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There's plenty of fuss made at times by journalists (like myself) about the negative direction reggae music seems to have gone in the past ten years. But for all our boo-hooing, certain artists like Tarrus Riley know how to rise up and silence the critics. The popular singer of the smash hit "She's Royal" and odes such as "Far Away" and "Beware" has a crooning style that has captured the hearts of reggae fans worldwide. With a perfect blend of old-school soul meets new-school charm, Riley, 28, is now, because of his positive lyrics and can't-miss appeal as a hitmaker, seen as one of the leading voices in contemporary reggae. But what a lot of people don't know about Riley is that he spent most of his formative years living in Miramar. He's the son of famous reggae singer Jimmy Riley, and when his father moved the family from Jamaica to South Florida in the early '80s, it was here that Riley developed his love for music. He moved back to Jamaica after graduating from Miramar High School in 1998, and he recently took time out of a schedule to chat about his approach to making music and his joy of being slated on the Best of the Best Concert this weekend.
New Times: What made you want to initially pursue a career in music?
Tarrus Riley: Even when I was in high school, I wanted to do music full-time. I used to DJ and toast before I was singing. I thought singing was old-fashioned at the time. The people I used to look up to — my father, Beres [Hammond] — they were all older than me. I was more into Buju, Beenie, and Sizzla — those are more my age. That's what my youths were listening to, but eventually, I started singing more, and here I am.
A lot of people think of you as a very "conscious" artist. When it comes to your songwriting, where does that come from?
Well, my conscious vibes, not to be boasty or conceited, come from the fact that I am a Rastaman from way back. My music is conscious because I live that way personally.
As far as the Best of the Best Concert goes, who are you most looking forward to seeing?
I want to see the people them! People fly in from all over for this concert. And all of the artists at Best of the Best have talent. At any time, the artist who you least expect could just mash up the place! I'm there to see the whole show. I can't wait for it. And I'm gonna represent Jamaica and Rastafari to the fullest.