Q: Before you [migrated] to the U.S., when you first started out on the dancehall scene [in Jamaica,] you sang on a lot of the early sound systems, right? Killamanjaro, Jammy’s Hi-Fi –
General Jah Mikey: – Jack Ruby’s, King Jammy’s, Killamanjaro, Black Zodiac, Class One Disco, African Symbol, Ghetto International. All of di big sounds dem from Jamaica. Virgo International. Gemini. All of dem big sounds, you know? Mi used to DJ ‘pon dem as a likkle youth. But my permanent sound was Black Zodiac Hi-Fi. That was the sound that me, Ty, and Likkle John grew up with.
Q: Cool! Now the first label to sign you as I [mentioned] was Mozziyah Records. But you’ve been recorded and have had many, many singles – folks can look on the internet and find a lot of music you’ve been involved in. [There are many] [s]ingles that you’ve done, [and] you’ve also been featured on many collaborations with other artists.
General Jah Mikey: Yes I.
Q: [And] I know you have at least two full-length studio albums. One is “Original Yard Food” that came out in 2013; you had veteran musicians on that like Earl “Chinna” Smith, Dean Fraser, Nambo. [There] was a very good review that came out when [that album] was released by journalist Erik Magni. He [wrote that] you sounded like a “whiskey-voiced Sugar Minott.”
General Jah Mikey: (Laughing) A whiskey-voiced Sugar Minott, yeah.
Bushman and General Jah Mikey at the 1st L.A. Reggae Vegan Fest (photo courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper)
Q: (Laughing) Which I thought was a great description.
General Jah Mikey: Sugar Minott was always like my idol. I would love to sing like Sugar Minott. And Dennis Brown.
Q: Did you get a chance to meet either?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah, yeah. Those were my friends. Bob Marley [was] mi friend.
Q: You knew Bob?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah! Mi know Bob Marley, mi know Peter Tosh, mi know Bunny Wailer. We all grew up together in St. Ann’s.
Q: Did you watch as the Wailers rehearsed?
General Jah Mikey: Mi never watch them rehearse, but I’d see them every now and then [when] we’d pass [each other].
Q: Is there something about Bob Marley from when you used to see him [when you were growing up in St. Ann’s] that will always stick in your head?
General Jah Mikey: Before Stephen [Marley] and all of dem kids come about, we used to go up to see [Bob]. And there used to be a lot of “bad men” around Bob, you know? They’d like protect Bob from enemies. And they [were] tough, man! You can’t pass di gate, you know (laughing) –
Q: Rastas? Nyabinghi men?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah man. But like big dreads dem. We used to go up there and see dem men there. We’d drive all the way from St. Ann’s Bay. At that time we lived at Runaway Bay, you know? Mount Pleasant. Me, Raymond Topping who is a part of the Mozziyah label, [also known as] Iqulah and Jah Builder; we used to drive up there. And we’d go check Bob. Dem a burn dem chalice. [And] we’d smoke [the] chalice with them.
Q: After [your] album “Original Yard Food” came out you followed that up the next year with another release in 2014, “Jah Mission Is Timeless,” right?
General Jah Mikey: Jah’s Mission Is Timeless, right. [With] [m]i bredren [producer, engineer, instrumentalist] Tooney Roots from France.
Q: When [that album] came out [journalist] Erik Magni [wrote that album] is another “delicious treat” to add to “Original Yard Food.”
General Jah Mikey: That guy – I love that guy, man. (Laughing) Always gives me good reviews. That man never hate ‘pon mi music. That man always just listens to the lyrical content. Because ‘nuff people no really give the time of day fi really listen to music, you know. They no have no time for that. Because so much music comes out of Jamaica every day, you know?
Q: For sure. Now this may be a silly question, but do folks [ever] confuse you with Mikey General?
General Jah Mikey: (Laughing) Yeah man. Mikey [General] gets all my royalty checks.
Q: (Laughing) Really? You’re not kidding.
