A few months ago, I heard a reggae song called "Weh Dem a Do" on the radio but had no idea whose haunting voice was singing it. I eventually tracked down and e-mailed the contact for the artist, whose

Slouched in a booth, Mavado (real name: David Constantine Brooks) quietly shares he's not obsessed with death - though his songs talk a lot about it - and that he's ready to give Sean Paul some mainstream competition. The lanky artist's debut album on VP Records, "Gangsta for Life," dropped this summer, and his single, "Dying," is spinning heavily on R&B/hip-hop WQHT (Hot 97) New York.

"I want to be on MTV," Mavado, whose promotional single "Weh Dem A Do" hit radio a few months ago, says. "I want to be a reggae pop star."

The Kingston, Jamaica, native got his music initiation when he first met reggae icon Bounty Killer when he was 15, and he is still affiliated with the heavyweight's circle. Under Bounty's tutelage, Mavado, who took his name from the highbrow watch company, says he's learned to be sure of every business move he makes in order to build a solid career. And while his songs are melodious (and perfect for summertime festivals like Caribanna and New York's West Indian Day Parade), his lyrics are rife with violence.

Mavado's talks about death may stem from a serious run-in with the Jamaican police. According to the MC, when he turned himself in to the Kingston police earlier this year on charges about which he refused to elaborate, an officer tried to throw him through a glass window. Bracing the fall with his hand, Mavado lost three of his fingers, which were reattached during a hospital visit. But once at the hospital, the police said Mavado escaped.

"The police say I'm wanted for a couple of things," says Mavado, who is still allowed to enter Jamaica. "And they tried to throw me through the window and get rid of me but I didn't go through. They say in life you must deal with death. So in the midst of life, you're in the midst of death."

Mavado associates himself closely with 2Pac, citing a bit of "So Many Tears" on his album.

"2Pac has been my idol for so many years," Mavado says. "He was a lot different than all of the other rappers because he had a different style and he lived it. When I checked up on 2Pac's life, most of the things he went through are the same things I'm going through now, like haters and problems with the police. It's like I'm going through 2Pac's struggle with my own."

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