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THE URBAN LEGEND OF L.A LEWIS by Peter Dean Rickards

I remember the first time I saw LA Lewis. It was a particularly blistering day in Kingston and he was trying to park his beat-up old deportee Camry in the parking lot of Globe Furniture on Constant Spring Road. On top of his car were three huge PA speakers, which were held in place by a wobbly collection ropes, bits of wood, nails, television cable and even electrical tape.

From the speakers came a distorted amplification of the driver’s voice, transmitted through an old microphone into which LA screamed continual advertisements for a show he was to appear on later that night (albeit in a part of town then experiencing a rash of deadly gang warfare).

“Howdy Doo! Tonight! Tonight! Tonight! The Seven Star General! LA Lewis! Live on stage. Free show! Free! Howdy Doo! Bring yuh Queen and leave yuh machine! Howdy Doo!”

So this was the famed LA, I thought to myself, as people in the parking lot began to hurl expletives and empty orange juice containers in his direction. The legend was real.

Indeed, to most Jamaicans, the idea that LA Lewis is, in fact, a real person can be surprising. To most, the name is synonymous with a series of peculiar – but famous – drawings on walls, tree stumps, street signs, telephone poles, caves, large rocks, old boats and fences all over the island. ( SEE: http://www.afflictedyard.com/la_lewis.htm ).

These writings (which LA says are written by his ‘fans’) have always been consistent in their style and appearance – with added ‘big ups’ to the police in areas where its wiser (and self-preserving) to be on the ‘good side’ of cops should you be caught writing “LA Lewis is a wicked DJ” on public property.

And yet, who could have imagined that there actually existed a DJ LA Lewis when one considers that almost nobody in Jamaica, outside of the Jamaican music-studio circuit has ever heard a song by LA?

But he’s always been there whenever something big has happened. There was the time Prince Charles came to Jamaica and the time Lennox Lewis (no relation) walked through Trench Town with Omar Davis. There too was LA.

On November 24, 2001 his house caught fire and the event was reported on page 23 of the Jamaica Star, which included a quote from LA himself: “The fire started on my mother’s bed and burn out two of the rooms in the house, the rest of the house get some damage”.

On June 13, 2001, a photo of LA graced the Star’s cover under the headline: “A Beenie Punch? LA Lewis says ‘The Doc’ broke his jaw”.

For the second time in his career, LA had been quoted in a national newspaper, this time in relation to allegations that Dancehall-star Beenie Man had punched him in the face outside Shocking Vibes Studio on Constant Spring Road:

“It stink, stink all over the place that Beenie Man thump down LA Lewis. I don’t want his money because I have money, what I want is a public apology by June 18.” On June 27, Beenie apologised to LA in the press and the matter was resolved.

And then, there’s the music. For years he’s been a regular on many dancehall
stageshows including the annual Sting event, with his face appearing consistently in the very lower-left bottom corner of the poster.

On stage, LA’s performances have been described as ‘dynamic and diversified,’ most obviously when ducking beer bottles and stones - an occupational hazard when you’re an aspiring DJ in Jamaica.

For years, he’s submitted dozens of CDs and homemade videos to local TV and radio stations (which are almost never played), and recently he appeared for a quarter-second in an international TV ad for German shoe giant Puma. Hell, Puma liked LA so much that they even took a picture of him, gave him some free wristbands and a green t-shirt and then used his photo for storefront displays in their Jamaica-themed London boutique.

In 2002 LA released Wave which shot to No.345 on Brindisi’s (Southern Italy) No.1 rated countdown program, Hitz.

In the summer of 2004 when Tanya Stevens celebrated her birthday at Quad, patrons of Christopher’s lounge were treated to an unscheduled, five-minute version of Happy Birthday by LA who accompanied himself on piano. Also last year, LA released a single with Michael Jackson (yes, Michael Jackson) called 2000 Watts on Success Records. Although the recording is obviously spliced, LA remains positive:

“I worked with Mike on a lot of good riddims this year. I was going to go on tour with him but then he got arrested so maybe next year, if he doesn’t go to prison.”

Not bad for a regular guy from Trench Town whose biography states that he originally got into music, “mainly to capture the interest of the opposite sex.”

He has a website...

 

..built by Go-Jamaica which boasts over 50,000 hits per day, mostly from Germany and Japan. The website contains information and downloads about LA as well as a photograph of the resilient DJ sitting on a wall with a background that changes automatically from night to day depending on the time you visit.

LA explains: “LA is international so I’ve got to have a website so people can log on and read about LA. You have to promote yourself the best you can and the Internet is a very good way to do that.”

Outside of Jamaica, the name LA Lewis is nowhere near as obscure as it is here. The graffiti that bears his name is now well known to visitors from all over the world who tend to notice things about this country we overlook. Things like odd graffiti, the spirit of the Jamaican underdog and spinning plastic hubcaps.

Today I saw LA again, this time in flashier clothes, jewelry, and a newer deportee. He had two huge posters advertising Sting 2004 on the bonnet of his car but less the giant speakers on the roof.

The same smile and optimism remained, the same desire to work hard and succeed and be recognized – a desire most Jamaicans continue to share, despite near-impossible odds.

“OK, hold it there”, I said as he grinned and leaned against his car for the photograph. “Now stop leaning and stand. No, not on the car LA, on the ground, stand on the ground.”