Whether as a formidable solo artist or in the role of charismatic frontman for legendary, Grammy Award-winning reggae band Black Uhuru for the past 25 years, Andrew Bees has played a significant role in the breaking down of cultural and socio-political barriers that have often kept Jamaican reggae stars out of the American mainstream consciousness.
Teaming up with SoCal independent label LAW Records for the release of his latest solo release “Real Life” (Out Dec.10 2021), Bees now continues that legacy of bringing his personal brand of conscious roots reggae to a new generation of audiences and emerging reggae artists, while subsequently delivering a potent reminder of reggae’s capacity for social critique.
Characterized by wailing guitars pitched over a surging, trance-inducing groove and Bees’ wide-ranged and almost ecstatic vocal delivery of lyrics that conjure the freedom of rolling down mythic American highways —the track’s upbeat sound belies unspoken layers of meaning and the events that inspired the song.
Bees was travelling in Kenya with his wife and baby when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Feb. of 2020, and as such, he and his small family were among the first panicked waves of American citizens scrambling to board last-minute flights and hastily return home at the behest of the U.S. government.
Bees describes his experience, “CNN news said everybody get out and come back to America because they're going to be shutting down and going to be no flights from other countries. And they make it sound like all the people gonna start dropping like flies, man. I was so panicked for my wife and baby. And when we finally land in San Francisco, there was a lot of doctors and nurses at the airport meeting us, man, making us take tests and asking us questions like we bring back the disease.”
Driving home from the SF airport to his home in Antioch, CA curing the final leg of his harrowing journey, Bees notes there were no people, no cars, no life in sight, “...just an eerie feeling like the world is going to hell and the only safe place to be is in your house.
Stayin isolated in the house like that for months, with the news feeding you fear that grows like a parasite inside you, til you convinced you living one of those Apocalypse movies where people just smelling the breeze, man, and there's disease in the air. But after a time, I was like start feeling homesick for the world I knew before. Like we are living in the Matrix and wishing we can get back in the real world. That's when the words of the song came to me.”
living the real life
meditation is so high,
and I'm rolling on the highway
“I was missing being on the road, touring and meeting the people. As much as the news tell you people be selfish and dangerous and stay away from others, without people, there is no world, man. Nothing's going on. When you see no cars and make no connection with people …that's not a good feeling. You start feeling empty without people, feeling empty without your friends. And you feeling empty without the work you do because, as musicians, we are people who are used to travelling freely and being onstage. That's our life. Our power comes from the people. The people is the power and the power is the people”.
This statement reflects a long-held Andrew Bees philosophy that the children are the future, and by connecting humanity through music, artists can pass the torch and assure that future has been pollinated with good vibes.
Growing up in Kingston’s notorious Waterhouse District, Andrew Bees was exposed to and influenced by the best Reggae, R & B, and soul singers Jamaica had to offer. At the young age of 14, he became a regular performer on the popular "Colgate Cavity Fighters Club" program on Radio Jamaica. That experience exposed his talents to reggae greats Augustus Pablo, Half Pint, Hugh Mundell, King Everald, and Wayne "Sleng Teng" Smith, who invited him to join them on their respective stage shows.
Andrew recorded his first songs "Life In The Ghetto," "Struggle and Strive," and "Be Cool" in 1989/1990 on Castro Brown's New Name Music Productions label. In 1993, He was invited to perform on Bunny Wailer's 100 Artist "Ghetto Bash Concert" at the Jam World Entertainment Center in Jamaica. The following year, Bees collaborated with Fitzroy Francis on the single "Things A Gwan, Things A Go Dun," leading to the production of his first solo studio album Militant, which was eventually released in 1995 on R.A.S Records in the United States and on Sony Records in Japan.
In 1996, Andrew was invited to join Black Uhuru as lead vocalist, touring extensively with the band in Brazil, Europe, North America, and Central America. Two years later, he recorded his first studio album as lead singer for Black Uhuru entitled Unification, which was produced by the legendary King Jammy's. In 2000, Bees recorded his second studio album with Black Uhuru entitled Dynasty for the US-based label R.A.S. Records. And in 2001, Bees was featured on Black Uhuru's live album Dubbing It Live, recorded at The Paléo Music Festival in Nyon, Switzerland.
In 2006, Andrew released his second solo album titled I-ration, produced by Walter Fraser and released on his Vizion Sounds label. Over the next few years, in between tours with Black Uhuru, Bees continued to sharpen his skills in preparation for a solo career: His single "Something Strange" was released in 2012 on the Mighty In Battle Riddim project that was produced by Fitzroy Francis on his Mightyful13 Records Label. In September of the same year he recorded "Better Must Come," a tribute to the late Great Delroy Wilson that charted impressively, reaching the #1 position on several US and International Top 30 Music Charts. A second tribute to Delroy Wilson entitled "Cool Operator" would follow on 2013’s the Operator Rhythm Velocity project, also produced by Fitzroy Francis and released on Mightyful13 Records.
In 2019, Andrew Bees formed his own record label and trademarked brand called Beeshive Music. Since its inception, Beeshive Music has been instrumental in elevating the youth of the Waterhouse district in Kingston, Jamaica, supporting and encouraging the youth to “get off the streets and into music” in favor of creating a more positive future.
Not long after, Bees signed a deal with LAW Records. Owned and operated by the prolific artist/entrepreneurs of reggae-rock band Pepper (Yesod Williams, Kaleo Wassman, and Bret Bollinger), the independent SoCal label shared Bees’ commitment to passing the torch and has been equally invested in developing the next generation of reggae artists and connecting the genre’s wide open future with its legendary Jamaican roots.
Says LAW General Manager Paul Milbury, “What we wanted to do is connect the burgeoning American and Cali reggae scene back to the original Jamaican legends, who helped create the scene that inspired this one: Andrew Bees is certainly among those legends and we are honored to be putting out his latest solo work.”
“Real Life” features Bingy on drums and percussion, Devon Bradshaw on bass, Valter Vincenti on lead guitar, and Andrew Diamond on guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals. Under the direction of prolific agent, Project Manager and Artistic Director Robert Oyugi of Ujama Designs, the track was recorded at Nice n Up and AXX Studios. It was produced by Andrew Diamond, and was mixed by Andrew Seidel at SUB80.
The “Real Life” single is out now on LAW Records and available on all major streaming platforms.