Reggae musician, singer, songwriter
Jamaican-born reggae singer Ini Kamoze first gained international prominence in 1983 with his self-titled debut album, released on the Island label. He is best known, however, as the originator of the international smash hit "Here Comes the Hotstepper," which topped the Billboard pop charts in 1994, was featured on the soundtrack of a major Hollywood film, and landed on the top five charts in Britain. Although he later changed his appearance and experimented with different musical sounds, including the synthesized beats of dancehall-reggae and hip-hop, Kamoze remained committed to his early reggae roots and to a philosophy that included spreading a message of peace and love through music.
Ini Kamoze was born Cecil Campbell on October 9, 1957, in Port Maria, St. Mary, Jamaica. He made his first recordings in the early 1980s, cutting his first single, "World Affairs," in 1981. He gained a following in his native country, earning the nickname of "Voice of Jamaica." He was picked up by Sly And Robbie, a musical duo who led the Taxi label. With Sly And Robbie as producers, Kamoze released a 12-inch single called "Trouble You Trouble Me," on their label, and the cut was warmly received by fans. Although Kamoze was described at the time as six feet tall and willowy, with untangled hair, and very frail in appearance, he nevertheless burned up the stage with a ferocious stage presence, wowing fans and critics alike during his live performances.
After recording several singles and playing extensively in live shows in Jamaica, Kamoze cut his first full-length album. Ini Kamoze was produced by Sly And Robbie and released through Island Records. The album was well received internationally, but Kamoze began to lose cachet among his local fans, who were increasingly turning to the popular, feel-good, DJ-driven dancehall licks instead of the more traditional, message-heavy music favored by Kamoze.
Kamoze made a splash at the 1984 Jamaican Sun-splash festival, however, when he gave the DJs a run for their money with his stage presence. That year also saw the release of Kamoze's next album, Statement, which included "Call the Police," a track that was used in the soundtrack for the film Good To Go.
As a performer in the lineup of the 1985 Reggae Sunsplash, Kamoze made his British stage debut as part of an event produced by Sly And Robbie. There he shared the stage with such Jamaican dancehall luminaries as Gregory Isaacs and Sugar Minott. The British fans loved Kamoze's style, and when the tour moved on to the Continent, reggae fans in other parts of Europe responded equally well.
Pirate, which included tracks like "Betty Brown's Mother" and an anti-gun song titled "Gunshot," was Kamoze's next recorded effort. This album was not as well received as his earlier work, but Kamoze remained a strong presence on the international concert circuit. Taxi took him on the road on the Taxi Connection International Tour, putting him on stage alongside fellow reggae artists Yellowman, Half Pint, and the Taxi Gang. A highlight of the tour was a concert at London's Town & Country Club. The concert was taped, and subsequently formed the basis of the album The Taxi Connection Live in London. The tour itself was featured on a United Kingdom music show called The Tube.
Back home, Kamoze cut loose from the Taxi Gang in 1987 and began to work with the One Two Crew. This proved a fruitful collaboration, resulting in Kamoze's next album, Shocking Out. Kamoze also toured with the One Two Crew, who backed him up at such events as the Reggae Fall Fest, which played in the United States, and in solo concerts in New York and other cities. Music critic Jon Pareles, reviewing a Kamoze concert in 1988 in the New York Times, called Kamoze a standout reggae performer who "sings in a satin-smooth tenor that's unconcerned with gravity." Washington Post critic Ilona Wartofsky praised Kamoze's "irresistible" music after hearing a concert in the Washington D.C. area.
Kamoze then founded his own label, putting out a compilation album called Selekta Showcase, which featured a popular Kamoze single titled "Stress." Four years later he released his next album, 16 Vibes of Ini Kamoze, which sold well and helped Kamoze remain popular with reggae fans, who especially liked the hit single "Another Sound."
In 1994 Kamoze, then 37 years old, found himself with an international hit on his hands. "Here Comes the Hotstepper" was to become the singer's biggest hit single. This "infectious pop-dance hit," according to Tony Moton in the Omaha World Herald, was recorded with Philip "Fatis" Burrell, and was featured initially on a compilation of reggae music called Stir It Up, produced on the Epic label. It was not an entirely new composition, having its roots in the song "Land of 1000 Dances," which was first recorded by Chris Kenner in 1961 and reprised in 1963 by Fats Domino.
The song won widespread acclaim for Kamoze, especially after it was chosen by major Hollywood director Robert Altman for the soundtrack of Pret-A-Porter ("Ready to Wear"), Altman's film about the fashion industry. The soundtrack also featured the work of rock stars such as the Rolling Stones, pop star Janet Jackson, and many other well-known artists. "Here Comes the Hotstepper" rose to the top of the British charts in January of 1995, and earned Kamoze a nomination for the International Reggae Music Awards, held that year in New Orleans.
For the Record . . .
Born Cecil Campbell on October 9, 1957, in Port Maria, St. Mary, Jamaica.
Recorded first singles, early 1980s; released first album, Ini Kamoze, 1984; played in numerous reggae festivals internationally, 1980s; released Statement, 1984; released Pirate, 1984; made British stage debut at the Reggae Sunsplash festival, 1985; released Shocking Out, 1988; released 16 Vibes of Ini Kamoze, 1992; released international hit single, "The Hotstepper," 1994; released Here Comes the Hotstepper, 1995; released Lyrical Gangsta, 1995.
Addresses: Record company— Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 17th Fl., New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.elektra.com.
"Here Comes the Hotstepper" next showed up on record store shelves in 1995 on an album of the same name, featuring the production work of Salaam Remi. The album featured previously released work by Kamoze, along with his hit single. The song leapt to the top of the Billboard Hot Singles Chart, where it remained for two weeks. It remained on numerous other charts for close to four months. Kamoze parlayed the song into a music video, displaying a solid, well-muscled physique and long dreadlocks that looked quite different from the anemic appearance often commented on by critics during the 1980s.
The success of "Here Comes the Hotstepper" brought Kamoze a contract with Elektra Records. In keeping with his new image, Kamoze began to move away from his traditional Jamaican sound to embrace a more modern, hip-hop style. He showcased this new sound in concert tours in the Los Angeles area, and also in a new album, Lyrical Gangsta, released on Elektra's Asylum label in 1995.
Ini Kamoze, Island, 1984.
Pirate, Mango, 1984.
Statement, Mango, 1984.
Shocking Out, Ras, 1988.
(With others) Selekta Showcase, Selekta, 1989.
16 Vibes of Ini Kamoze, Sonic Sounds, 1992.
Here Comes the Hotstepper, Columbia, 1995.
Lyrical Gangsta, Elektra/Asylum, 1995.
Denver Post, January 9, 1995, p. E8.
New York Times, August 7, 1988, p. 52.
Omaha World Herald, April 30, 1995, p. 12, Entertainment.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), December 9, 1994, p. 20D.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 24, 1988, p. 5D.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), March 10, 1995, p. L7.
Washington Post, November 24, 1987, p. D7.
"Ini Kamoze," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 28, 2004).
"Ini Kamoze," The Iceberg, http://www.theiceberg.com/artist/3811/ini_kamoze.html (January 28, 2004).
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