It takes more than good lyrics and a nice sound to stay relevant in the music business.
In an indsutry dominated by one-hit wonders, passing fads and an audience with a by-the-minute attention span, artists have challenges of rising and staying at the top. The only direction to go is down.
Morgan Heritage has mastered what it takes to retain staying ability in the music business. Releasing their 10th studio album on their own label, CTBC (Cool To Be Conscious) Music Group, the Royal Family of Reggae is not only ready to impart their own musical affluence to new and current stars they are still dominating the charts with current #1 album on Billboard’s Reggae charts courtesy of their work ethic.
“Hard work, a lot of sleep deprivation and most of all sacrifice. We’re very grateful to our families for understanding and hanging in there with us because for the last four months it has been non-stop for us since Jazz & Blues in Jamaica,” Roy “Gramps” Morgan, keyboard and vocalist, said.
The group which comprises Peetah Morgan, Una Morgan, Roy “Gramps” Morgan, Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan started their musical journey in the mid-90s have since released hit records such as “Perfect Love Song” and “Tell Me How Come.” Whether it is their “can do” attitude or overall wisdom of watching the genre evolve, Morgan Heritage continues to impact music without compromising their sound.
Unlike the popular trend of beat machines and laptop generated instrumentals, Morgan Heritage is still handcrafting their instrumentals with live instrumentation and putting out physical copies despite this digital age.
“The new album ‘Strictly Roots,’ being that it is our first release and we’re aware of this digital age that we’re moving in to heavily where people don’t even use CDs — our vehicle outside that we picked up to do our promo while we’re here doesn’t even have a CD player — but in this digital age there’s a large consumer base that does utilize physical CDs. They still want to feel it, they want to look at the in-lay,” Gramps said.
“One of the hardest releases to record was ‘Keep on Jammin,’ which was a very intricate record. There was a punk rock drummer drumming on that record from a band called Good Charlotte and when we recorded that song just to capture the drum sound it was very intricate in just miking the room —16 mics,” Mojo, drummer, said.
The road to releasing their 10th studio album, “Strictly Roots” available in stores and on iTunes, came with a new set of challenges for the family. Going the independent route, Morgan Heritage juggled both business and creativity in the release of this album via their own label.
The attractiveness of owning one’s own label comes with a set of challenges most hardly speak about. While the artist has complete control, they now have to handle press packages, arranging media coverage, making sure people get paid etc. The learning experience culminated to create a well-rounded album featuring influences from other genres like R&B and pop.
“When we decided as a family to make a label called Cool To Be Conscious Music Group, (CTBC Music Group) we discussed some of the challenges we would face and it hasn’t been easy. Contacting media, hiring publicists, shipping out product to ensure it gets there on time, going to the Federal Express, setting up all of these things is a serious challenge. Now you got your own label you are responsible for all those things. It is not a joke but we were bred for it,” Mojo said.
Much like the new generation of reggae stars such as Kranium, reggae is reaching a larger fanbase through mashups of the genres. Through the frequent collaborations, reggae and dancehall is exposed to hip-hop, pop or rock fans and vice versa.
“We strive for creating quality in reggae music. We don’t just set up a drum machine, set up a laptop, we keep it authentic,” Mojo said. “It appeals to the kids because a lot of the kids now are becoming eclectic. Despite what people may think there is a large following of people who are conscious; even in the early days there were people listening to Talib Kweli and Common and Erykah Badu and India Arie – those people didn’t disappear, they are still around. Mainstream does not cater for that genre but we are alive.”
“A lot of these mashing and mixing of the genres you hear reggae. Take dubstep for example, when you take a traditional reggae record and make a dub version and then you take some of the electronic sounds that they use in dance music, that is where you get dubstep. Those are the elements that make it up, it’s dub reggae music and electronic music come together and have a baby they call dubstep. It works in our favor as reggae artists and as long as we embrace it we can take reggae music to new levels,” Gramps added.
With their 10th album under their belt, Morgan Heritage still has plenty to offer their core and new fans. Plans to expand their label are already in the works as they intend to take on Jemere Morgan as an artist on their roster as well as any other interested musicians ready to learn how to be a longlasting artist. “Music is not a career that we would choose for any of our children. It is not easy to obtain success and once you attain it, it’s harder to maintain it,” Gramps said.
The Royal Family will also head out on the “Catching Fire” tour alongside Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, and Tarrus Riley, along with special guests, Jo Mersa Marley and Black Am I kicking off late August in Philadelphia.
Look out for Morgan Heritage hitting a stage near you and be sure to cop a physical and digital copy of “Strictly Roots.”