Weh Dem Up To: Ward 21’s Kunley still a mad act
In 2016 when Nike used the sampled version of Bounty Killer’s ‘ Season of the Year’, it was a turning point for the track’s original producer, Kunley McCarthy. It was created in 2013, and by 2014, American singer Santigold sampled the songs for her hit single, ‘ Kicking Down Doors’.
Kunley, known as one of the founding members of Ward 21, accepted it as a win, not only for him as a producer, but for dancehall.
“The path to becoming a producer was first as a member of a sound system and I walked into King Jammy’s studio and asked him to teach me, and never looked back,” Kunley told THE WEEKEND STAR.
He continued: “Over time I became proficient at writing. One thing led to the other, and I took up a microphone.”
He said that Ward 21 opened doors for him to see the world and other cultures since the group’s breakthrough with Haters on the Badda Badda Riddim in 1999. He also helped to establish his bona fides as a producer.
“The generation of artistes back then weren’t trusting of nuh likkle young producer. It was just the big man dem like Donovan Germaine, Dave Kelly and my mentor King Jammy. With initiating camaraderie, artistes realised the vision and/or talent and began trusting in my work more as a producer … so truth be told, Ward 21 launched my career,” he shared.
In addition to Bounty Killer, Kunley has produced for artistes such as Beenie Man, Chino McGregor, Voicemail and a host of other dancehall entertainers under his label Billionaire Boot Camp Records. He is also a senior producer for Bad Company, under the Downsound Records umbrella, presently working with Marcy Chin, Leftside, and Elephant Man.
Ward 21 is still his home – recently wrapping up a tour in Central and South America as well as anticipating the release of the dancehall group’s final studio album.
“We are still that mad, bad, disgusting, and mean … everything in one team that dancehall lovers across the globe grew to appreciate,” he said.
Kunley has done more than 20 years in the business, and he looks back in the same way that he looks forward – with gratitude and optimism.
“A ton of gratitude goes out to the fans. As an artiste there is a shelf life, but I am going to be a producer until the wheels of my creative vehicle drop off,” he said.