Earlier this week Mavado appeared on BET's 106 & Park to support DJ Khaled's new album Kiss The Ring. Boomshots caught up with The Gully Gad to talk about what it's been like since he became one of the few dancehall artists signed to a major label. Here he speaks on his soon-to-drop mixtape, collaborations with Birdman, Busta Rhymes, Fabolous, French Montana, and Snoop Lion. Mavado even sent a shout out to his former rival Vybz Kartel.
(Interview by Reshma B (@ReshmaB_RGAT) via Boomshots.com.)
“So Suicidal,” With DJ Khaled
"Look out for my “Suicidal” video, we just did a new one in Miami. Me, DJ Khaled, Birdman, Ace Hood, and a couple more of us. I definitely did this song for the streets. For the Gs and the thugs, for the gangstas and even for the gangsta girls. It’s even for people that have suicidal thoughts."
“Survivor,” With Akon
"You know Akon is like an icon from Ethiopia, Africa, and even me as David Brooks, a.k.a Gully Gad, a.k.a Mavado, a.k.a Kingston’s Finest, I’m like the next king. We’re all from Africa, us as black people, we’re just one African. So you Akon’s always there always doing his thing. For seven to eight years I’ve been creating hit songs. Akon has been doing the same. I guess we’re very legendary now. But me and Akon in the studio is just crazy, trust me. It’s just like two different lives come into one. And everybody’s got their ups and downs, everybody’s gotta keep fighting to survive. Because life is just like a struggle. Life is a struggle. Me growing up in Kingston, Jamaica and seeing so many things. Lost so many friends. Have so many friends behind bars. I don’t even know when I’m gonna see them again, but I’m still here. And I still have to go out there every day. Going through so many things... I’ve been in jail so many times. Shout out to Vybz Kartel there in the pen. You done know freedom is a must.
"This song isn’t even about me. This song isn't even about Vybz. It’s about all of us as dancehall artists that’s fighting the struggle. You see me? Right now it’s like I have the whole dancehall, the whole Jamaica industry, on my back right now. Carrying it to the next level. And I can never lose. [Pounding table] I have to win. You understand? So “Survivor” is just another great thought of mine, of me saying to the world that I am who I am and I’m still here, and I’m still doing good. I still have my fans proud of me. Still got my family’s proud of me. I still have my daughter, she’s like 12 now. My son, 11. My next two sons, my momma, all my friends, the gully side. I just gotta keep on surviving, keep on taking it to the top so I could do things that I really dream about. You know? Great things, iconic things. So “Survivor” is all about a next step, because every step for me just goes higher and higher. I can’t fail. I wasn’t born for that. That’s not in my genes, that’s not in my DNA. Failure is not a priority for me. Survivor."
His Song “Soulja Girl”
"Well, knowing Mavado, I definitely got my lady. She’s a good girl and everything. I love her, but you know ladies out there just love Mavado and I always love the ladies. Even my lady knows that I gotta have love for the ladies, I gotta show love. Because to go from where I’m coming from to where I’m at now, it take friends. It take real love; it takes real authentic friends and real love from the people. And real love from the ladies. A “Soulja Girl” is just a girl that’s real. You know? Us as gangstas, us as street youths, we that represent for the street and represent only the realest, we have to have a real girl. At the end of the day, when you go you have to know you have a girl who check for you and have your back. Everything. She gotta be a gangsta. She’s my Soulja girl. She’s holding it down when I’m in jail doing time. And I’ve been to jail so many times. Last year I was in jail and my girl was in jail with me. We were both locked up. So—it’s all about that."
