NEW YORK – Rohan “Snowcone” Fuller knew as a child that he wanted a career in music. Born and raised between the Crescent Road, Kingston 13 community of Jamaica and New York City, he was exposed to an eclectic mix of music; but Dancehall, with its pulsating raw energy, was what drew him in.
With over a decade of recording experience under his belt, Snowcone has transcended the ranks of aspiring artist and businessman to become one of the most sought after reggae producers in the game.
A highlight of Snowcone’s career was receiving an ASCAP Award for Sean Paul’s hit single “Temperature” (off the The Trinity album) the most performed song for 2006 which reached the top of the R&B and rap music charts.
The Trinity garnered a Billboard Award as the “Top Selling Reggae Album of the Year” for 2005 and its single “Temperature” earned the 2006 Billboard award for “Hot 100 Single of the Year.
After phenomenal success with several riddim compilations, Snow Cone is back with his self-produced full-length album Reggae Dancehall Nature, boasting appearances from today’s chart-topping Dancehall and Pop artists including Beenie Man, Mr. Vegas, Junior Reid, Lady Saw, Nadine Sutherland, Kevin Lyttle, Spragga Benz, Wayne Wonder, Bounty Killer, Hollowpoint, Kat DeLuna, Spade with artists from his own imprint, Jah Snow Cone Entertainment: Bridgez, Delicious aka Wifey, Scabanga aka Mr. Pang, The Beat Bangers and Izes. The compilation album will be released on September 2, 2008 through New York-based Phase One Communications with distribution through EMI.
Jah Snow Cone
First off congratulations on the success of Sean Paul’s “Temperature!” Must have been exciting to have your first hit recorded by a mega-star.
Yes, definitely, and to have a reggae song hit #1 on the Billboard Charts was exciting too. “Temperature” by Sean Paul was my first Billboard #1 hit song and I also received two ASCAP Awards for the publishing.
How did the collaboration between you and Sean Paul for “Temperature” come about?
Well, I started with several riddims including Rice & Peas with Mystery and Bounty Killah, Earth Wind & Flame, Pen and Paper, The Beach, Applause and Cheerful. I had the ‘temperature’ riddim already and a couple of artists had already recorded on it including Sizzla, Big Long Gun, Spragga Benz, T.O.K., Rick Rock from Shaggy, and Raven. There were a couple of tracks and Sean Paul heard it and called me at 1:30 in the morning and was like yo, this beat is bad. I wanna do something on it and I was like go ahead. He did it and he brought it to me and I knew immediately that it would be a big record.
It’s interesting that in Jamaica, different artist will vocalize on the same riddim. In hip-hop if an artist received the same beat from a producer, it would cause a conflict. How does that work in Jamaica?
In America, they will give you a record deal so everything you do has to be exclusive and in Jamaica we just rhyme over the beat and what ever song blow up blow up. So you’ll have a lot of underground versions. But when you have an international star like Shaggy, Sean Paul, or a Buju on the track, the world outside Jamaica and outside of reggae circles will only know their version. In hip-hop, there would be a big fight if that happened.
How did you bring the different artists together for Reggae Dancehall Nature? Did you just call people yourself or were you approached by their record labels?
In addition to being a producer, I’m a songwriter, so I wrote the majority of the songs on Reggae Nature. I basically contacted each of the different artists with the songs I wrote specifically for each of them and they loved it. With Reggae Dancehall Nature, we tried to mix well-known acts like Beenie Man, Mr. Vegas, Junior Reid, Lady Saw, Nadine Sutherland, Kevin Lyttle, Spragga Benz, Wayne Wonder, Bounty Killer, Hollowpoint, and Kat DeLuna with artists on the rise like Sexy Posh, Q-Sean, Bridgez, and Delicious, some of whom are signed to my label, Jah Snow Cone Entertainment.
On Reggae Nature, each of the songs sounds so different. How was it working with so many different artists for this compilation?>
I’m a person who vibes a lot and each artist has their own vibe. When I worked with Spragga Benz it was different because he’s more of an open minded person who doesn’t mind constructive criticism. His openness and flexibility is what you hear on “Glory.” Kat DeLuna was always vibrant and ready to hit the booth and that energy comes across on “You’re My Baby.” It’s a really fun song that brings some pop influences into the record. Working with Nadine Sutherland, was more spiritual. She sits and prays before she begins her sessions so that set the tone for “Jah Jah Is My Light.” Even if you listen to that song, we prayed in the studio prior and then recorded. It was cool bringing so many different types of artists together.
