The word “wizard” tends to conjure images of old, bearded Gandalf types casting spells in Middle Earth or some other fantasy land. The Wizard we’re about to introduce you to, though, is the beautiful daughter of Beres Hammond, and, as far as we know, Jamaica’s only working female music producer. Just a few years removed from her first production credit, for the title track on her father’s A Moment in Time album, she’s already got a sound of her own (think Timbaland meets dancehall) and a growing resume that includes the entirety of Mr. Lexx’s upcoming Lexxicon album, and her cousin Courtney John’s latest effort, The Courtney John Experiment. She’s also produced remixes for Nelly Furtado. Our Martei Korley visited The Wizard at her sonic lair—her father’s Harmony House Studio—for her first ever photo shoot, after which I spoke with her about her unusual name, her unique position in the Jamaican music world, and life with Beres.
LargeUp: Tell us how you got started producing and making beats…
The Wizard: I started actually making beats when I was 10. I don’t know, it’s just something that’s in me. At five, I used to hear songs on the radio and I’d sing and count the melodies. I found out I actually had a knack for music, it’s something fun to get into and I’ve been doing it ever since.
LU: Your father is Beres Hammond. How did him being an artist get you started in music?
The Wizard: Oh man. Just he had a home recording studio so to sit and just watch him in his element was very inspiring. He led us like yup, that is definitely what I want to do. No lawyer, no doctor, that’s exactly where I want to go.
LU: How long have you been working on being a producer?
The Wizard: I think since I was 15, I actually started recording and doing it more professionally with other artists and stuff like that.
LU: Who was the first artist you worked with producing?
The Wizard: My first recording was with a couple of rappers by the name of Andre and Reasons. Professionally, Mr. Hammond was my first recording. I did one for him that was called “A Moment in Time” that was on his last album. It was actually the name of the album.
The Wizard strikes a pose at Harmony House Studio
LU: So do you have a big family?
The Wizard: Yeah man, huge.I have a couple of musicians from the family as well: Courtney John, Lenn Hammond, my brother DJ Inferno. Chris Smith, he’s a part of the family. So it’s just a big family of musicians. Uncle is a singer. It’s very musical.
LU: What are some of the things that your father taught you, coming in as a professional into the music industry?The Wizard: He’s not really hands on because he wants to see us just grow and do things on our own merit but one thing he did teach me, he said this music industry takes a lot of patience. Once you hone that skill, you’re good, everything else will just fall into place. So I think that’s the biggest advice that I’ve taken from him.
LU: Do you think you’ll continue to work with him on producing on his upcoming albums?
The Wizard: Yeah, I’m actually thinking of doing like a dubstep project with him. I think that would be cool and pretty trippy and would be a wicked vibe.
LU: Yeah that would be pretty cool. Tell me about some of the other influences in your sound, and how it developed. It’s not pure dancehall or reggae, it’s definitely electro and pop oriented.
The Wizard: I’m just a lover of music. Growing up in Jamaica and being exposed to media from MTV, BET, the different media that we are exposed to. That’s how I started getting in to different genres, hip-hop, pop, electro but in anything that I do I try to always fuse our culture with it so it brings it back home in a sense. So that is how I do what I do. Before MTV and cable, I was actually introduced to other genres through my parents. Mums always playing ’60s R&B—Sam cooke, Stevie Wonder. I was actually introduced to hip-hop thru dad. Believe it or not when he was signed to Elektra, he had a Leaders of the New School album in his collection…stuck out like a sore thumb..used to thief and listen to it.
LU: You’ve done some remixes for artists that are outside of reggae and dancehall. How do you create something that is your sound but also captures the dancehall vibe?
The Wizard: Well, let’s see. If I’m working with say a hip hop artist, I just lay the basic foundation, the basic groove of what we would associate with hip hop and after I allow them to do what they’re doing, that’s where I start tweaking to make it more of our thing like how we probably hit a snare or tweak our kicks, stuff that will make it more indigenous to us. That’s how I actually start to incorporate our type of… flavor into what I’m doing.
