From “Heads High” (1998) to “Bruk It Down” (2012), Mr Vegas has assembled an unshakable string of international classic reggae and dancehall releases including Billboard
Born Clifford Smith in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston. Smith developed a passion for music at an early age. It was customary for aspiring high school age singers to gather during lunch break to test new lyrics and share their talents with classmates. Smith’s passion developed during these sessions when he noted female classmates would regularly attend without demonstrating any interest in lunch. Still, his first recording session was dead end when the mix he had paid for with money that was supposed to be used for an international visa was never mixed properly and the song went nowhere. Mr Vegas, however, was destined to travel.
Although he got the nickname around the same time for his glitzy style on the football/soccer pitch, Mr Vegas earned it in the recording studio. His first hit, “Nike Air”, recorded on the Playground Riddim for Jeremy Harding, only came about because Vegas successfully demanded doctors remove the wiring in his jaw after a serious injury not long before. Despite nursing the injured jaw, “Nike Air” (1997) raced to the top of the charts.
Mr Vegas’s follow up smash on the Filthy Riddim, “Heads High”, took the world by storm. Led by its undeniable hook over the creeping bass line, “Heads High” reached #1 on the reggae charts in five continents and #69 on the US R&B chart. The same year, Vegas won a distinguished MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Award in the UK. MTV put the “Heads High” video in heavy rotation and powerhouse dancehall distributor Greensleeves Records signed on for his debut album the following year. Also called Heads High, the album compiled additional hit songs like “Jacket”, “Sweet Pineapple” and “Everywhere I Go”, to reach #5 on the US Reggae chart.
Vegas’s sophomore Greensleeves release, “Damn Right” (2001), confirmed him as a leading reggae dancehall artist from Jamaica. “Damn Right” included the now timeless favourites like ‘Girls Time’, ‘She’s A Ho’ and the monster collaboration with Sean Paul, ‘Hot Gal Today’, which Vibe Magazine voted one of the best collaborations of all-time and peaked at #66 on the US R&B chart. “Damn Right” reached #2 on the US Reggae chart.
In 2004, and linked to the Los Angeles-based independent label, Delicious Vinyl, Mr. Vegas released his third full-length album, “Pull Up”. Like each previous offering from Mr Vegas, the new album included a Billboard charter, this time with the title track peaking at #98 on the Billboard 200 and #68 on the R&B chart. The song undoubtedly would have exposed Mr Vegas to an wider international listenership had not rapper Pitbull sampled and hijacked Mr Vegas’s original song without a legal clearance.
Throughout the years, Mr Vegas has proved adept at catchy hooks, knowing just the right beats will hit at the right time and signature song writing. ‘Tek Wey Yuhself’, ‘Hot Wuk’ and ‘Nuh Friend From Dem’, from his 2007 album, “Hot It Up”, are a case in point. All were chart toppers in Jamaica and dominated the major American, Japanese and European charts. The soca-infused ‘Tek Wey Yuhself’ on Kirkledove’s Dutch Pot riddim confirmed Mr Vegas as one of the most versatile in the business and “Hot Wuk” made it to Billboard’s Hot R&B/ Hip Hop Singles chart on the strength of its wildly popular carnivalesque dancehall vibes.
Taking carnival one step further, Vegas’s hit song ‘Daggering’ (2008) highlighted his shrewd sense of the pulse of dancehall. Cutting edge and creative, ‘Daggering’ was another soca inspired single, which tore up the dancehall in Jamaica and abroad. Always ready to surprise, Vegas ended the decade by invoking not carnival but faith and God’s blessing with the smash, ‘I Am Blessed’ (2009).
In 2010 Mr Vegas was nominated for Soul Train ‘Reggae Artist Year’ and performed at the Soulfusion Soul Train Awards in early 2011. He also performed live on the CBS Morning Show in New York. In 2011, and in collaboration with Shellian McBayne, Mr. Vegas initiated the Save Foundation Reggae campaign with a petition appealing to radio disc jockeys to include more reggae pioneers like Alton Ellis, Gregory Issacs, and Cynthia Schloss in their daily playlists. People from as far away as Kenya, Australia, and Qatar have signed the petition.
Recording though out 2011 & early in 2012 for his new formed label imprint, MV Music, Mr Vegas is set to release his new album, “Sweet Jamaica” on May 29th 2012. ‘Sweet Jamaica’ unites reggae and dancehall in an unprecedented double disc set. From 15 tracks of real roots reggae to 16 more of electrifying dancehall, ‘Sweet Jamaica’ is a complete listening experience and praised by Jesse Serwer (Miami New-Times, LargeUp, Okay Player) as “A great album. It’s going to cement [Mr Vegas’s] place as one of Jamaica’s great artists”.
Presenting reggae and dancehall like it’s never been done before, ‘Sweet Jamaica’ will undoubtedly be a milestone. “I want to be around in twenty years,” says Vegas, “and ‘Sweet Jamaica’ is the best way I can think of to put my stamp on the future, one in which real foundation reggae and dancehall both play a part, just like real life”.
Leading the way in 2012 is the runaway crossover hit ‘Bruk It Down’ which is projected to be minted as the new summer anthem. Mr Vegas will be doing his part, taking the message about reggae and dancehall straight to the people worldwide, from New York to Paris, from California to St Maarten.
Indeed, Mr Vegas has appeared on all of the industry’s major shows, in Jamaica and abroad, including Guinness Sting, Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest, Reggae Sunsplash, Tobago Jazz Festival, Best of the Best in Miami, Uppsala Reggae Fest, Summerjam Germany, Rotterdam, Amsterdam Reggae Festival and more. Mr Vegas continues to tour extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean Islands and North and South America.