GET REAL: We need more Lil Ricks
THERE ARE TWO MOMENTS in the history of unapologetic Bajanness that stand out for me. One was seeing Rihanna accept her Grammy Award with her Bajan accent fully intact. I am accustomed to microphones transforming Barbadian accents into American, Jamaican or British. The other was not so recent. It was not so high profile. It was just as powerful. Lil Rick is the ultimate Bajan warrior.
The war started at the stage show Battle Of The Sexes, promoted by Spektakula promotions in 2002. Lil Rick was the biggest artiste that year with his Road March hit Hypa Dawg. While on stage the Igrunt Chihuahua called out his female opponents by name, including soca royalty, Denyse Plummer. He threatened to mash up their bumpers with “dog-juks”.
Ms Plummer, being of an older generation, and probably not accustomed to the brashness of the Bajan bashment, was disgusted by the suggestion. Think of a senior citizen tourist caught in the Roberts Band on Kadooment Day. She was quoted in the Trinidadian media, saying, “I will take a stand and make sure Lil Rick does not get anything here. I am also going to be looking at the radio stations, too. I am waiting with bated breath to see how much work Lil Rick finds here in Trinidad for Carnival 2003.”
Now I am not saying that Lil Rick was right. Denyse Plummer is an elder with different sensibilities. That’s like saying you want to wuk up on Sister Marshall. You don’t do that. She ain one uh you school friends. However, that is no reason to try to destroy a man’s career.
Lil Rick seemed genuinely shocked and confused by the hullabaloo. But this is a man who had already been making a decent living in entertainment in Barbados, without a US visa. His response to the controversy was classic. “Wuh I ain bounds tuh perform in Trinidad. I cuh stop bout hey an perform. I’s a Bajan Superstar!” Not exactly diplomatic, but I was impressed. Never in my life had I heard any politician or public figure make such a raw, straight up affirmation of Barbados and Barbadianness.
And that is why Lil Rick has had the success he has had. Guh Down, at one point was one of the few Barbadian songs you would hear on any radio station in Jamaica. Aside from the fact that he is extremely talented, charismatic and hardworking, “De man like he self” and he respects the culture he comes from. He is rooted and we feel it.
If I had to vote for an addition to the national heroes’ list, I would seriously consider voting for Lil Rick. And I am only half joking about that. If not for Lil Rick, would Barbados still have a distinct cultural identity?
Before the advent of the Guinness Rush Hour you had to search good to find a Barbadian accent on the radio, much less Bajan dialect. Nowadays most radio announcers are bilingual; displaying proficiency in Standard English and Bajan. That is Lil Rick’s doing, and the marketing genius who decided to put him on the radio.
Though he was already the most popular DJ in the fete, he was as uninvited on mainstream radio as he was on Ms Plummer’s backside. Once he made it on, Barbados would never be the same Lil Rick paved the way for a number of radio personalities who would never have been foreign sounding enough to make it on to radio before.
We are a people fat from feeding on foreign fast food media and arts, yet malnourished by the lack of nutrients from our own cultural farms. For years Lil Rick has been feeding us what we crave; reflections of ourselves. The Chihuahua Businessman is a model entrepreneur for other businessmen. He understood his market. He created a unique and well differentiated product. We bought it. Not only because it was quality, but because such an unapologetically Bajan product had become so rare.
A lack of confidence in ourselves often makes us afraid to put our money, time and energy where our heart is. Our hearts are also pulled away from us by the strong seduction of bright lights, glitz and glamour from abroad. It is amazing how quickly it jumps and sits back squarely in our chests when someone gives us a glimpse of our reflection. We suddenly remember, “We are beautiful as we are.”
Rick was part of another movement that had the potential to transform the way Bajans saw themselves. He, along with Peter Ram, Ranking Ricky, Ninja Man, Kid Site and others, were pushing out a uniquely Bajan vocal style. We, as people starved of our own image, gorged on Bajan dub . . . for a while. It just kind of died out. Financial backing which is so often the key to moving to the next level, was lacking. Corporate Barbados and Government could not see the worth in what was a spontaneous expression of indigenous talent, patriotism and youth. We complain of foreign influence but neglect to nurture local influencers.
It is a testimony to the talent, drive, and tenacity of artistes like Lil Rick, Peter Ram and Kid Site, that they were able to successfully infiltrate the calypso and soca arena. But something was lost. Bajanness already had a foothold there. Dub and dancehall was a new frontier. That music has a different energy and appeal. The spark was reignited recently by Crimeson and a new brigade of Bajan dub artists. We will see if we make the same mistakes again: allowing an indigenous, vibrant, youth movement to fade.
Lil Rick and Peter Ram have gone on to become go-to faces and voices of marketing. It took too long. If we had a bigger view of ourselves we would easily see these unapologetically Bajan artists as giants. It can’t be easy being unapologetically Bajan in a world where so few are.
We need more Lil Rick’s; in business, government and in general.
Adrian Green is a Bajan communications specialist. Email: [email protected]