Oct 14, 2008

Tifa, Timberlee and Natalie Storm Reveals All to The Fader

How did you all link up with Ward, was the “Dem Gal Sittin” riddim the first thing?
Tifa: Ward an’ me dates back to 2005. When I decided I wanted to be an artist my cousin was like “You know Suku from Ward 21?” I met him in a gas station and play the CD for him, tracks I had recorded from Danny Champlain’s camp. He was like “Yuh know yuh bad. Me a work wid you…” Cause there’s not many females that can write, sing deejay, do their own back up tracks an harmonies. It was 2 years from that meeting til “Dem Gal Sittin.” In between I had “Kitty Police” a single on TJ records through the same link. That was a riddim Suku and Kunley built for other people. Then “Dem Gal” came along and I did “Crawny Gal.”

Timberlee: I met Rumblood first. I was in a recording studio in 2002, doing my 1st recording for Don Corleone on the Trifecta riddim—“Independent Gyal” (aka “Prada and Gucci”) and some other recordings. Rumblood introduce me to Kunley and Suku. I was actually trying to write a song for VJ Liquid on the “French Vanilla” riddim at Vendettas, and I didn’t know who Kunley was…I looked at him and said, You boy! Help me write this song and he was like “Uh, I have to go to a football match.” I said, No football for you today! You have to help me wrote the song ca’ me nuh know wha me a do…and he stayed and this is how I met Kunley. The rest is history; “Bubble Like Soup”; Kunley wrote that song, gave it to me.

Natalie Storm: My thing started out with Computer Paul (Hancock). I started linkin with (my manager) Dylan and ended up working with Swatch International (soundsystem). I had a minor hit with a thing called “Talk de Ting” which became kind of a slang in dancehall. Eventually I met up with Tifa. At the time I was workin wit Sexy Dex (Dexter Pottinger) who was also her stylist. He asked me to come make a cameo in her video—this was last year, 2007—the same time Ward was working on the “Dem Gal Sittin” project. I voiced a song for it; “Anuh My Fault.” They liked it and they just adopt me. I’m the oldest but I’m the baby. We met each other and just instantly click.

Timi: I was at school and whenever I talked to Tifa she was always “Oh Storm…Storm, Storm…” an I like, Who is Storm!?” (in Tifa’s voice): “Oh you gwine like her…”

Tifa: This jealous one…

Nats: I was like OMG this is my home! These are my people…as you can see I’m mad.

Timi: we’re all mad, but Tifa is crazy like, you’ll be having a conversation and she’ll just break into singing “West Side Story.”

Nats: I’m more silently crazy.

Timi: But “Dem Gal” is what brought all the female artists together cause we never had to spend so much time promoting it! Tifa did most of the work but like, as the females together, it’s the first time that the female artists in Jamaica have ever been so united.

Tifa: I was grateful for the fac’ that when Ward went on tour I was left in charge, so I had no choice but to be out there. I have difference with this person, that person, but at the end of the day we want women to shine. We wore that t-shirt dem, that shocking color green at every event every photo opp, everywhere. We didn’t sleep, we just like rave didn’t do anything at all but promote--put on the shirts an went to all of the functions Passa Passa whateva; interviews TV shows…can I tell you we had ONE shirt?

Nats: We had to wear it for interview then wash it in the day and wear it in the night, like 4 o’clock wash it again…

Timi: Tifa tell me you haffi wash shirt ca make up deh pon your collar

Tifa: We had so many jokes about those shirts—they tell me my shirt have 2 colors; pink an green (because of the watermarks revealed by the black light in the club)

How did Ward’s all-gal riddim concept come about? Were any of you there for that conversation? Tifa: I was. It actually started with me, Suku did the riddim and put his voice in it "Gwan gal / Gwan gal." He voice a male on it, I think it was Lexxus I’m not sure, but after the song that I gave him me he say “me nuh wan no more man pon the riddim,” from that it was an all girl thing.

Who recruited Lady G and all the other female deejays on the riddim?

Tifa: It wasn’t really hard, everybody love Ward, a LOT of riddims out there, like I would say 95% of them, they either built or edited or engineered…

Timi: Or play some phrase in it or have something to do with it.

Tifa: Too many men bother Suku; “Wan’ be on the riddim, put us on the riddim.”

Timi: Him say “No, no man nuh deh pon it.”

Timi: We knew each other before “Dem Gal” but we just became a stronger unit during that whole process cause it was so taxing.

Nats: We just kinda lived in Timberlee’s car.

Tifa: It’s weird but with us, it was just like love at first sight.

Tifa: We’re all such free spirits, we just unnastand each other, we love the same music, hang out in one another room…

Timi: If I’m writin a song Tifa or Nats will just jump in like, “Aright put in this…reh reh reh.”

Do you all work exclusively with Ward? Nats: I work with Swatch and Ward and other people…

Timi: We recently recorded for Big Ship, as a collaboration under the name TNT. We also voice for Jam2, we have been branching out—Kunley came up with Badda Badda, (from Ward 21’s Badda Badda riddim ca. 1999). The unit became so tight people refer to the three of us as Badda Badda Gang, Oh those Badda Badda Gals. Badda Badda Gang is actually all of us…Ward 21, Iggy, a lot of us. But people keep asking us are you guys a group? And we have to explain we are all under one umbrella—like the Alliance? Like dat.