General Jah Mikey: Yeah but me and him, we talk, you know? Because they confuse both of us. But the thing is now, Mikey, he grew up around the corner from where I used to live. And he’d always remember me as a DJ from there.
Q: And did you know there is another reggae radio DJ who goes by the name of “Jah Mikey One Sound?” He [has hosted] [“Sound Chat Radio”] for Irish and Chin.
General Jah Mikey: Yeah, Jah Mikey One Sound. One time mi meet him.
Q: How did you [decide] to take the stage name “General Jah Mikey?”
General Jah Mikey: Okay, first it was “Jah Mikey.”
Q: Your legal name is Michael Mitchell?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah. So it was hereditary, because I’m “Mike” and “microphone”; dem go together.
General Jah Mikey: I just love that microphone, man. I used to just do this damn thing for free.
Q: And where does your [other nickname] “Lyrical Ambassador” come from?
General Jah Mikey: I have [two other] full-length album[s] “Lyrical Ambassador, Volume One” and [“Lyrical Ambassador,] Volume Two.” Those were the first two recordings mi put out for myself. But the distributors, they hate on it. They really hate on it. VP [Records] just flopped on me.
Q: If someone heard you sing for the first time and liked what they heard, and wanted to explore your music some more, where should they start?
General Jah Mikey: You can start on YouTube. But to get into my music, they should listen to Lyrical Ambassador, Volume One. Because mi have some songs ‘pon it they[‘ve] [probably] never explore[d]. And that was the “young me.” Also my jungle music and dubstep [work].
Q: Any particular tunes?
General Jah Mikey: A whole lot of releases but [one is] “Babylon System.”
Q: On your Facebook page it says you once had a collaboration with Dr. Dre. What did you do with Dr. Dre?
General Jah Mikey: Him no do nothing with it. Dr. Dre brought me to the studio and they didn’t even pay me.
Q: So Dr. Dre had a project and brought you to the studio?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah. I was in Humboldt County doing some mixing. And mi get a text. And it was DJ Jinx. That’s Dr. Dre’s cousin. He used to mix for Xzibit. He mixed for Kurupt and all of them. He’s a DJ. He’s a DJ that plays with them all over on tours. So that’s my friend. And a producer-friend of mine let me meet him. And I went to his house in Hollywood. And we [did] some recordings, too. He has me on his mixtape and stuff like that.
Q: So they were digging you?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah, yeah. So they wanted a vocalist at the studio. So they called me to come. They had a reggae beat and they wanted me to spit on the reggae beat. But they wrote the lyric they wanted me to spit on the reggae beat. Still my format. Because they don’t know how to format that. So it’s still gonna be all me. I did it now and [then] they sent for the artist named “Truth.” A lady named “Truth” [Hurts]. I don’t know if you know that artist? But she was on Dre’s label from way back. She was on Death Row.
Q: Death Row Records?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah. And she came to the studio and she was making a bunch of errors, you know, in the booth. And I was taping to let her hear. To guide her. Because she got to liking my spirit. We was sitting and drinking and having a nice likkle chat, and she get to like me. And she [said], “I’m a true musician.” And [all of a sudden] they took away my tape and phone. And erase all my stuff in the phone.
General Jah Mikey: So I was pissed off and I left. And I didn’t see dem guys any more.
Q: Wow. During all of that did you have any interactions with Dr. Dre himself, or just his cousin?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah me and Dr. Dre sit down and hold a vibe. And [we] drank a big bottle of Patron together. During the studio session. We reasoned and reasoned. So after that now when mi come back out of the [sound] booth [with Truth], and sit in the studio, they heard my phone and said: “Yo, the dread taped di thing, you know?” So they said, “Dread, let me see your phone. I heard some recording on [your] phone and I don’t want my sh*t to end up on YouTube.” Something like that him say.
Q: Total disrespect, huh?
General Jah Mikey: Yeah man! Because 4 hours mi spend up inna di [sound] booth. Never forget that!
Q: I’m sorry that happened.
About the Author: Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveCooperEsq