Gritty hit reflects Baby Cham's rough childhood - His-Story


babycham_Ghetto_story_Alicia_Keys.jpgThe lyrics to Ghetto Story, a haunting tale of growing up poor in the vividly violent streets of a Jamaican ghetto, were written from a surprising place: the grassy knoll of a lake deep in the suburbs of Southwest Miami-Dade, where ducks waddle by and the water laps softly against the grass.

It is a sweet irony not lost on Dameon ''Baby Cham'' Beckett, the popular Jamaican dancehall star whose searingly gritty song leapt from smash hit on the island a year ago to international acclaim with the help of remixes from R&B princess Alicia Keys and rapper Akon. The song and the remix with Keys earned Cham two nominations at last week's BET music awards.

This is my story. Real ghetto story. I remember those days when hell was my home. When me and mama bed was a big piece of foam. And mi never like bathe and mi hair never comb. When mama go a work me go street go roam.

It is indeed his story: Of growing up poor in the Kingston enclave of Sherlock Crescent. Of not having a father around. Of watching his mother work every day to support five kids. Of seeing his best friend murdered when he was 12. Of dodging bullets and waging war on behalf of the politicians who controlled the neighborhood.

''The story is real. Seventy percent of it is my personal life. The things I grew up seeing around me,'' he says.

Cham, as he prefers to be called these days, has been plotting his escape from that neighborhood since the fateful murder of that childhood friend.

He decided to become a pilot.

''I researched everything about the profession. How much it paid, how long it would take to learn. I wanted to fly [my mother] out of Sherlock,'' he said.
But his mother was already supporting two children in college. His pilot dreams would only add to the financial burden.

And so he did what young men do. He went to a local dance and fell in love.
''I saw how the crowd reacted to Super Cat, to John Wayne and I loved it. They were getting so much attention.''

By age 16 he'd earned the respect of producer Dave Kelly, who had told him years before to return to his studio when he had a high school diploma in hand. So he did: ''It was the best thing he could have done for me,'' Cham said.

The two have been inseparable since producing several hits by Kelly's Madhouse Label including: Gallang Ya Gal, Hands off My Property, Middle Fingers and Vitamin S. The label's studio is based in South Dade.
Then along came Ghetto Story in November 2005.

Source: The Miami Herald