Before I interview anyone, I research. That’s always my first step. But finding any real information on Trinigladiata was near impossible. This was definitely a case of those in the know, know. And those in the know said, ‘AC listen, you have got to interview Trinigladiata. He’s the one’. When certain people give me recommendations? I act on it. And after the interview, I know why there was such strong emotion for this to happen. I meet up with Trinigladiata at the Dogstar in Brixton (London, England) one evening and get to the business of finding out more about this enigmatic man and Just Vibez.
How did you get the name Trinigladiata? Phife Dawg from A Tribe called Quest. He named me that. A big influence on me… His family… I talked to his dad yesterday. Yes, huge influence musically, and as a person, a big brother and all of that. I toured with him, you know we go back and forth with stuff.
How did you get into music? Just the stereotypical way; father into music, cousins, neighbours, that type of thing. Obviously grew up in Trinidad so a lot of soca, calypso, soul and R’N’B. And my family in New York, Toronto also influenced that. All my friends at that time with me grew up on soca and dancehall, standard. But I was always the hip hop one. Much more than anyone else.
You’re really passionate about hip hop… I just love it. The lyrics in hip hop has always been the biggest attraction for me. I mean soca yes I do love it but soca goes hand in hand with our culture. Maybe because hip hop was foreign to me at that time. Now everyone listens to it. Then, it was really niched to us.
You’ve from Trinidad but based in the UK? How long have you been based here? Off and on. Now about eight years.
Why London? I came to work and save and do a Masters initially. And I stayed on for a while. But it is also a good springboard point for me to go to other places. I go to Brazil three times a year, Australia once or twice a year, Asia. Based in Trinidad or even in the US or Canada , it would be more challenging for travel.
Where do you consider home? Trinidad full stop. I got at least three times a year. When I go to the states for work, I also go to Trinidad as well.
When I did some research on you, there wasn’t much to find. Is that how you like it? I’m not a… I mean obviously because I’m on the mic I’m out there but I’m not like… I just do it. I’m not really on social media at all. Everything’s cool. All the stuff that I do, I do on the quiet.
Why? Because I don’t need to shout. I mean like this, I don’t really do interviews. So why did you agree to this one? Because you came highly recommended and I was free at 7:30 today [laughter] Real talk.
What is your specialism? Freestyle, making up lyrics on the spot. Because I am so much into hip hop, I would enter any battle, any competition, anywhere. When I went by my family in Brooklyn, they would take me to the street corner and bigger competitions. When I came here, I would just seek out any competitions. In a party setting, it wouldn’t be that often you could do it. You wouldn’t stop the vibe to say ‘Oh look at me freestyle’. But that is what I am probably best at. And outside of the Caribbean scene probably best known for the hip hop side of things.
In London what events do you play at? I haven’t seen you at many Carnival/soca events. Is it because you don’t want to be too aligned to the carnival scene? No, not really. It’s partly due to scheduling. And to put two things together, I’ve stayed in Brixton most of the time and when I was here, Just Vibez already existed. It’s been a thing. It was the name of my radio show in Canada. And my peoples in Canada hold it down, Trinidad, New York where ever. Maybe 8-10 venues in Brixton used to have Just Vibez. Spiced in between other gigs. And when I first came, I didn’t even realise there was such things like Chocolate Nation, events like Busspepper. I was in my own little world. Come full circle now and I sometimes host Busspepper.
So how did Just Vibez blow up? Well Just Vibes has been around for years and is not just me. It’s a lot of us. Like about 10-15 people. They are not all in the UK. The crew from back then, people who are from around but might do different things, one might do DJ, one might do graphic design. Just because I am on the mic I seem more out there. But I’m at the lower.. [laughs] there’s de boss and there’s de boss boss. I’m just there.
Just Vibez has been around since about 2006?7? and when I was not living here then. But it was like ‘Just Vibez at the…’ Brixton people knew what it was. We used to have students, drug dealers, accountants, murderers that got out of jail, rastaman and the girl that just moved from Gloucester all in the same party. So people came and they knew it was just vibes. If they played dancehall cool, if they played soul, cool. Hand in hand with the gentrification and all of that, all of the venues said ‘Really sorry guys but we don’t want to have this kind of music, we wanna have house, we wanna have commercial music’ etc. At the same time I was doing more stuff internationally and doing more recordings or consulting on music. So for me I didn’t have much time. Some of the other crew ended up DJing in other places finding their niche or their road because that was no longer happening. Then in the last two years or so, because I am still around Brixton especially my Jamaican and Colombian neighbours they are like ‘Trini wham to Just Vibez remember when we just to hear that regular down Brixton’ and one Jamaican neighbour in particular would say ‘Come on, me walk tru Brixton, me cyah hear reggae’. And the Coloumbians were like ‘we doh hear our music no more, it’s all changed’. A lot of people complained about it and we were in a position to help, keep some vibes. So we reapproached venues new and old and said ‘We have this thing we used to do’.. And here we are.
