Born Windel Beneto Edwards on October 25, 1983, Gyptian was raised in the rural King Weston district in the parish of St. Andrew by his Christian mother Pauline and his Rastafarian father, Basil. Neither parent dictated their son’s spiritual path but both encouraged his musical talent; thus Gyptian, who earned his nickname because he often wrapped shirts around his head in the style of an Egyptian pharaoh, sang at his mother’s Sunday morning church services and at the Saturday night dances promoted by his father who owned the Sugar Stone sound system.
Gyptian’s musical ambitions brought him to reggae’s epicenter, Kingston, where he was introduced to legendary guitarist/producer Earl “Chinna” Smith and together they created a version of “Serious Times” in 1999, which was never released. He returned to King Weston and took a break from music but before long, he was referred to a studio owned by producer/talent scout Ravin Wong located in the Kingston suburb of Portmore. Wong had a proven track record of transforming aspiring young talents, such as Portmore based sing-jay I Wayne, into hit making artists. Under Wong’s guidance, Gyptian began performing at various stage shows and talent contests; he won the 2004 Portmore Star Search competition and the top prize included a performance slot at the December 2004 staging of Sting, Jamaica’s premier dancehall concert. Renowned for attracting an audience that, when warranted, will express their displeasure with artists’ performances by bottling, that is, throwing bottles, cups or other objects at an unwelcomed act, Gyptian, despite his fledgling status, was not intimidated. “To be frank, I wondered what I was doing there,” Gyptian laughingly recalled. “It was difficult. I knew I wouldn’t get a forward (an audience’s call for an encore) but from a long time music is what me love so me just struggle through it.”
A few months later Gyptian was working a construction job when Portmore producer Kenneth ‘Spragga’ Wilson asked him to take a day off to voice “Serious Time”. Gyptian was never paid for that session but the song’s subsequent popularity, which led to his inclusion on all major stage shows in Jamaica and several international reggae festivals, more than made up for it.
Gyptian’s heartfelt vocals detailing the island’s worsening crime, accompanied by the meditative drumming of celebrated percussionist Bongo Herman and melodious sax lines courtesy of veteran Tony Greene made “Serious Times” one of the biggest reggae hits of 2005/2006. The song topped several major Jamaican and international reggae charts; Vibe Magazine ranked it number 21 among the top 60 songs of 2006 and Gyptian was nominated as Best New Reggae Artist and named the Most Promising Entertainer at the 2006 International Reggae and World Music Awards held at New York City’s legendary Apollo Theater. At home, Gyptian was cited as the Best New Artist of 2005 by the Jamaica Observer newspaper and “Serious Times” tied with Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” for the daily’s Song of the Year honors.
“A lot of people said I would be a one hit wonder, but I never thought that,” Gyptian offered. “I never go into the studio thinking that I will get a number one song. I love every song that I sing but it’s the people who judge them and make them hits.”
It’s the people who have made “Hold You” a summer anthem of 2010 and Gyptian will undoubtedly recruit an even larger fan base with the release of his heavily anticipated third album. Like an overture to a momentous classical score “Hold You” commences
with the minute-long “To Be Held”, as Gyptian’s impassionedly murmurs a single line from his current hit over producer FX’s lushly orchestrated piano arrangement, a teaser of the artfully crafted grooves, extracted from myriad genres, that contribute to the album’s sleek, contemporary reggae soundscape.
Throughout, Gyptian punctuates his sweetly crooned vocals with scatted syllables that are further enhanced by various aural effects, resulting in a consistently mesmeric tone, especially on the exquisite “Na Na Na (A Love Song)”, which fuses rock guitar riffs into a steady reggae beat, and the sensual “Rendezvous”, set to a heavy drum and bass driven one-drop rhythm. The cascading romanticism of the gently rocking “So Much In Love”, like so many songs here, is guaranteed to make the ladies swoon and hopefully teach male listeners a few things about amorous pursuits.
Gyptian needs little instruction in that area: on “Call Gyptian” the self-proclaimed “swag daddy” boasts that he can “fit the mission”; he boldly details the techniques that keep his woman coming back for more on the up tempo “All In You”, produced by VP Records’ Director of A&R Neil “Diamond” Edwards, while his seductive come-ons steer the steamy “Tease Mi (Haffi Easy)”, produced by Adrian Lock. “Drive Me Crazy” gently melds lovers-rock reggae with delicate strands of Latin guitars and “Beautiful Lady” produced by Ray Stephens for Vertex Records, which initially appeared on Gyptian’s debut album, seemingly an ode to a gorgeous woman, actually recalls a brief, unexpected romantic encounter.
The decades-old roots reggae rhythms “Heavenless” and “Diseases”, as updated by FX for a 21st century audience, respectively provide the foundation for the tenderly romantic “Where You Belong” and the party anthem “Leave Us Alone”
The digital version of “Hold You” includes a reprised rendition of “Love Against the Wall” from “I Can Feel Your Pain”, refurbished with an irresistible reggae undercurrent. Also included is the Major Lazer remix of “Hold You”, which has been nominated for “Remix of the Year” by MTV2, the first of what is sure to be a slew of nominations for Gyptian’s song throughout 2010.
For Gyptian’s fans of the past five years the “Hold You” album represents a further maturation of his immense talents; for those who have just become acquainted with his music through the steady radio play of his hit single, the album demonstrates a sophisticated incorporation of the diversified influences comprising his distinctive brand of modern Jamaican music. “It’s all about putting spice in your life,” notes Gyptian. “With music you can’t just stick to one sound you have to pick and choose to satisfy the largest fan base and that’s what I have done because right now it is all about advancing my career.”
His latest album “Sex Love & Reggae” is out now.