DIFFERENT CLASS: Ricky Trooper’s passion behind the turntables for more than 40 years cannot be questioned
EVERYBODY NOW a seh, I have a sound! But what is a sound? You have a laptop with some songs on it, that is not a sound. You’re a dub collector, a music collector. A sound is made up of equipment and a crew. Some people have the concept wrong yah now…”
I expected nothing less from my conversation with Sound System veteran Ricky Trooper.
Trooper is definitely in my top three greatest Sound System selectors. His passion behind the turntables over nearly 40 years cannot be questioned. If you have ever seen him in the Gladiators sound clash arena then you would more than likely be in agreement with me.
Bouncing on his toes, speaking with tears in his eyes, selecting the most vicious and cut throat dubplates is where Trooper is at his most comfortable. “PEOPLE…. PEOPLE” is his trademarked battle cry when he is commanding blood thirsty sound clash fans around the world.
Ricky grew up in a “dance hall” in St Mary. “When I was younger I used to see the Sound Systems going in and out of the yard that I used to live, this is where all the big dances used to keep. Seeing this is what drew me to playing my first sound, Coptic, when I was aged 10,” he tells me.
My awareness of Trooper doesn’t quite stretch back that far, but I can go back to when I used to listen to KillamanJaro Tapes in the early 1990s. Jaro has always been my sound since being introduced to them by my older brother. Their sound originally come from the Lawrence Tavern area in Jamaica, which is where my family also come from.
My mother had gone to school with Noel Harper, KillamanJaro’s owner. My Gran even told me stories of the one hoarse speaker box outside the Harper family shop… the very, very early days of KillamanJaro!
Whilst playing Jaro, Trooper had made a name for himself as the serial killer. During the 1990s, Trooper, armed with the unrivalled Jaro foundation dub box, went on a killing spree. Dur- ing this time Trooper used the sound to help launch careers of reggae icons such as Luciano, Sizzla and Garnett Silk. He has the dubs to prove it too.
Trooper has had face-offs with every sound that you can think off. He hasn’t walked away with too many L’s to his name either. His tale of the tape is pretty impressive.
Knowing the history that Trooper holds I wondered what he thought about how the sound clash culture is fairing now. “It’s bigger now – you have sounds all over the world. Africa, Australia, Europe everywhere. Music a music. From you have two people on a stage competing, that’s a clash. But it doesn’t make it an authentic sound- clash. It’s different from when you have two Sound Systems
PASSION: Ricky Trooper says he is driven by his love of music
The conversation gets to a point where I start to hear the soundman passion coming out. “You have some people come into the ting and abuse it and the pioneers don’t get any recognition. You have some people in it that need to come outta it because not everybody is born to be in this music thing,” he says vigorously.
“The age of technology has caused these tings. One time you would have to go and buy a record. How many of them would have bought a record? We weren’t rich. We used to have buy the best what our money could afford. Now anyone can download anything and say, ‘I’m DJ XYZ’. This has had an affect on music in general.”
In the early part of the new millennium Trooper left the safe house of KillamanJaro to create his own Sound System – Sound Trooper. More than a decade on he is still ying high, recently winning the Annual Boom Soundclash in Jamaica. What is his drive?
“It’s the love of the music, I can’t really explain it. There’s a re that burns inside of me. If I don’t clash for six months, the urge and eagerness inspires me to go out there and do some- thing. That’s what made me build a physical Sound System with amps and speakers from scratch.”
It is well documented that Trooper gives smaller sounds the chance to take a stripe from a legend, so I was keen to find out what new blood he would give the stamp of approval to. His response was, as expected, very real.
“It’s sad to say but none of them. When we were coming into the music in the 1990s, me, Matterhorn, Panther, Fire Link and Squingy all had a different set of songs, seen! Everyone had they own style and sound. We would all have the regular dubs, but there would be a time in a dance that you know you will hear Jaro songs or Black Kat dubs…SEEN.” So everyone used to sound different. We don’t have this with the new generation of sounds coming through.”
Trooper then goes on to ex- plain why he doesn’t really like to do dubplate mixes for social media. “If people wanna hear me play they should come to the dance. The radio mandem sound the same, the Soundmandem sound the same. The patrons are bored.”
Boredom isn’t a word used when Trooper is around. The passion and verve he has is what has made him such a legend in this game and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Many of the younger sounds could learn a thing or two about the art of selecting from this giant of the game.
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