David Constantine Brooks, known to the world as Mavado, has proven himself as one of the most lyrically-inclined and controversial deejays in the history of Dancehall music. His rise to fame endured its share of troubles, but his determination and ability to adapt has made him a mainstay in the local music industry over the last decade.
Brooks was born on November 30, 1981, raised in the tough, inner-city area of Cassava Piece in Kingston. Given the sudden rise of Dancehall music within the Jamaican folklore, Brooks was somewhat intrigued by the genre.
However, it was his grandmother who gave Brooks his first experience within the musical field; bringing him to church services to sing. The singing sessions at church inspired Brooks to deliver socially conscious music to the masses as congregations witnessed his vocal abilities.
During his high school days, Brooks began to take his talent seriously; meeting with Reggae superstar, Junior Reid at his Kingston-based studio, thanks to one of his close friends. Little did Brooks know that internationally acclaimed Dancehall superstar, Bounty Killer would also appear at the studio session; watching Mavado voice for Junior Reid and instantly recognizing his potential as a singjay.
Despite the hardships Brooks dealt with during his high school days while living in Cassava Piece, he continued believing that music was his ticket towards success. His persistence paid off when his friend and Dancehall selector, O’Neil “Foota Hype” Thomas took him to a new studio where Bounty Killer was waiting. Bounty, intrigued by Brooks’ prospects, began to mentor the young singer and show him the pros and cons of the music industry. Soon thereafter, Brooks dubbed himself with the stage name, Mavado, after the Swiss watch-making company, Movado.
Also under the tutelage of prominent Dancehall manager, Julian Jones-Griffiths, Mavado was introduced to the DASECA productions crew in 2004. Immediately, they developed chemistry; resulting in the recording of Mavado’s debut single, Real McKoy on the highly-rated, Anger Management Riddim. The single made Mavado an instant sensation, touting him as one of Dancehall’s hottest properties given his uniquely intimidating voice as well as lyrical dexterity.
Mavado released more singles that year including, Gal A Bawl and You Can’t Escape that proved his range while establishing an immediate presence within the industry.
Over the next two years, Mavado continued to expand his horizons; teaming with producing prodigy, Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor for the song, Top Shotta Nah Miss on the Power Cut Riddim and So Clear. Additionally, he began collaborating with fellow Alliance artistes such as Busy Signal with Badman Place and Vybz Kartel with Happiest Days. All of Mavado’s hard work culminated in the release of the 2007 album, Gangsta For Life: The Symphony of David Brooks, regarded as one of the best Dancehall albums to date featuring a slew of major hits such as Dying alongside Serani, Squeeze Dem Breast, Amazing Grace, Bawl Dem A Bawl and the romantic single, Heartbeat featuring Reggae songstress, Alaine.
However, days within the Alliance soon became far from happy for Mavado following the infamous brawl involving himself, J.O.P leader, Aidonia and Bounty Killer. The incident caused a great stir within the Dancehall community and discontinuity between Vybz Kartel and members of the Alliance came as a result.
Kartel’s perceived betrayal of Bounty and the Alliance triggered one of the nastiest feuds in Dancehall history between Mavado and Di Teacha. Mavado released several singles during the battle in 2007; signaling his intent to take the crown of Dancehall’s best over his hated rival with singles such as Mr. Palmer, Informer P***y and Say What You Wanna Say.
Despite the lyrical battle, Mavado continued to assert himself as one of Dancehall’s elite; releasing more hit singles such as, Money Changer, Hennessey, Inna Di Car Back, So Blessed and Brown Bottle. He also earned himself international acclaim when he copped a collaboration with legendary hip-hop superstar, Jay-Z for the remix of his hit single, I’m On The Rock.
On the other hand, Kartel’s continuous lyrical taunts were tough for Mavado to ignore as he fought word for word with the Portmore Empire deejay. Singles such as Real Killa, Fag Dem a Fag, Dem A Pree and No Bleach Wid Cream ignited what became a very intense war inside and outside the music industry as fans from the Gully and Gaza camps became heavily embroiled within the lyrical far, resorting to physical violence that concerned many onlookers.
Their battle came to the fore at STING 2008 after years of personal insults, near fatal run-ins and a deeply-rooted desire to settle the argument of who Dancehall’s newest king would be. Mavado held his own during the clash at STING that year, with many fans claiming to this day that he won the clash in Kartel’s hometown of Portmore. The clash elevated Mavado’s status to new heights.
In January 2009, Mavado premiered the video for internationally acclaimed single, So Special on BET’s 106 & Park. The video later made it on to the top 10 of the popular hip-hop/R&B chart, a rare feat for a Dancehall artiste. He continued his stellar run that year with many highly-rated singles such as Hope & Pray, Again & Again, Jailhouse as well as, A So You Move proving that he was just as socially conscious and inspirations as he was hardcore with his lyrical content. Additionally, he showed his love for the ladies with singles such as High Ana, Till She Bawl and Never Believe You while releasing tracks like Dem Alone, Mockingbird and War Is In Di Air. Another international collaboration followed as he joined forces with former Fugees rap superstar, Wyclef Jean for the single, Hold On.
The latter of the singles proved to be one of the last diss songs exchanged in the feud between Mavado and Vybz Kartel as, thanks to government intervention, the two artistes settled their differences in the best interest of society just weeks before STING 2009 was set to take place. To show the honesty of their truce, Mavado and Kartel held a joint concert later that month; showing that their once storied rivalry was a thing of the past.
With a renewed focus, Mavado came out of the gates swinging in 2010; collaborating with Gully Squad first lady, Stacious for the pulsating single, Come Into My Room. The single was regarded by many as Dancehall’s top single for 2010 and earned several #1s on Dancehall charts locally and internationally. More success followed for Mavado as he unveiled songs such as Nine Lives, Gyal A Mad Ova, When You Feel Lonely and Messiah. He also collaborated with fellow Alliance mainstay, Wayne Marshall for the remix of the hit single, Messin’ With My Heart. However, it wasn’t all pleasant news for Mavado in 2010 as he was one of several Dancehall artistes to have his United States visa revoked; preventing him from building his growing status in the country.
Nevertheless, Mavado didn’t let such new deter his progress and in 2011, he’s released hit songs such as the controversial single, Tump, Pepper, produced by Di Genius and Star Bwoy which also charted well locally and internationally. Another international hit single, Delilah signaled the beginning of his new label, Mansion Records while collaborations with Shaggy, Girls Dem Luv We and Grammy-winning R & B superstar, Ne-Yo for the remix of I Know You Want Me proved that the deejay still has crossover appeal. The singjay retrieved his U.S visa in July and since then, Mavado’s taken full advantage; joining forces with hip-hop selector turned rapper, DJ Khaled as a part of his record label, We The Best Music Group. An album produced by Khaled’s label is in the works while rumors of a joint album with Lil Wayne’s protégé, Drake have also circulated within the industry.
Mavado’s consistency and ability to transcend his image and Dancehall music in general makes him one of the most valued superstars in history. With his international status continuing to grow, it’s possible that the best of this “Gangsta For Life” has yet to be seen.