After more than two decades in dancehall, Marlon Williams aka Bling Dawg is set to unleash his debut LP Elev8. The years have been far from idle or uneventful for the Ain’t Scared deejay, however.
Very few can boast of a career spanning the full gamut of Jamaican music — dance floor grooves from Aji Bounce to Zip It Up to the faith-based God Is Amazing. Currently, under the management of Creative Titans (Walshy Fire, Izy Beats), Bling Dawg now has a team to match his tenacity and is all set for a Stress Free, if overdue album drop.
“When you find people that appreciate you and believe in what you’re doing, it’s a plus,” he told DancehallMag. “I’m just taking my time to be me and bring my creative energy to Creative Titans.”
The album’s first single, Yo!, has so far landed on Spotify’s Reggae Nation playlist and is Top 3 on Sweden’s Reggae Chart. He’s also gearing up to release another single by November, as well as a documentary giving fans a glimpse of the four years it took to assemble his first major record.
Though he was mum on the release date, Bling Dawg affirmed the project is as inspired as it is ambitious. “Music is a spiritual thing and music is jealous, yuh haffi spend time with music. Even when you don’t hear no songs, I’ve always been working. We have the material, album mastered, everything. You’re not gonna be bored till the release date after this,” he assured fans.
DancehallMag spoke with Bling Dawg about elevating musically, mentally, and much more below.
Your latest single Yo!, is a dub-drenched track about mental, physical and spiritual resilience. Was the release deliberate with all that’s going on worldwide? Why release Yo! now?
Well, Yo was created even before the pandemic cause I’ve been working on this album for almost four years. Even if the pandemic never come up, fans were gonna get this type of vibe regardless. I just do music that can live on, no matter what you can relate. That’s what that vibes is about.
You’ve mentioned before that you gained plenty of insight and inspiration from working on two tracks with Damian Marley. What’s the most important lesson you learned in the short span?
Boy, I learn a lot! From me working with Damian in the studio and with all these great musicians that came by and worked, I look at music different after that. Right now I’m just trying to learn to play an instrument as well, because that can carry you a far way. It’s more than just finding a song, going in the studio and recording. When that’s up, what you gonna do next? So I just look at music different from the experience working with them, with the Marleys. Always growing, always transition.
As an industry veteran with hits ranging from dance floor grooves to gospel-tinged tracks, what tips can you give younger artists to avoid falling into hype/ gimmicks?
Well, it’s kinda hard because most artists when they enter the industry, that’s all that surrounds them. The best time of an artist’s career is when they first come on the scene and everybody gravitates towards he or she, but when the smoke clears it comes down to your talent, the perception of your work and how you can evolve from one stage to the next. Some people find that out early, for some people it takes time.
You came up in the late 90’s in dancehall’s crew era — Shocking Vibes, Scare Dem, Monster Shack etc — and were part of dancehall’s last notorious syndicate, the Alliance. In your opinion, is modern dancehall better or worse off without such groups?
Well, I can’t say that, because it’s a generational gap. We learn offa Terror Fabulous, Buju Banton dem and nuff more people. The culture has evolved with these youths so they probably picture dancehall pon a different level. I wish if they can get the authenticity and leave it on that level and then advance on what they know. But sometimes they get carried away wid suppm and forget the culture, but the culture, nuh care what, that’s what’s gonna stay forever. The wider world, that’s what they want.
Yeah. Dancehall will always get the credit. Sometimes it’s not on the wider scale, but deep down and behind the scenes, yes it does. We just have to continue doing it and give thanks. Is a music where, trust me, it always in people bones all over the world. And I’m glad I’m a part of suppm that globally, people can relate and appreciate.
Elev8 is a simple title Elev8, but it seems like there’s a lot behind it. Can you tell us the meaning behind the album name?
Well it’s because the other day I took a hiatus for over three years and said I was gonna reinvent my whole sound, image and music. It’s all growth, so is really a new me ‘elevate’ from then until now. Yuh not gonna hear nothing that you used to from Bling Dawg. Positive vibration from now on, so that’s why it name Elev8, because how I used to think before is not how I’m thinking now. If yuh feel like I was a good artist before, I’m much better. If yuh feel like I was a bad performer before, I’m much better. It’s just growth and time and I’m confident in what I’m doing.
What kind of music is Bling Dawg inspired by?
Me inspired by every kind of music. Mi listen to one drop, mi listen to reggae and I like hip hop, that’s what I grew up on. Mi like the lyrical dexterity and the lyrical content, composition, beats, all different kinda stuff. So if you put me inna a studio and feel like seh ah only dancehall or reggae alone, no.
If you were stuck on an island and could only listen to 5 songs from any genre, what would they be?
That hard doh! Let me be honest with you, number one woulda be a Jr. Gong song weh name Gunman World. I love that song, I listen to that song regular. Then yuh have I Am, I Said by Mikey Spice, ah bad song dat.
From hip hop, it would be Lose Yourself by Eminem. Is a determination song, the argument inna dat, it well construct, the composition is awesome. Then Bob Marley, One Love. And I had a Dennis Brown enuh. I don’t remember the Dennis Brown song per se but the song bad bad bad. Is so much songs, trust me!
Elev8 is very much a feature-rich project – Tanya Stephens, Popcaan, Romain Virgo, the works. If you could speak one collaboration into existence, who/what would it be?
Oh man, that would be Rihanna and Rick Ross. Any one ah dem. Rick Ross dexterity and how him deliver his voice is awesome and Rihanna have that swag. One thing wid those two artists, yuh cyaan put dem in a box. They can come wid all different topics and yuh still feel it same way. Yuh have whole heap more artist I’d like to collab wid but sometimes my picking of artists is not weh the masses rushing for, just suppm I see special in the artist. You even have a rapper that passed away, Rest In Peace Mo3, bad bad bad artist, but everybody probably don’t know him like dat.
Looking back at your career, your hiatus, even your fitness journey, is there any advice you would give to your younger self?
Well, I don’t have much enuh, cause Bling Dawg always have him head screw on pon him body (laughs). In terms of like a younger artist coming up, dem haffi just tek dem time and know wat dem want, nothing lasts forever. It’s a journey, try just pick the right music more than follow di hype because di hype ah go fade away but good music always live on. Mek sure you have your family structure, nuh mek nobody bodda rush you and tell yuh seh go get 20 youth. One thing with a family structure, it keep you in line, where yuh cyaan too get outta line and embarrass yuh team or yuh people. Nothing comes easy, just believe in yourself.
What do you want listeners to take away from Elev8?
Nuff tings dem can take away from Elev8. Just listen to my lyrical content. It’s not the regular thing you hear in music, the choice of words is different. Ah nuff meditation mi put inna it, nuff work, nuff sacrifice. I’m just excited for the masses to hear it. It’s not because it’s my album, honestly speaking, every song pon it ah fire. I took a break and I’m back with suppm refreshing, it’s not like I come wid di same vibes so dem ah go see di maturity and spiritually inna it.
Watch Bling Dawg’s latest music video, Yo!, above.