What’s the aim of Just Vibez? To bring back or keep some vibes how ever you want to see it, that’s one aim. Then various MCs DJs, producers who come from whoever, Brazil, Colombia visiting, come through and do their thing. So we had some Brazilian Djs recently, they had a fixed show at the Round House on a Friday night, and they decided to stay an extra day to play at Just Vibez. And they just played what they play. And that’s cool. And some of the other DJs who are not so exposed, can come through. And that is the second aim, giving people a springboard. And third is the mixture of cultures. Just Vibez is not really a business. It’s not making money. It’s just a springboard for a lot of the DJs to get some exposure, for new people to get into our culture and the other way round. So for example, people who just go into soca fetes may have never heard this kind of music. And they will be like, ‘Yo where do I get this..’ We’re not trying to sell out any place. It’s just fun and organic.
How did the Just Vibez event at South Bank come about? I have done a hip hop event once a year for the last four years. There was this South Bank London festival and there was MIA who is a hip hop head from back in the day asked us with some other peops. ’You do this hip hop thing, it’s always smooth, can you do a carnivalesque event?’ And we said absolutely, this is something we would love to do’. To help showcase but also mix because you go to a lot of events and it is quite I don’t want to say cliquish but other people just don’t know about them’. South Bank was to invite people but since then a lot of people have signed up with the bands, know about soca, want to learn to play steel pan, the kids want to be in a band. So that was good.
Do you find that there are differences in playing in different countries? For example between here and Brazil? England and Brazil are two of the most different. Musically and anywhere we go we try to spice in some soca.. In Brazil, they are very proud of being Brazilian. Caribbean people are too but we are talking about England vs Brazil. You always have to play some of their music. You have to make sure you play to their home demographic. Where as other places, somebody from the US comes here, the crowd here want to hear all their hits. In Brazil, they will be like, ‘C’mon you come to Brazil, you didn’t play any Emicida, any Kreyola. I have been going pretty often and for a long time to Brazil. A lot of those guys who are now like the Kanye West of Brazil like Emicida (who is a good friend) and sends me the music. I speak Portuguese, I speak Spanish so I’m pretty plugged in. I’m also comfortable in New York, Toronto, Australia and Honk Kong. Hong Kong to be fair I normally do more posh fancy clubs. These are people (and I don’t exaggerate) who buy thousands of pounds of drinks and don’t care. I guess in there you have to be a bit more smooth, everyone is super dressed. I have some good connects and we may do a one off dancehall/soca party, or a true school underground party in Hong Kong and those can be fun.
In terms of your career what do you think has been your greatest achievement? Well I can’t say.. well performing with some of my childhood heroes I guess; Jazzy Jeff, Pete Rock, Tribe called Quest. I’m a hip hop guy. Recording and contributing with some people like… you know when I was a kid I would think ‘I ain’t never gonna meet this guy or woman or whoever….
In terms of further collaborations, who would you like to work with in the future? What would you like to do in the future? Nothing. I think I have done it all. Some of them I can’t talk about. Can’t talk about it or won’t talk about it? Both. Cause some of it is not out yet and you know how social media is. I still have lots to learn, you can always improve on anything, whether it is performance or curate, handling crowds or situations. And even Soca. My major thing is hip hop and R’n’b. That’s my main stay. I won’t say I am new to soca, I grew up with it, I know it. I can do it but I think I can learn from people who have been playing soca for a lot longer full time, that’s there thing.
What is your greatest challenge at the moment? Maybe scheduling? Time management? I have to put things down in the diary as much as possible. A lot of times, there are things pencilled in. The booking agent in the US might say ‘Ok block off August 31st to September 10th. I do some of my bookings. But then the Just Vibez crew might ‘Ok well we want to do September 5th. Can you be here?’ And I have to think.
What do you do in your down time? Sports like football and basketball. When I am in the UK, I play five times a week. I am a fiend for playing football and basketball. But football is easier to find to play here. I write music/lyrics as well for my little nephews to enter their school calypso competition. [laughter] Isn’t that cheating? No because they don’t have to write it themselves, they have to sing it. [laughter]. So I enjoy that with them. I tell them what do you want to talk about? And they say ‘Eating chicken.. doing that with mummy’ So we write the songs and they do it at school.
If you had to give advice to aspiring Freestylers/DJs what would you tell them? Do the music you love and keep at it. Different types of music will be hyped and yes you may have to play the hype music to pay the bills I guess but if you’re really passionate the music stick to that.
Trinigladiata is so self effacing. At the beginning of the interview he says, ‘I don’t know why you want to interview me’. Here’s the one man who should have a great ego, who is entitled to the ultimate bragging rights and name drop at supernova levels. But he doesn’t want to. He tries reallyyyyy hard not to. And there are those he wants to keep off record. With the Just Vibez team, he is representing and tapping into the pulse of multicultural London while still staying true to his love of hip hop and the Caribbean culture. And without any pomp or ceremony, this underground legend gets up, says his goodbyes and heads off to football.
For more information on Just Vibez, please check Just Vibez on Facebook or Instagram. Many thanks to Trinis in London for the use of photography.