Tifa: I did an interview for the Gleaner and they wanted me to link up with Timberlee, the reporter said “I hear you guys roll together, I want to put you all together” so I call dem and we all did it. So that’s where TNT comes from: Timberlee, Natalie, Tifa.

Since you brought up horoscopes earlier, what are your signs? Tifa: Sagitarrius

Timi: Gemini

Natalie: Aquarius. Before I met Tifa I thought I was serious about horoscope, but she beat all!

Timi: She have a dream book…! if ever I have a dream I just wake up and call her and she say what it mean, she’ll be like “Water? Dirty or clean? Ocean or river or what?”

(The conversation veers off onto how crazy Tifa is, including an anecdote about the time she jumped out of the car to attack a squeegee man who was attempting to wash the windshield. An argument ensues over whether or not she threw a coconut water at him until she realizes she is remembering ANOTHER time she attacked a squeegee man.)

So do you still maintain that DIY grind, like when you were promoting the “Dem Gal” project? Timi: Yes. Through Myspace people come direct to us for dubs and stuff. I think that’s a good thing because that way we’re completely familiar with the process, rather than depending on somebody else. We’re completely capable of fending fi ourselves, worst case scenario.

Tifa: We had a publicist and she would be like “why are you doin that for? I’m your publicist.” She was useless she want to get paid and don’t do nothing.

Nats: For the record she wasn’t my publicist.

Timi: Me nearly kick her out of the car.

Tifa: And she try to turn her camp against us! Horrible girl.

Timi: She try an call me an manipulate the situation. Me ago kill her.

Nats: You wouldn’t kill her.

Timi: I’m perfectly capable of stabbing her to death.

Do you get much feedback about the sex and raunchiness in your lyrics? Timi: People say we shallow, that we don’t say nothing uplifting…

Nats: That we’re just tracin girls, goin dancehall and wine up wine up…but people don’t understand that this is dancehall, it have to work in the dancehall.

Timi: We also get a lot that we’re too nice looking to be so raunchy or to be so crass.

What kind of artists are you influenced by? Timi: Lady Saw, Patra—she is really underrated, they don’t give her the props… Kartel, Eek A Mouse, Ninjaman--let me tell you why I respeck him. Dat man can walk out onto a stage and don’t say nothing…the place lick up! What do you have to do to get that?

Tifa: Mary J.

Nats: I used to be part of a group that sang soulful, nice songs and that just wasn’t me. If suckya mudda me whan say, we nuh want nobody to limit me… Uffie, Peaches, Grace Jones, Madonna, a lot of electro.

Timi: We’re into a lot of different stuff. Like when we did the thing for Stephen McGregor, he was one producer we haven’t voice for yet. He had a riddim for us but him like, “Yeah but the riddim dark.” So? Don’t put us in a box…

About this time the supermarket where the sushi restaurant we’re sitting is located starts to close up. Natalie calls out: “Don’t lock us up in here, please!” and we relocate to Jammy’s studio in Waterhouse to conclude the interview. Once situated on a sofa in the Jammy’s office, the girls take turns passing the microcassette recording and giving their bios, favorite colors etc.

Timi: I am from Mandeville, Manchester, which is not in Kingston but is considered uptown because it’s a well to do area. I used to ride horses and represent Jamaica in dressage, I went to private school. I went to public school one year and learned to curse all my bad words, my parents got scared and sent me back to private. They are still dealing with the fact that I am doing dancehall as a career. You know when I came back to Jamaica (from college in Canada) to record, you know what my mother said to me? “Don’t feel bad Timmi, not everybody meant to go to school.” I said, Lady, yuh couldn’t tell me dat four years ago? When you sent me?

Tifa: I was born December 12. My parents were big collectors of music and all my life I was surrounded by dancehall. I grew up in projec’—in Kingston we call it downtown. My stepfather was involved in music promotion he was the man that really buss’ Lady Saw. So when I was young I sing back up, I did ASHE thing…

Nats: (singing) I like long walks on the beach / kisses in the dark / sex in the park… Everybody born. Me me nuh know why you haffi say dat. I was a bounce around kid; from parent to parent, parent to aunt to dis one to dat one. I was born in Trelawney and came to Kingston when I was a baby. I grew up in Square (Red Square, Dunkirk area aka ‘Gunkirk’). My fadda left when I was 8 and music was like an escape from that shit, from him not bein there an my mudda want to rae rae rae an basically hate him cause hes not there. I grew up listening to Percy Sledge, Skeeter Davis…

Timi: my favorite movie is Selena

Nats: The Professional, musicals, Grease.

Tifa: Anything with Angela Lansbury, Mary Poppins of course. The Little Mermaid, Betty Boop.

Nats: Storm from X Men.

Tifa: I like lime green and gold. Today, but everything is a phase except for music.

Timi: Grey…and I t’ink I like red.

Nats: Yellow it mek me feel happy. Recently orange…and black even though it’s not a color, it’s a shade.

Before we go, I almost forgot…what are your full names? Nats: Natalie Cole. Ironic, don’t?

Timi: Timberlee Heaven

Tifa: Latifa Brown. It means gentle or feminine in Arabic.


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