Lady Saw: Respect Due

Sex is the world’s first industry and the oldest known profession. If used for the purpose of selling something, it can become a viable asset and tool for what you do. Lady Saw learned this lesson a long time ago, and she is reaping the fruits of her expertise. Having been Jamaica’s leading sex symbol for over a decade, she has taught the world at large the valuable lesson of being sexually respectable amongst her peers. She made it her personal mission not to let her highly sexual alter ego, Lady Saw, ever intermingle with the private life of Marion Hall, the school girl who grew up dirt poor in the small village town of St. Mary, Jamaica.

Upon the release of her seventh album, Strip Tease, Lady Saw speaks candidly with Alternatives. She delivers a sexually empowering message for the young ladies in the dancehall, while also sending a special message for the overly exploited women in the industry. Alternatives: You seem to be a very busy woman, globetrotting the world and working hard on your craft. Talk to me about your current project.

Lady Saw: Well, I got the album that’s out now. It’s a long awaited album; everybody’s been waiting. But, the good thing is that everybody is loving it. I called the boss this morning, and he said everything is lovely. Everybody is loving this album, man. We [are] working it and everything’s fine. How is good is that, you know? I’ve never done so much work, even though I had albums before. I’ve never done so much groundwork on any album. This one here is definitely the right one; I think this is the best one.

AHHA: Basically, you were more involved in the music and how you wanted everything to sound, right?

Lady Saw: I’ve been in the business for a while, and I know sometimes [that] an artist who’s been in the business for a long period of time tends to fall back. I wasn’t planning on doing that. I was home relaxing all the time, yes. But, one day I got up and said, ‘I need to write a song that will get all the young girls in the dancehall crazy and hype.’ I wrote ‘Man Is The Least’, meaning men are the least [of my worries]. I don’t worry about them. Some girls stress over men, but I don’t worry about that. The whole song is about ladies who watch other ladies and talk about [personal things]. Everybody caught on to that song in the dancehall. The selectors turned it down and the girls would start to sing it, and that just took off right there. Then, I knew it was time to do this album.

AHHA: Who are some of the reggae artists that you feel is taking the dancehall craze to another level?

Lady Saw: For the crossover, I’ll say Sean Paul, definitely. Elephant [Man] is also crossing over, but people don’t understand what he is saying. For instance, I was in a beauty salon and I picked up on a conversation with some American chicks. They were like, ‘I don’t know what the hell he’s saying!’ That kind of [taught] me something, too. This time around, I put more English into my songs. I can crossover, and you people can understand. There’s a Spanish guy that’s using all the reggae and dancehall riddims, but singing on it in Spanish. People are taking our music and crossing over.

AHHA: In my opinion, that’s the ultimate testament of respect.

Lady Saw: A lot of people look at it like everybody’s jumping in and biting our thing off, but they are taking it to another level, man. That’s all good. I know if you use a riddim from someone in Jamaica, you got to pay some royalties. Once you get me [some] royalties, they’re not losing. If they are paying the dues, we’ve got no complaints.

AHHA: Again, it’s a confirmation that people from across the globe respect reggae. If different genres are beginning to use riddims as a means of crossing over, so be it. Reggae has come a long way from Bob Marley and the Wailers to what it is today.

Lady Saw: Back in the days, I don’t think they made money like we are making today. I hear people talk and say back then; they didn’t make a lot of money. I know that [reggae artist] Gregory Isaacs did ‘Night Nurse’, and some guy in London covered the song. He got money from that.

AHHA: I want to change the pace of this conversation and talk about some of the songs you have on this new album. Wow!

Lady Saw: You love ‘Pretty Pu**y’?

AHHA: I cannot honestly say that I am offended by the song at all. [laughs]

Lady Saw: ‘Pretty Pu**y’ is all about decorating your punanny. You have a lot of men that used to downgrade women when say things about how big a woman is. I’m telling the ladies to upgrade their punannies. You need to shave it in whatever form you want to shave it in. Don’t have it all bushy and have hair going all over the wall. Shave your punanny in whatever shape you want. You can put a ring on it. Put pure ice on it so that a guy knows that whenever you spread your legs, your pu**y is expensive and is worth a lot of money. You can put a tattoo on it. You can put a teddy bear on it. So, I’m telling them if you have a pretty pu**y, put your hand in the air!

AHHA: Strip Tease is a very suitable title for an album with such suggestive subject matter.

Lady Saw: I named the album Strip Tease long before now, because there was another Strip Tease that we were working on but never happened. I abandoned a lot of songs and upgraded to new ones. I heard that Big Yard had a riddim called Strip Tease also. The album is called Strip Tease, and everybody knew that because I was promoting it for so long. They called and said I should hear it, so I went over there and the riddim was hype. We did it wicked so the go-go clubs are loving it! ‘Strip Tease’ is a hype song, and I want to do a video like that movie Coyote Ugly. Have you ever watched that movie?

AHHA: Yes, I am more than familiar with that film.

Lady Saw: I want to make the video that sexy.

AHHA: You obviously have a powerful message that represents empowerment for women. Do you have a specific message or advice for women younger than yourself, whether it is about music, life, or just about coming into their own sexual prowess?

Lady Saw: The advice I give to women coming up is, don’t listen to all these songs and think that’s the way you should live. These songs are just things that are written on paper. For instance, I love talking about sex because it sells. But, I don’t walk around with mine on my forehead, you know? Me and my man can walk down the street, and he can hold on to me and be proud. Anybody I’ve been with before him was respectable men. You never hear men discussing me. A lot of women complain that producers want to sleep with them before they record. If you have real talent, you are going to get out there. You don’t have to sleep with anybody to get out there. Keep your nose clean, stay positive, and don’t run around sleeping around like groupies because you won’t get any respect.

In whatever you do, people will talk bad about you. Sometimes, I go overboard on stage and do crazy things - but I’m not out there having sex with anybody. When I’m off stage, I’m just plain Marion. I get respect from everybody. If you ask a male artist in Jamaica about Lady Saw, you never hear anything more than how I’m respectable.

AHHA: I love that! Now, I am not sure if now is the best time to talk about this, but I wanted to ask how you felt about the hurricane that recently wiped out many parts of Jamaica.

Lady Saw: It wasn’t that bad, bad, bad. It’s bad for some people who are living in houses made of board. A lot of upscale people who have big concrete houses are fine. I have three houses built out of concrete, and I was worried. Two of them are very big, and I said, ‘Oh my God, don’t let me lose my roof’. One is unfinished in Ocho Rios, and there were nine separate roofs that needed to be put on. I was worried that I was going to lose that because the roofs were only half done. All I lost was some windows that broke while the breeze was blowing. I’m fine, but a lot of people are unfortunate.

The Prime Minister said he doesn’t have the money to help these people in a way that he would like to. If we go down and someone needs help, I’m always a helpful person. When it comes to people who need help, I always give. Not for public display, though. Sometimes, somebody may tell the media, but it’s not for that. When I had my first daughter, she reminded me of me, on the street hustling to get money. I took her to school and dumped her. Now, she’s seventeen and passed eleven subjects. You feel so good to help somebody because somebody used to help you.