I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. I have a sister who was born before me and a brother that was born after me. We are all involved in music in some capacity like our father and the majority of our extended family members. I’m 28 years of age as I scribe these thoughts. I don’t deal with any “faith” per se but I practice traditional Afrikan spirituality.
Gav Pauze: What Is Your Name & Performance Name?
King MAS: My name is King MAS. Most of my childhood friends and family members refer to me as “Lee” which means “one who dwells in/near the woods”.
Gav Pauze: When did you first start singing?
King MAS: Music was an inborn thing in my case. I do not actually have any memory of not singing. Whether it was riding along in the car with my mother and singing along with whatever cassette was in the deck or having my older cousins teach us the “bogle” dance I was simply planted in musical soil. I first remember performing before I entered grade school at a church function. It was a reggae gospel tune. Although I never much cared for the religion itself, working with a band at that early age and having the people tell them to pull up and have me perform twice was definitely a powerful formative experience.
Gav Pauze: Did your family encourage you?
King MAS: In all honesty, most Caribbean parents in the diaspora want to be able to say that their child is a doctor or a lawyer etc. so there was an initial ambivalence to my decision to drop out of college and pursue music. At the same time, I’ve inherited a solid foundation and a great deal of freedom to manifest my own vision and destiny. My mother is my biggest fan and it’s actually pretty embarrassing at times how much she likes to brag as well as promote to her friends. “Ocean of Emotion” is her favourite song. She opened a childcare centre in our home because she felt guilty leaving us with others while she worked at a local bank, especially as I struggled with health challenges in my early childhood. I was a part of her first group of preschool “graduates” and I entered into the school system with an advanced grasp of mathematics and linguistics. The lyrical prowess I possess can be largely attributed to my mothers sacrifice so I always like to pay homage to her considering that her father, my grandad, was functionally illiterate. Not bad for a country girl from Red Hills (Clarendon, Jamaica).
Gav Pauze: Who else in your family sings?
King MAS: Who doesn’t? lol. My brother, known as “Mitymaose” is better known for his ability as a producer but he’s also a talented vocalist, rapper, and songwriter. He’s contributed to every project I’ve ever released and has accomplished a lot at such a young age including his contribution to the musical score work of the FOX TV series “Empire”. My older sister Natalie sings also, though she’s always been shy about it. Our grandmother, Dr. Irene Prospere (of Montserrat W.I.) is an accomplished vocalist, pianist, griot (storyteller), and author. She has at least one album to her credit. She of course gave birth to my father Dr. Glen T. Prospere formerly known as “Supreme” AKA the “Action Man”. He plays several instruments and was an accomplished calypsonian in his days. He is immortalised in the annals of Montserratian lore for his hit single “Emerald City Jam” that secured him the island-wide calypso monarch crown in his youth. He was inspired and groomed by his uncles. The late Clyde “Organizer” Weekes and Everton “Reality” Weekes were the duo that gave him his musical foundation. The latter of the two, “Reality”, is the original writer behind the worldwide hit record popularised first by Arrow, then by Buster Poindexter, “Hot, Hot, Hot”.
Gav Pauze: Who are your musical inspirations?
King MAS: Wow. Where to begin? Growing up in Boston in the early 90′s, in a tight knit Caribbean community, my young mind was soaked in a potent and unique cultural concoction. Of course, this was the period where Bob Marley was only a decade out from having passed, Dennis Brown was still around, Michael Jackson was still in his prime, and Boyz II Men was on the rise with that Motown Philly “New Jack Swing”. The first voice of the dancehall to grip me as a youth was the voice of Buju Banton. My uncle sent down a video of the Jamaica independence festival in 1994 and there were some dancers who performed a routine to his early hit “Mine Behind The Wine”. My siblings and I must have attempted to replicate that dance routine for months on end. Our aunt Raynor would always take us and our cousins out and have us listening to the songs on the radio that our very religious parents would never approve of from Brandy to LL Cool J to “Mr, Boombastic”. Our Uncle Angus, affectionately called “Uncle Junior”, introduced us to hip-hop. Early Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre, Biggie Smalls, Busta Rhymes etc. were always on deck when he came around. His father Angus Senior (our grandpa on our father’s side) is a long time selector from St. Lucia. When we would visit our grandparents in the summer, it was rub-a-dub school. I still remember one of those summer afternoons when I first heard Frankie Paul chanting “Pass the Tu-Sheng Peng”. There would also be a lot of Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener etc. playing so I was exposed to a wide variety of sounds before I even began collecting music on my own.
Gav Pauze: What kind of music do you listen to today?
King MAS: It varies. As a former selector myself, I have an extensive collection of music and I like to clear out my “playlist” every couple of months and start fresh. I like to keep some foundation music on hand so Bob Andy, John Holt, Peter Tosh, and Johnny Nash can usually be found in my collection among others. I am a big Fela Kuti fan so at least one Fela Album is usually in rotation. Although I don’t always agree with the content, I’m also a dancehall head. Bounty Killer is my favourite dancehall artist of all time but I like to keep a balance of different “Vybz” as long as they aren’t ridiculously slack. There’s an artist from Gabon called “Oliver Ngoma” I’ve recently gotten into. I love the feel of Zouk music, probably because it is so closely related to calypso. Machel Montano and Kevin Lyttle are two current soca/calypso artists I really respect and admire. My favourite artist out of JA right now is Kabaka Pyramid, hands down. Diamond Sox by Iba Mahr is one of my favourite album of the past few years. At least one Kalonji or Capleton album is a must as well.