"I just came out the studio probably two, three days ago. Me and Birdman. We just did, like, two songs, and we’re scheduling right now to go back in the studio. But because of the whole BET stuff [appearing on 106 & Park] I got to be in New York right now. As soon as I’m back in Miami, I’m in the studio. I was just in the studio, me and French Montana. Me and Fabolous. There’s so much things going on. Me and Fabolous did a remix already, and we’re supposed to do more songs. We did two songs already. I did something for him, he did something for me. It’s all about love and respect. You know, Fabolous is like another icon. We’re all kings, so I guess it’s just that. I did a song by the name of “The devil is walking, I can see him from here, but because of my struggle I have no fear. The devil is talking a bunch of shit I can hear, but I’m up in the clouds my niggas in a triple white Maybach,like a cloud on the block, saying ‘fuck you’ out my window. Hail Mary.” [Laughs] Me and Busta, we just remixed the “Soulja Girl” with this girl—she’s from Africa. She’s like Africa’s biggest singer. She’s like the Beyonce of Africa, the whole continent. And we just did the video with her. “Soulja Girl” is so huge in Africa. Busta Rhymes came on it with a killing verse. It’s just crazy. So it’s just all about me trying to take dancehall music, and trying to take Jamaica music... I’m just trying to do something that no other Jamaican artist has ever done before."
Being a Reggae Artist Signed to a Major Label
"[I'm one of the few reggae artists signed to a major label.] That’s true, and that’s why I got to make use of it. And being with We The Best, and We The Best being with YMCMB, it’s like a whole family. It’s like the time is just right. It’s all about finding the right songs, because I know my company will be there to back it up, to endorse it, and to make it work."
His Friendship with Drake
"Me and Drake, we’ve always been friends. It’s not even about music, because I’m always on my grind. I’m always doing music, I’m always just doing something. I’m always keeping my work going, doing things for the fans to love. Drizzy Drake has always been doing the same. I just came off the tour with Drake, Wale, Waka Flocka, Meek Mill, French Montana, 2 Chainz—and I believe a couple more. It was crazy. I did like four shows with them, and trust me, it was so crazy. It was some 25-30,000 white people; a couple black people there the same way. Some venues a lot of black, couple of white people. It’s just mixed race and mixed nations. They’re just loving the music. People always just love Mavado’s music. I think now is just the time for me to take it to another level. We The Best. Gullyside."
His Jamaican Fans Missing Him
"I’ve been here for like probably five months now. Four, five months I’ve been in America just working just to make Jamaica proud. Just to make my family, just to make everybody proud. It’s not even about me. This is about Jamaica, because imagine me reaching to the top and then I could reach back and pull another artist from Jamaica. Imagine me reaching to the top and I could just sign someone from Jamaica and try to just bring him to the top. Something that people never see before. You know, you have haters everywhere. You see me? I’m definitely immune to haters. At times I love when people say bad things, because when people say bad things it only motivates me to move or lets me know that I can’t lose. You understand? It’s like every step you have to keep going higher and higher.
"Some of them say they’re my friend, but because of my things and because of my success, people just start change and try to make it seems as if you are the one that change. If you have your friends and you’ve been with them for so many years, why would it change now? I realize that just me being stuck in Jamaica, it can’t help music. It can’t help me. Music need a life. Our music, dancehall music, need a life. So I’m devoted to put my life, and to put my all, and put my heart in it. That’s the reason why I’m here in America, working. Because people got so much love for me over here. I’m like a... I’m not even “like a.” I am a legend. I’m legendary. So being here, people say a lot of things. But meanwhile, there’s only one thing for me to say—it’s just music. And even when I’m doing music, I have to talk to the haters, the enemies, the ones them who want to see me go down.
"That’s the reason why I say “Chat them a chat / Yap dem a yap / Gullyside me ah action packed. / Me no cuss cuss, me no wear a frock / Gully side we ah action packed. / Tell them anything ah anything / Dem ah say me leave a foreign and we nah come back / Have the house pon the hill / Them say we can’t done that.” You know? It’s all about me just letting them know, Right now, me just ah do me. Me wish everybody else can just do them, do themselves. Because think about it—this bag of crabs in a barrel. Each time a next youth tries to rise, we try pull them down, then nobody nah go reach nowhere. We just gonna be there every day and look at each other’s face. The best thing for me is when I look and see other youths arise. Just like you have little youth like Popcaan. You have youth like Konshens. You have youth like I-Octane. You have youth who are out there and them ah try build music. When I sit down and watch them, I don’t even try to go in a competition with them because it would just make me seem so small. Them youth deh come and I’m gonna try and come and build a competition with them? I’m not on that, me just feel a joy in myself when me listen their music. To know that most of these youths, when you think deep and you listen to their songs, you can know say Gully Gad is their main mentor. You understand? So when me say “Them say we live ah foreign and me nah come back,” that’s just words of people that want to see me fall. Think about it, I’ve been in Jamaica for so many years. So if me spend five, six months in America, that’s nothing. It’s all about me working. It’s all about me trying to make better. You understand?"