Favorite chill-spot in the studio—everyone should have a red couch!
LU: Tell me about being a woman producer. There aren’t very many of them as you know. Why do you think that is and what have been some of your experiences that have been different from a male?
The Wizard: Yikes. Well I’ve never been a male in a previous life so I really don’t know. I really haven’t run into any problems being female. I think my peers, male counterparts, they see me as their own so it’s not really a gender-biased thing that I’ve experienced. I’m not sure why there aren’t more female producers. I couldn’t answer that question. I think they should get into it cause it’s a pretty cool field to get into. I know we had Sonia Pottinger as the first female producer here. I thought that was pretty cool. I wish more females would come on board so we could take over.
LU: Do you know any other female producers in Jamaica?
The Wizard: No I actually don’t which is kind of sad… Yeah, I don’t know why that is because you send out beats and you say it’s a female, they’re like what? A female built that beat? Why can’t a female build that beat?
LU: Your name—where did that name come from?
The Wizard: My cousin, Courtney John, branded me the Wizard so I ran with the name. I guess he was saying you can create magic with whatever you are doing. So I said that’s pretty cool, thank you and just ran with it, humbly of course.
LU: So tell me about some of the projects you are working on right now…
The Wizard: There’s a rapper by the name of Rob GS from Toronto. You guys need to look out for him, he’s someone to watch. He’s 19. I’m actually doing an album right now for myself, I’m also finishing up Courtney John’s new project, The Courtney John Experiment. It’s really different, trippy. I actually just finished up Mr. Lexx’s album a month ago.
LU: You produced the whole album? Can you tell me about that?
The Wizard: I mean it’s dancehall, I went retro with some of the things but it has a new flavor to it. I think you’d enjoy. It’s really cool.
LU: Tell me about some of the artists, as you’re coming in and establishing your name, who are some of the artists you see yourself working with?The Wizard: I’d love to do something with Common. Azaelia Banks, she’s pretty dope. I like her. And it’s far fetched, but not really, Adele. I think that would be a wicked collab. I like more the UK vibe…
LU: I hear that. So who are some of the producers that opened your mind to experimental sounds when you started building rhythms?
The Wizard: I used to be in love, total infatuation, with Neptunes. Timbaland, Missy Elliot—people like that who used different sounds and it just sounded crazy. Just Blaze was pretty cool too.
LU: What can you tell me about Beres Hammond that people wouldn’t know?
The Wizard: Man, he’s a straight comedian. He’ll keep you rolling. I don’t think you get to see that side of him much cause every picture his face is always made up. But the funniest guy, trust me.
Lift-off! The sky is the limit for Jamaica’s first full-fledged female producer…
LU: And he’s embracing the new sounds that you’re bringing to him?
The Wizard: Yeah man. He’s good with it. I think hes down for this project that I mentioned to him so I think that’s going to be a good look.
LU: He’s listening to dubstep?
Wizard: I don’t think he’s listening to dubstep. Believe it or not, hes very versed with a lot of genres so don’t put anything past him.
LU: What’s your favorite Beres Hammond song?
The Wizard: There’s a lot. I’m actually his biggest fan, I don’t think he knows that.
LU: There’s a lot of women over here who would probably fight you for that spot.
The Wizard: There’s a song called “Love Means…” and “No Disturb Sign” I think the production on those, the songwriting just crazy. “One Step Ahead.” There’s too many. “Last War” by what’s that group daddy was in back in the day?
LU: Zap Pow! Do you remember being in the studio with him when he was making his big hits in the ’90s?
The Wizard: Yeah, he used to take me to the studio. I’m actually in one of his recordings with Donovan Germain. I was making fun of somebody in the studio while mixing one of his tracks, so they captured me on the record.
Words by Jesse Serwer, Photos by Martei Korley—