Check out Ncredible’s own Kreesha Turner’s chop up with The Knockturnal while in New York City where she explains how her Jamaican/Canadian background influenced her sound, how Nick became her manager and what makes her music a mongrel.
Talk a little bit about background and where you’re from.
Kreesha: I’m a Canadian/Jamaican. My father is Canadian and my mother is Jamaican. I was raised in both Canada, a place called Edmonton, Alberta. Most people don’t know it. Then I went to high school in Kingston, Jamaica.
How much of an impact has your background/culture/roots had on your music?
Kreesha: Everything, absolutely everything. I would not be doing music if it wasn’t for Jamaica. Until moving to the island, I used to go there frequently. I used to go every year, which I know is not necessarily normal for first generation families to be going back and forth from wherever it is that they came from. I understood that my family was very blessed and got to do that. I was a dancer before but I didn’t start singing until 15 or 16. It’s just because in Jamaica music is a part of everyday life. Whether you’re a cat or a dog or a grandma or some old man on a bike, everybody just sings whether they can or can’t. Music is just ingrained in their foundation of everything. It was also via peer pressure from my friends at church. They made me audition for my church youth choir and that’s how I started singing. So I’m late. Most people are like “I been singing since I could walk”. Not me. I didn’t start singing until I was 16.
How were you able to pick up the sounds of Canada and Jamaica blend them into one sound?
Kreesha: For me it was effortless because that is just who I am the same way that I am mixed racially. I’m mongrel. My music is a mongrel. To translate, it means just a mixed breed. In Jamaica we say mongrel but it’s a melting pot of so many things. So for just for me, I’ve been exposed to so many things throughout my life, from the different genres that my parents consumed. My father was a big jazz and blues head so for me I grew up listening to Billie Holiday and BB King. And then my mom she loved like The Supremes and more of the pop of the 70’s and the disco era. Then of course with the roots of Jamaica, I grew up listening to Bob Marley. But my father’s musical taste even stretched. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen, Fleetwood Mac. I grew up listening to everything and for me that is what Canada is in the sense. A lot of people ask me, even in my music, how come I don’t do more Canadian music. Canada is such a young nation; we are all first and second generation. Everybody is Canadian something and part of being Canadian is that we are all still connected to heritage and we are all proud of our heritage. So in Canada the first question you ask anybody is where are you from? And everybody would immediately reply Scottland or Poland or Korea or Jamaica or Brazil. That is part of the cultivation of what I believe Canadian culture is. Like I said, my exposure to so many things is what makes it a mixture but also my foundation and my roots and my pride of always growing up as a Canadian/Jamaican.
Are there any current artists or producers that inspire you to make music now?
Kreesha: There are always musical inspirations. I admit that I avoid consuming a lot of current music just because you hear of all of these different people getting sued for copying this etc. I honestly believe in the power of sub consciousness. There are records that I know all of the lyrics to and I’ve never listened to it in my life. But that’s because it’s playing at the super market. It was in heavy rotation where you go. It’s in the low levels in the background of a mall or when you’re at the gas station or wherever it is. So for me, I actually avoid the radio and I avoid a lot of those things because I don’t want to subconsciously mimic another artist that is currently hot. To me, part of being an artist is being an individual and the last thing I want to do is sound like anybody else out right now. But as far as current artists that are still alive and still putting out music but might not be main-stream, I listen to a lot of music. I am forever a dancehall head so I’m constantly listening to dancehall. Dancehall makes me happy, and reggae. I don’t know why. It’s just like if I’m in a bad mood just turn it on and I’m happy. But depending on my mood, one of my favorite bands right now is Little Dragon. I listen to Banks. I’ll listen to everything from Drake and all the extreme ratchetness that is still present and still enjoy it tenth degree. At the same time they’re not necessarily influencing my music per-say. It’s an energy thing for me that at least when you go to the club, you feel energies and you can somehow tap into whether it’s in the motion. From there I can go back and put it into my music.
Explain how the deal with Nick Cannon came about?
Kreesha: Well I have to clarify; a lot of people confuse it a lot. Nick Cannon is my manager and Republic is my label. But I randomly went into a club in L.A. and he was spinning. When I walked into the club he was like “Kreesha Turner in the building”. I was like did he just say my name? How does he know my name? After I got to meet him, he was like “yo I heard your music in previous years so I know who you are and I’m very aware of you”. We connected. And then six months later he randomly hit me up and was like “yo, I hear you on this record. Come by the studio and see if you can lay down some vocals”. So I went through and he played me the record and I was like what do you want me to do? Do you want me to do my singing thing or do you want me to do my dancehall DJ thing? Side note, in Jamaica we say DJ’ing but you guys say rapping. DJ’ing refers to the turntables here, in Jamaica is refers to the lyrical thing. So I asked him which kind he wanted. I had the opportunity to play him a bunch of my new music. From there he was like “yo what are you doing with this? This is dope.” At the time I was in limbo, I was on EMI and with the merger of Universal buying out EMI, I was in limbo waiting to see if Universal was going to take up my option or not. A lot of artists just kind of twiddle their thumbs but I am far happier working and happiest when I’m busy so I made myself busy. I went and made music and for the first time in my music career I didn’t have anybody telling me what to do so I was left to my music. This music that I played him, he said it was different and he never heard anything like it. From there we started to build a relationship. He told me he wanted to be a part of my movement and he wanted to help in any way, shape or form. Whatever multiple conversations we had trying to figure out how he could actually be a part of it, he became my manager.
Nick being your manager, does he help you with any song concepts?
