The New York Times called his sophomore “Spice in Your Life” one of 2004’s best reggae releases. The Los Angeles Times broadened the accolades and named “Spice in Your Life” one of the year’s ten best albums of any musical genre and at home in Jamaica The Observer newspaper named him both artist and vocalist of the year. Such high caliber commendations don’t come easily and after 10 years of perseverance in the music industry singer Richie Spice is now reaping a bountiful harvest of cultural reggae boomshots that have designated him as the hottest commodity among the current crop of young artists.
Spice’s sudden surge in popularity is due, quite improbably, to a five year old tune, the spirited sufferers anthem “Earth a Run Red” (which the new York Times Kelefa Sanneh describes as “an exhilarating protest song with a refrain that makes the apocalypse sound like the world’s best party”), initially featured on his 2000 debut album “Universal.” Despite the song’s many years on the marketplace, “Earth a Run Red’s” lyrical potency has retained its full strength: “watch out for the big time thief who claim say that dem smart, stop bringing the crack and the gun to mash up the youths dem heart/earth a run red 10 year old a look dem own a tea bread/I hear a next youth dead.” “That set of lyrics now, it is just natural because growing up I always look out there in the world at the changes going on: gun violence, the youths out there on the street hungry, cannot find food, cannot go to school, the whole world war that’s going on” explains the soft spoken Spice. “Physically, spiritually, the whole meditation come upon the universe so we just put all of those things together and put the words together to speak of things that are going on around us.”
The resurrection of “Earth a Run Red” is due in large part to the efforts of the Kingston, Jamaica based label/management company Fifth Element Records. Spice met Fifth Element’s recording artist, fiery chanter Chuck Fenda who introduced him to company’s CEO Devon Wheatley;Wheatley saw the potential in Spice’s talent and invested in his music. Fifth Element issued “Earth a Run Red” promotional singles to Jamaica’s radio stations and made a video for the song and serviced the islands various cable channels; by early 2004, “Earth a Run Red” began a steady climb to the top of the charts and re-merged as one of the years biggest reggae hits. Spice continued his forceful impact with a steady output of lyrically conscious tunes reflecting his Rastafarian way of life including the ominous “Folly Living,” the tender “Crying Out for Love” and the sonorous hymn to herb “Marijuana” while amassing a reputation for mesmerizing live performances.
Although it has taken more than a decade to reach this level of prominence, Spice never doubted it would happen. “When you are singing positive songs, success may take a little longer but it has to manifest,” Spice observes. Artists that do different types of songs might make it more faster but those songs fade out quicker; righteous songs always stand predominant.
Born Richell Bonner on 8th of September, 1971 in Kingston, Jamaica suburb of St. Andrew, Richie Spice hails from a musical family that includes his older brother Pliers (from the deejay/singer duo Chaka Demus and Pliers of “Murder She Wrote” fame) and singer Spanner Banner best known in his mid 90s hit “Life Goes On” and now a member of the Fifth Element family. It was Spanner Banner who initially brought Spice to the recording studio;although the hopeful singer didn’t get the opportunity to record it he opened his eyes to the competitiveness of the reggae music industry. “It was a strong experience, going there and learning what the music is all about,” Spice recalls. “At that time I tried to record but I was never really ready as yet so I couldn’t manage it. But it show me that whenever you reach any where there is a lot of work to be done so just go towards it and do the necessary things until you reach that space where you are supposed to be.”
Spice took a significant step towards getting where he is supposed to be when he met veteran producer Clive Hunt who produced his first song, the funky reggae jam “Living Ain’t Easy” and his break through single, the engaging lovers rock tune “Grooving My Girl” still one of the most popular songs in his rapidly expanding repertoire of reggae hits. Those tracks and “Earth a Run Red” were included on “Universal,” released by the Cambridge, Massachusetts based label Heartbeat Records, which gave Spice his intial international exposure.
For the next few years, Spice continued recording singles and performing on various stage shows but without the support of a record label he found in difficult to penetrate the heavily saturated reggae/dancehall market within Jamaica and overseas. “The songs were there, they were all good songs but they weren’t getting any promotion,’ he recalls, ‘and with just me going out there singing them, it was like one man against the world. Then Fifth Element came along and put in their strength and promotion and people take onto the songs and accept them.”
As a young company releasing positive reggae music, Fifth Element Records provides an appropriate home for Spice’s remarkable talents; Devon Wheatley was drawn to Spice’s distinctively tough yet tender vocals and his constructive lyrics. “It is rare that you find someone with Richie’s extraordinary talent, writing ability, humility and discipline,” explains Wheatley. “Richie has a lot to say through his music and with proper guidance there is no limit to the vast possibilities that await him and Fifth Element has every intention of making this a reality.”
In November 2004, Fifth Element Records released “Spice in Your Life,” a carefully crafted offering of organic roots reggae (rumbling bass lines, loping guitar strums, dynamic percussive accents) as played by some of Kingston’s finest musicians, the ideal accompaniment to Spice’s emotive singing and sincere messages. It is rare for an It is rare for an independently released record to garner such widespread international critical acclaim while retaining its appeal among the grassroots reggae market, but Wheatley also the Executive Producer of “Spice in Your Life” attributes that to adhering to a proven paradigm for success. “I am following what Bob Marley did,” explains Wheatley. “He did his music live and that’s why it lives on. We are doing positive authentic live reggae music to keep it up to a lever where Bob had it.”
Throughout “Spice in Your Life,” Richie Spice demonstrates his flair for writing catchy melodies and infectious song hooks. There are several stand out tracks including the contemplative, solely acoustic “Outta The blue,” the inspirational “Move Dem Out” and the current single, the gently rocking yet lyrically powerful “Righteous Youths”; here Spice offsets the devastation wrought by crime and poverty with verses imparting spiritual strength rooted in Rastafari but easily adaptable to any Divine teaching; “If you think that his Majesty is sleeping then you better think twice, he would a never mek dem devil mash down paradise/when there’s a whole barrage of righteous people out there and we ain’t giving up no way/ there’s a whole barrage of righteous people in town, and we ain’t going down no we never gonna stop.”
It took Jamaican fans five years to catch the fire of “Earth A Run Red” and in 2005, after a year of consistent touring and establishing a solid , enthusiastic international fan base, bolstered by rave reviews of “Spice in Your Life,” it seems like the entire world is ready to embrace the uplifting music of Richie Spice. “It is great and I give thanks to His Majesty and the Almighty because this is what I have been working towards over all these years,” says Spice. “Now the music has taken a different turn on the positive side and I give thanks to all who make it possible, over all the years it come to manifest. And it’s not even for me, it’s for the younger generation coming up because it is like the turn the music take now the people really need that.