Ward 21 Who?
The year, 1998. The place, St. Lucia Road, Waterhouse, King Jammys Recording Studio. Jamaica and the rest of the world, were about to be introduced to four (now three) creative, lyrical and multi-talented individuals , consisting of musicians, engineers, sound system operators and producers who had a sound and approach to music unlike anything heard at the time. It was legendary music producer King Jammy himself, that had the insight and saw the potential in these young men from Waterhouse. He brought Mark Mean Dog Henry, Andre Suku Gray, Ranaldo Rumblood Evans and Kunley McCarthy together and gave them a platform to express themselves musically. They called the group, Ward 21, subsequently the name of the Psychiatric Ward at The University Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica.
The group has since gone on to creating many number one hits like Haters , Rhyme, No Apologies, and Garrsion among countless others. They have toured extensively world wide, sold many records, gained thousands of dedicated fans globally and have acclaimed international success and recognition for their work.
Mark “Mean Dog” Henry, the oldest member of the group, always had a desire to pursue music. Having grown up in Waterhouse where the new emerging sound of dancehall was being cultivated at King Jammys on the same road he lived on, he was bound to find an outlet to express his musical talent. He first did so by being a selector on the Bug Striker Sound System. While playing on the sound system, he became known for being really good at what he did and word quickly spread to King Jammy who quickly secured him for his own sound system, The Mighty King Jammys Super Power. It would be this sound system that would draw all four members of the group to become Ward 21. Mean Dog would also get to be a recording engineer and assistant technician for renowned DJ, Bounty Killer before joining Ward 21. Today, he still records and performs with the group. Mean Dog has since created his own label, Looney Bin in 2005 and deals primarily with the business aspect of the group.
Andre Gray otherwise known as Suku , was first introduced to King Jammy by Mean Dog and Jammys son Christopher. Suku was also drawn to music and had played on Road Sonic sound system before joining the King Jammys Super Power. Sukus talent soon exceeded the sound system and led him to the recording studio where he quickly produced the sensations Badda Badda Bellyas and Punanny riddim and then to the recording booth in the group Ward 21, where along with other members came out with their first smash single, Haters. With the group in their 8th year as professional recording artistes , Andre Suku Gray has since become a father and has realized success as a recognized producer with riddims like Trilogy, Scarface, I-Rob, The Rock and Trifecta in his catalogue as well as producing songs on all three of international superstar Sean Pauls albums.
Kunley McCarthy held many jobs ranging from operating the sound system Road Sonic , being a member of the Fab Five road crew to being a Policy Data Entry Clerk before becoming a member of the illustrious group, Ward 21. He was introduced to King Jammy by Suku and also played on the The Mighty King Jammys Super Power before moving on to working in the studio as apprentice engineer. It was not long after working in the studio that Kunley found himself correcting artiste or giving suggestions that he thought would make the songs better, when he penned his first and Ward 21s debut smash single, Haters on the Badda Badda riddim. Kunley’s rich baritone voice and speedy delivery of lyrics was something original and fresh, unlike anything else heard at that time and his style was soon imitated by many artistes to come. Kunley is truly gifted as a songwriter and has composed such hits as Rhyme, Garrison, Full up the Party and Hey Gal. As a producer he has stepped out to the forefront doing production for Ward 21 and new artistes of ‘The Bada Bada Gang’.
In 2003, five years into their career as professional recording artistes, Ward 21 had released two successful albums, the first being their much anticipated first album Mentally Disturbed and their cutting edge dancehall sophomore album, U Know How We Roll , which both have entered and broke records on music charts internationally. Subsequently 2 more albums since, ‘King Of the World’ and ‘Genesis’.
Their success as artistes has enabled them to tour extensively and they have covered almost all the four corners of the world. They have covered all the major and usual tour stops in the United States of America, Europe and the Caribbean. They have built up a huge fan base in Germany and are one of the top acts scheduled to appear every year at annual festivals. They’ve also toured Japan where they were once called on stage by international recording artiste, Shaggy. The group has shared the stage with many artistes over the years but particularly enjoyed opening and performing with acts such as Black Uhuru, Yellowman, Admiral Bailey, Tanya Stevens and Gentleman.
Now in 2011, Ward 21 is running their own independent label, Ward 21 Music and has become a more diverse, lyrical and mature Ward 21. More time is being spent on production and business and not only the Djing aspect of things. They are also responsible for the production and musical direction for their new upcoming artistes, DeeWunn, Point O, Ci’K, Tifa, Natalie Storm and Timberlee.
It has been 13 years since this group has made their debut and their mark on dancehall history and have proved themselves to be innovative, diverse and we always get quality and big, important records from them. With new products coming out soon, Ward 21 has defiantly proved themselves as a musical force to be reckoned with.