Kreesha: Nick is very unconnected to my creative process. He maintains the sole business position of management and for me, that’s definitely where we felt like we could collaborate and that’s what he brings to the table. For me, I have a creative collective. It’s me, my producer Yonni and my writing partner Daren Anthony. The three of us already have our foundation of creativity. I’ll work with other producers here and there and it’s always nice to hear what people think but at the end of the day Nick definitely leaves the creative team that I had prior to him intact.
What inspired you to record your entire album Evolution Inevitable in LA.?
Kreesha: I ended up in the L.A. the same thing with limbo and the label. I was back in Canada for the year of 2012 for the release of my second album and then everything froze. The merger happened like I said we were just waiting. For me, I’m a gypsy at heart so I was kind of like where should I go? I just put all my stuff in storage and up and went to L.A. To me, there’s pretty much to hubs in the U.S. and that’s New York or L.A. where you can network and find other creative people to potentially collaborate with. I chose L.A. Went to L.A., went out and networked and that’s how I met my producer. From there we ended up making an entire project together. So L.A. was kind of my toss of the dice choice once put into limbo cause I could’ve very well just chose New York. I think I knew more people in L.A. So I went to L.A. and the blend that me and Yonni do is kind of a mixture of trap meets dancehall even though my current single “Sexy Gyal” is straight dancehall. I felt it was necessary to definitely be within that energy because we wanted to create a fusion of music that was still nostalgic to American listeners but fresh and new with everything that I infused with dancehall and the dialect. I recorded my previous album in Jamaica but I brought the Jamaica and Yonni, who was in L.A., was the fusion. And I think being in L.A. was definitely necessary during the creation process of everything that we did on Evolution Inevitable.
Explain the growth that you’ve experienced from 2008 when your first album was released up until now.
Kreesha: Well there’s a lot of growth. I learned a lot of hard lessons. A lot of people don’t realize people are hearing my name for the first time but I’ve been in this industry for a decade. I got signed in 2005. I was first signed to Virgin records right here in New York. I had worked the underground hip hop scene in Canada for a number of years to the point where I had a buzz within Canada and the underground scene. Everything I did was a mixture of R&B, hip-hop and dancehall. When I got signed, they took me super far to the other side. They took me to the pop world and visually changed me. They started changing my hair and I had to do media training and I was instructed to never speak in the dialect which is fine. For me, being Canadian/Jamaican I speak some dialect to my mom and I speak English to my father. It’s like being bilingual but with an accent. It was a shift but for me, I’m the kind of person that I don’t want to walk into any kind of situation acting like I know what is going on. I was like let me watch them build a house the first time and the second time I’ll try to pick the tools and build it myself. So I kind of went hands off understanding that I just wanted my foot in the door even though it was very different from what I had been doing. I kind of went with the flow. The second album, that’s when I started to try and hold on to the steering wheel and direct it (my career). I started to influence and put my reggae and my dancehall back in. Like I said, in limbo with this third project, I literally had nobody telling me what to do. I just made with the team what felt good, what felt natural to us. For me, it’s not necessarily a complete growth. Sometimes it feels like a full circle because to me the entire time I’ve been in the industry it’s been trying to get it back to the sound or at least the base sonic influences that I started off with. Now I feel like I’m finally back there and I’m excited but with a whole bunch more knowledge and understanding of the industry. Also, I’ve been through growth as a person and as a woman. We all endure different life experiences especially in a decade.
What’s next for Kreesha Turner? Aside from the music, are you making any other moves?
Kreesha: Actually I just wrapped up shooting my first full length feature film. It was so exciting we actually shot it in Jamaica. The movie is called King of the Dancehall and it’s about the dancehall dance sub culture. Think like Step Up or Stomp the Yard meets indie or City of Gods. They wanted to catch the grit of Kingston but also the beauty at the same time. I’m one of the main antagonists, so I’m the villain. People are going to hate me after watching movie. I’m a**hole. I’m not a nice person in this movie. But it was an amazing movie to shoot. I’m excited just to be able to have the opportunity to see some of the playback. The images that we captured of even just the dancing alone; people have never seen Jamaica like this. I’ve always wondered why like we had a couple movies like Shottas and Queen of the Dancehall and a couple other random ones here. People have never seen Jamaica like this, let alone dancehall like this. I’m really excited about it along with the fact that we had so many amazing people involved with the project. Nick Cannon, Busta Rhymes as one of the main characters. The lead girl is played by this unknown, she is absolutely fabulous. She is a local Jamaican girl and she killed it. There are cameos from across the board for Jamaican celebrities Kamani Marley, Ninja Man, Sean Paul, T.O.K. makes an appearance. I don’t know if a lot of these names are foreign to you but in Jamaica these names are a big deal. Beanie Man also makes an appearance, which the movie is named after King of the Dancehall, his record. Barrington Levy, who was just at the airport and ended up in the movie. The other actors that are in it are Whoopie Goldberg, Amber Rose is in it. She makes a quick appearance. Collie Buddz plays my brother. I’m really excited about the movie though. Like I said it’s definitely something that I’m excited people will be able to just consume and see Jamaican dancehall for the way that I feel like I’ve viewed it my entire life.
Any new music coming?
Kreesha: Always. There’s always new music coming. I dropped part one of a mixtape last month and it had features on it from Tank, Eric Bellinger, 2Chainz, Roc City, Mya, Kardinal Offishall. On this part two I have The Game, I have a record with Gucci and there are a couple other ones that I am excited about but I have to make sure we have all of those in the bag before I call out any names. There is always new music coming. As of now, I’m still working the current single “Sexy Gyal” feature T.O.K. For people that don’t know, T.O.K are veterans in the dancehall world. They have been doing dancehall for over 15 years and traveling the world. I normally have to sign songs for people and then they’re like oh I know that song. But I’m excited to have had a collaboration with them and to still be working this record. I know we’re about to drop my second music video for this one. We dropped the first one and now we have a second one.