'll never be past Kendall, past Perrine, or Goulds." They feel like they're stuck for life and never had a chance. They're locked up cause they thought there's nothing more out there. Then there's people that sold out and tried to not be from Miami, and tried to shed it like it's going to hold them back...the accent or the way they dress. But you gotta represent and be yourself even when you think you can't.
Any advice for the people out there who wanna do what you do?
Once you know you got the talent, keep going, it's going to pay off. It could take a while, but what's ten years if you really love what you're doing. You ain't gotta sell out or do something stupid. Just be you and stay focused.
Yeah, I really appreciate you all who follow me on Instagram! Check out the new Major Lazer album and look out for more coming quickly. This is gonna be the best year of my life!