By: Claude Mills
Photos By: Carlington Wilmot
They call him the 'Sherff' of Spanish Town but deejay Hitlist a.k.a Sherff is no lawman. He is a self-described 'thug' deejay determined to bring the hard-to-digest truths of inner city life to the ears of vulnerable, at-risk youth.
Recently, a combination of Hitlist's live high energy performances and the chart hit 'Please Stop the Killing' currently rocketing up all major local charts, has propelled him into the limelight as the Next Big Thing in the dancehall game - a title that he does not accept easily.
"I am just here to tell the yutes that blood for blood is not the answer. We live inna it, grow inna it, we see man drop out inna it, and my words come from the heart, people need fi recognize what is really going on, it wicked inna the garrison," he told YardFlex.Com.
He knows what he is talking about. The deejay's personal life was touched by the bloody gang violence that often defines life in the volatile areas of Spanish Town when his eldest brother was killed by a rival gang years ago.
"Mi just hold it still, and know that violence is not the answer. We mature early, see that we parents had nothing, and mi choose music, ah nuff temptation mi face the 17 years mi inna it, but the other way was just death," he said.
Born Marlon Lawrence on January 29, 1979, he attended St. Catherine Primary and Spanish Town High while growing up in the rough-and-tumble depressed community of Rivoli.
Asked about his unusual stage monicker, he responded:
"Sherff is the poor people's representer, there is no 'I' in it so it is not sheriff, no I so sheriff could never be I. It is Sherff."
What about Hitlist, does that connote violence or hit-making musical ability?
"My name really has nothing to do with violence. Colin Fatta game me the name because he wanted me to make hit tunes...nothing violent. In fact, a man can have the simplest name, and kill yu same way, a man can name Pretty Boy, and gi yu six inna yu head, a name doesn't determine the nature of the man."
He recorded his first single, 'Joe Grind' in 1994 for English-based producers but the song was never released locally, and through these overseas links, voiced with producers like Colin Fatta, Maxi, Flux and Hubert Grant. He even found himself in the company of UB 40 for whom he voiced a few singles in 1996.
"Yes, I did some work for UB 40 on songs they were producing for their label but I never did any work with them on their albums, but it was a good experience for me at that time," he said.
The first single of those recording sessions, 'Run the Place' was released in Jamaica in 1997-98. After its release, he did a number of overseas shows, and continued to refine his sound, while voicing for a small army of producers.
However, it was not until 2005 that he recorded the single, 'Please Stop the Killing', that his career began to move in a positive direction.
A protege of deejay Bounty Killer, Hitlist impressed the elder statesman of the business with his savvy lyrics, and his copycat sound.
"Bounty Killa gimme a strength, me ah Alliance, more time me and Killa par. He accepts me as a son and me accept him as a musical father, me sound like him, even talk like him, and him see it as a natural ting...yu caan trick the Killa, him will see right through yu," he revealed.
"Bounty was the one who told me that 'Please Stop the Killing' was my hit song long before anyone else, from last year March in fact, and that was the time he started to call me up on stage shows," he said.
'Please Stop the Killing' was originally released on the Gogan Music label, and is now available on the Fouta Record label. The song was licensed from the original producer, who recently handed over the rights to the song to producer Carlton Lewis.
Hitlist has not forgot the place of his birth, and references to Spanish Town and the recurring gang violence permeates his conscious songs.
"Spanish Town is always a controversial place, remember that the Arawaks and Caribs used to war in this area, and dem hang the first man inna Jamaica inna Spanish Town, ah pure rubbish gwaan when the Spaniards used to run the cut...the place haunted, but ah fi we place. We coulda do tings, but we hold it out, we know that gun violence is not the right road for a future, blood caan solve the problem...vengeance always come back, ah coulda 10 years from now," he reasoned.
"Me believe that the town can come back, we just need fi put politics aside and build it, we can do it," he added firmly.
Hitlist has a wide repertoire of material. He has a number of songs such as 'War She Waan', which is chock full of saucy bedroom boasts, as well as conscious songs like 'Nah Give Up' for the Mainframe label, 'Unite' on the Kingswell labe, 'Cherish the Love' with Christopher, the self-produced 'Drive and Survive' and 'One Day' for Famzhouse Records, for which he recently shot a video.
"We taking it to a new level, we ah go de pon the whole ah the big show for the Summer. I am an all-purpose deejay, mi can do song for the vipers, for the girls, conscious tunes, anything fi kick down Babylon," he said.
Although Hitlist is not a Rastafarian, he has allowed his hair to grow in dreadlocks and has become a vegetarian in recent months.
"It is just a lifestyle thing. I am not saying rastafari or anything. Religion an illusion, it merely separates people, the Muslim from the Christians from the Hindu, I live straight, I believe in the man who build you and me, the Almighty, not the religion ting, ah de so mi ting de right now," he said.
Finally! A deejay who is not afraid to tell it like it is.
Check the Hitlist at a stage show near to you, you won't be disappointed.