He was the young South London lad back in the 1980s when he took the leap of faith into the rising world of Reggae, and released the iconic “Hello Darling”. He’d already had some success after releasing singles on the Greensleeves label but it wasn’t until “Hello Darling” was released that his career took off in the right direction for him. He was received with open arms and Anthony Henry AKA Tippa Irie was born and in hot demand.
Since then he’s gone on to work with some of the most influential musicians in the World. From Alexander O’Neal to The Black Eyed Peas, his own influence can be heard on some of the most memorable tracks ever recorded. Most recently he’s worked with London Reggae band The Skints whose style is reminiscent of some of the 80s classic Reggae musings, and certainly fits well with Tippa’s style. His music is as relevant now as it was back where it all began.
I caught up with him ahead of his latest tour with the Lockdown Band which will see him hype the crowds of The Maze in Nottingham on Sunday 16 July.
It’s 1986. South East London’s Saxon and their collective of talented mcs are ruling England’s sound system scene. One of them, Papa Levi, has already made history by scoring a Jamaican hit, Mi God Mi King. Another, a skinny youth with sleepy eyes and a cheeky grin, is about to crash the UK pop charts via a jazzy lovers ditty called Hello Darling…
Fast forward 30 years and that young man, Tippa Irie, has recently celebrated his 51st birthday. The U.K. reggae-dancehall industry has experienced ups and downs since the explosion of possibilities in the 80s. But Tippa has come through it well enough. He’s CEO of his own production company Lockdown. He travels the world bringing enjoyment to audiences at live shows, using his still preternatural ability to entertain. And he has just released his 13th album Living The Dream: a diverse collection of transatlantic crossover tracks (whose striking artwork features Tippa surfing atop dollar bills wearing a crown).
In part 2 of our full career interview with Tippa Irie, he talks about going on the road with Saxon, pop success with Greensleeves and his mixed experiences with major labels…
When you joined Saxon they already had quite a lot of notable people there like Levi, Maxi Priest and Peter King. Did you know them already?
No, but to me it was just dances. It wasn’t like you’d go there and it was like “Who is this guy?” You’d go over there and people had just got to respect your talent. If you could deliver then people can say what they want to say but you’re delivering. At the end of the day nobody could tell Musclehead “Who is this guy? We don’t want him here!” They saw my talent. Dennis Rowe was the main guy really. Dennis was the man that was infectious, who gathered us altogether and really showed us the love. He really cared about us. Dennis was the man that really kept us all together.
In the final part of our full career interview with Tippa Irie, he recalls how he was able to diversify into the worlds of football, hip hop and theatre, the challenges of surviving as an independent artist, and why, despite this, he is still Living the Dream…
Tell me a bit about how you recorded the 1993 Arsenal song Shouting For The Gunners with Peter Hunnigale? That was the year the Arsenal won the double wasn’t it?
Yeah that was the double year! There was a guy, a friend of mine, I can’t remember his name because it was a while back now and he was in that circle, the football circle. I think his name was Fred. He said “Tip, you know I’ve got an idea. I think the Gunners are going to do the double“. He came to me with the idea and I went to Peter with the idea because I thought that Peter could do the music. I just came up with “I know and you know we’re shouting for the Gunners“. Then of course I’m an Arsenal supporter so it was easy for me to write the lyrics. Peters is a supporter too.
We just got together and we did the song and we sent it to all of the radio DJs that we knew supported Arsenal. Like George Kay and Jigs in all these guys from Choice. They all supported Arsenal so they started to play on the radio. Then London Records, Pete Tong and these guys, they heard it so they signed it. It started to blow up from there and it got to number 33 in the charts. We nearly made it on Top Of The Pops but George Graham wouldn’t let the team come on Top Of The Pops at the time. If they did that it would have shot up the charts but because they didn’t it stayed in the 30s. But was still an achievement. We all did a video together.
DON SINCLAIR REGGAE VIBES
Published on May 11, 2015
Tippa Irie Exclusive Interview @ YouTube Studios
Talks on where he is from and how he got into music also reggae culture, Sound System culture and what he doing now.
Big respect to Anthony Henry – a.k.a. “Tippa Irie” and full crew who supported this show could not of done it without ya nuff blessings.
Anthony Henry – a.k.a. “Tippa Irie” – emerged from England’s Saxon Sound International – the star-studded travelling sound system that has been at the forefront of the U.K. reggae dancehall scene for the past 25 years and helped launch the careers of artists such as Maxi Priest, Papa Levi and Smiley Culture.
Tippa Irie was part of the new generation of British MC’s who developed the ‘Fast Talking’ style chat which today can be heard in modern day rappers like Busta Rhymes.
“I grew up listing to U Roy and wanting to be like U Roy, so it was just a natural progression for me”
Original UK dancehall mc Tippa Irie’s place in reggae history is assured. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from releasing ‘Stick To My Roots‘, a late contender for the best album of his career. A collaboration with Germany’s Far East Band, ‘Stick To My Roots’ sees Tippa chat over everything from the latest dancehall rhythms and pop-lovers ditties to unusual forays into cultural music with his celebration of live instruments Hornsman Blow. Angus Taylor spoke to him at Reggae Jam in Germany about his resurgence, his new record and how he won’t let nagging injuries keep him down…
As I enter the studio Tippa is sitting behind his desk tapping away on his computer, he welcomes me with a big handshake and he makes me feel at home.
The first thing that struck me was the impressive array of awards and disks hanging on the wall, which shows his achievements of his hard work and dedication to the reggae industry over the past decades.
Q: How did the Mc name Tippa Irie come about?
Tippa was my nickname from school and Irie means feeling good so I put the two of them together and made Tippa Irie because my main aim in music was to make people feel good when they came to see me perform.
Q: Tippa I remember you back in the 80’s when you was a Mc for Saxon sound system and known as one of the top mc’s in the local community can you elaborate on this and give me the history of your early days?
I started my career on my dads sound system Musical Massiah, I grew up listening to U Roy, Big Youth, Tappa Zukie and wanted to be just like them, so I