Missing Reggae Sumfest This Year
"I definitely missed Sumfest too. I missed the fans, I miss the people. I definitely love the people and the people know that. Ever since I came out—2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010—I’ve always been doing Sumfest because that’s like one of our national shows. So I’m always ready for Sumfest. It’s just that, I just couldn’t make it this year because of some little thing. You know? But it’s all about love for the people, and I’m gonna definitely be there next year and next year it ah go big. Because I’m gonna make it big. I love the fans. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but the fans know whenever you can’t get to see Gully Gad it must me a reason."
The Challenges of Being Signed to an International Label
"Yeah, these are some of the challenges being signed to an international label. People think that you left your roots. But there’s no way I could leave my roots. It’s all about trying to make it bigger than I already am. It’s all about taking it to the top. So that when you look on a BET Awards, when you look on a MTV Awards, you can see somebody from Jamaica. Even if me wasn’t the one to make it and somebody else did, I could only feel love in my heart for them. I know that it’s all about music. Because when each one teach one to reach one, and one person makes it, then the whole world is looking at Jamaica, at our little island. Just like Usain Bolt; Whenever people hear a Jamaica runs again, even if it’s not Usain Bolt, every just marvel. Cause them ah wonder what’s that Jamaican gonna do?"
Fighting Within The Gully Squad
"I don’t even want to talk about the fighting. It’s all about unity. This is about positive things and positive movements. I’m always gully. I built the gully. I was born in the gully. The gully build me and then I build the gully. I take the gully to the world. When you say, ‘Gully side,” somebody say, ‘Yo, that’s Jamaica, right?” Yeah. So it’s just all about Jamaica, Gully side. It’s all about my artists them. It’s all about me just ah try to make it big so I can pull them."
"Right now I’m working on my mixtape for the islands. and then I’m a work on my mixtape for the U.S, which is gonna feature a whole heap of artists. Whole heap ah artists. We’ve been working on the album, but DJ Khaled will just say, “Hear wha—we’ll put the album aside and work pon some singles, hot up the streets, take it to the top and then... We just try and just get the album out, you understand? So it’s just about me doing songs mostly for the streets, and mostly for the fans. Just working, you know. I did a song with Pharell’s artist, Chris Cab, that white kid—very talented. Me, Chris Cab, and Wyclef. And then I was supposed to go in the studio with Pharrell. But so much things to do, and so much time. Just trying to make it work. So me and Pharrell, we don’t really go to the studio to even do our work as yet. We been in the studio to work for Chris Cab. He got a big singingi and everything. So the other day I was in the city just for five minutes to go do a show with him, because it’s all about love and respect. It’s all about music."
Working With Snoop Lion
"You know, life is like that. You never know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. I mean, Snoop Dogg went to Jamaica and him go Bobo Hill and him go inna the street and him see the love... And you know Rasta have nothing but consciousness to teach. Nothing but upliftment. So Snoop Dogg, him just love it and him just feel like it’s a great move for him. And we can only help him to uplift. You know, he’s already a legend. He’s working on consciousness, you know? And when you talk about Bob [Marley], you talk about love, respect, honor. Just like a couple years ago when this big magazine [compared] Bob Marley to Mavado—and that was Rolling Stonemagazine. You know? That was such a great thing for me. So I understand what’s really going on. You know, Snoop Dogg is a real G. So I’m gonna show him real respect, and do what I’m supposed to do. You get me?"
"The whole thing with Vybz... You done know the system. So we have to just hope for the best. We have to just all pray for him and show we support. I mean me, definitely at times, me just sit back and even when me say a word of prayer, me just put him in it same way. Because it’s all about me and him from the start, and no matter what happened musically and lyrically we never kill each other. We never really try to hurt each other—no matter what people say, it’s all about music and you done know. So much time they lock me up, so much times them lock me down, me just come back like the Terminator. So I guess Addi have to just terminate pon them. So big up Vybz Kartel. Gully Gad say that."