Gav Pauze: Do you release music on vinyl?
King MAS: The upcoming album “Rasta Evolution” will be in LP format on Vinyl. The Militancy Riddim project produced by Winta James (Overstand JA) was also released on Vinyl although my cut “False Doctrine” didn’t make it onto the LP. The vinyl culture has made a serious comeback in recent years and I’m glad to be a part of it in any capacity. However the message makes it out, without harming the ecosystem unnecessarily, I’m all for it. Since vinyl is generally recyclable it’s a format I am particularly enthusiastic about, sound quality aside.
Gav Pauze: Where would you most like to perform?
King MAS: When all is said and done, I would love to touch all 54 “nation states” in the Afrikan continent. From my experience so far, having launched my debut album “One Wish” in Azania (South Africa), there is no other location on the planet with a deeper appreciation of conscious reggae music than the Afrikan continent. Our brothers and sisters there look to us in the diaspora for inspiration in so many ways as we always look to them in return. I’ve developed a lot of close relationships with brothers and sisters on the continent in so many different regions that it’s difficult to choose what areas I’d want to touch first but, in no particular order, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Benin, Egypt, Sudan (South), Ethiopia, and The Gambia are on my radar.
Gav Pauze: Who would you most like to work with?
King MAS: Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight are my R&B inspirations in so many ways. Working with them would be amazing. I’d also love to work with Beres Hammond, Glen Washington, or Cocoa Tea. I’m really inspired by the elders and would want to work with them and learn from them now while they are still able instead of having to sample them when they’ve transitioned. The wisdom to be gained from their experience in the creative process would be priceless.
Gav Pauze: What do you think about whilst performing?
King MAS: I don’t think much on stage. Whenever I do, I have a tendency to stumble over words because it interferes with the natural energy flow. On stage, I aim to act as a conduit and let the spirits of the ancestors, the heroes that speak through me, and the forces of nature take control. Delivering the message is the mission.
Gav Pauze: If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing?
King MAS: I cannot say for certain but writing is a passion of mine. I may have gone into journalism or become an author. Otherwise, I don’t mind getting my hands dirty or engaging in manual labor. Agriculture or carpentry are two other vocations I would likely enjoy.
Gav Pauze: Do you play any instruments?
King MAS: I’ve learned the guitar over the course of the past 5 years. I played a bit on the One Wish album and will also be heard playing on the upcoming “Rasta Evolution” album. All guitar parts on the original “Walk Like A Champion” are played by my hands. I can also be heard on “Pretty Words” and “Coffee Pot” and those guitar chops are also in a constant state of evolution and progress. I’ve never had an actual lesson to this day. I’ve only learned through online videos, books, and chord charts I’ve studied. I’m looking to move from proficient to advanced as the years go by.
Gav Pauze: If you could/do dabble in another genre of music, what would it be/is it?
King MAS: I have dabbled in so many genres and will have my name attached to numerous projects outside of the reggae world. But if there is one genre I would really like to delve into in my lifetime it’s the ancestral music of my father’s bloodline which is calypso & soca. There is such a strong undercurrent of our Afrikan root that is found in the masquerading and the yearly ritual of resurrecting “Mocko Jumbie” (the ancestors) through dancing and moving as they did prior to us being taken into exile by the British crown. Ella Andall and the “Orisa Palais” ensemble (of Trinidad & Tobago) are examples of the survival of our traditions through the middle passage. There is also a strong element of storytelling and parable weaving in the calypso tradition that would be a unique opportunity as a songwriter to chant music with a “message” in an age where the content of soca & calypso often leans toward the “slack” side. There are a few artists keeping the culture & tradition alive though and I would love to be a part of that movement.
Gav Pauze: What genre of music can’t you stand to listen to?
King MAS: I strongly dislike discordant, chaotic music. Death Metal doesn’t appeal to me at all. I also dislike certain types of “Trap” music. Music with negative messages and awkward vibrations doesn’t resonate with I overall.
Gav Pauze: What hidden talents do you have?
King MAS: I’m relatively tall and I grew up here in the states so I used to hit the basketball courts quite a bit growing up. I’m not the “greatest” basketball player but I can definitely do some damage when I’m “on”. I also have a passion for visual arts. I actually sketched the artwork for the Walk Like A Champion “The Remixes” EP that was released in September through my own label (Bantu Nation Movement).
Gav Pauze: What can we expect from you in 2016 and beyond?
King MAS: Look out for the “Rasta Evolution” album project courtesy of King MAS & Nature’s Way Ent. Also, keep an eye out for numerous singles and features on riddim projects. Another objective going forward is more collaborations and features that illustrate the interconnection of the global Bantu nation. As the album indicates, I am in a constant state of evolution mentally, spiritually, and physically so cultivating further strength and knowledge is the objective. As that cultivation continues to take place, disseminating it through the music for the purpose of healing the nation at large is the “Musical Obeah” at work.
MP3 Download: Ocean of Emotion – Single – King Mas
MP3 Download: Walk Like a Champion – EP – King Mas
MP3 Download: One Wish – King Mas
MP3 Download: False Doctrine – King Mas