You mentioned that you’re a songwriter and I notice your name R. Fuller when scanning the production credits. From your beginnings as a producer, how did your talent as a songwriter emerge?
I used to be a DJ and an artist so I write and I produce from both sides of the spectrum. I can just hear a beat and come up with 10 ideas in an hour. I don’t have to write anything on paper; it just flows. Imagine how you feel when you go into the cockpit of a plane and see all those buttons and you’re thinking ‘oh my god’ how do they remember which to push. The production studio is my cockpit. As a songwriter, producer, and composer, I know how to push all those buttons and create songs not just for myself but that fit other artists. I admit, that sometimes you do get writers block and sometimes you track a song so many times before you get it right. The hardest part is arranging the melody.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I wrote was actually co-written by myself, Salaam Remi, and Spragga. It’s called “Star.” The first big riddim I had on my own was “Rice n Peas” and that was in 2001. After that I wrote a lot of songs for Mega Banton, Sean Paul, Angie Martinez, Wyclef Jean, Beenie, Shaggy, Nadine Sutherland, Ninja Man and more.
You mentioned working with Salaam Remi who has produced some of the biggest acts in the industry including The Fugees, NAS, Amy Winehouse, Rush Hour 3, Sade, Ms. Dynamite and more. What did you take from Salaam Remi that helped you develop your own sound?
First of all, Salaam Remi, is one of my mentors and there are so many things that I learned from him. I’ve written some of the biggest reggae hits when I was working with Salaam Remi. He’s one of my first teachers and he means a lot to me. The most important thing I learned is to listen a lot and say less. He taught me that it’s not just about an artist getting on a beat, but that as a producer, you have to develop the sound. It starts with sitting with the artist, discussing concepts, and sharing ideas to create the best song and lyrics that the artist can project on. Without that process, it’s just a singer on top of a track. It doesn’t become their own until you go through that. Salaam can hear a beat and tell you what it needs or that the frequency is off, so learning how to listen is one of the biggest things he taught me.
Do you think the artists in Jamaica respect the producers more who have come from America?
I was in America until I was 14 and I spent 18 years before I came back to Jamaica. The reason why it might be true is because everybody wants to be somebody and overseas people revere America. When Salaam Remi came to Jamaica, and the industry heard that he was there, everyone wanted to work with him. Remember Salaam Remi started out with “Mac Daddy,” Mike & Garrett “Ghetto Red Hot,” with Super Cat, so he knows a lot. So when the artist came to the U.S. and met me in the studio with Salaam Remi, they kept asking me to come back to Jamaica to work, especially since I’m Jamaican. And then when “Temperature” with Sean Paul rose to #1, my name got out there. When you have a hit, the artists find you.
Who would you like to work with?
I have tracks ready for Rhianna, Alicia Keys, Pussy Cat Dolls, Usher, and more. I’m ready!!
How do you rank yourself with other reggae producers?
Tony Kelly, Dave Kelly, Sly & Robbie, Steely & Cleavy are the bosses. Sly & Robbie are like a Quincy Jones, Dave Kelly and Tony Kelly are like a Jimmie Jam & Terry Lewis. I’ve built my own talents by studying the technique of the masters in the game and those guys are the dons. You also learn from the artists.
Suggestions for other producers.
If the beat is hard, you don’t have to go hard. Don’t let your track override the artists or the lyrics. Try to keep the integrity of the music for the artists.
How do you spend your time when you’re not in the studio?
When I’m in Jamaica, I go to where the minerals are. I’m not the type of producer who is flossing and partying. I don’t keep negative energy around me so when I’m in Jamaica, I get more free time to just vibe.
What’s next for Snowcone?
I’m still growing and I know there’s more to come. Right now I’m in Kingston recording with Vibes Kartel, Movado, Beenie Man and a few other names that you’ll hear about soon. I’m trying to find my own niche right now. This compilation will show the world what I can do.