Since making a splash on the Jamaican dancehall scene four years ago, Busy Signal’s success has been off the hook. Now, his sound is heating up the airwaves in the United States.
Last week, Signal’s independently released single, “Step Out,” entered the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at No. 73.
It’s rare that a truly independent artist is able to make such a leap, but the 23-year-old DJ didn’t get his nickname by staying idle and waiting on the sidelines. In fact, his friends call him Busy Signal because they are never able to reach him.
“I put in a lot of work,” Signal tells Billboard.com. “I really stay in the studio Sunday to Sunday, and try to give it my all. My only job is music, so I better give it my all and be true and be real to what I do.”
Although Signal’s debut album, “Step Out,” is finished, he’s still looking to partner with a major label or distributor to lend a helping hand beyond his homeland.
“It’s hard to get [label] people down here to Jamaica. It’s not like I’m Sean Paul or one of those big names,” he says. “I’m just here sittin’ down waitin’ to get a deal now, to get it out there, and that’s the hard part. I wish I had the hook up. Hopefully one of them will catch on and try to help me out.”
Until then, Signal is willing to go it alone.
“The streets been waitin’ down here — waitin’, waitin’, waitin’. If I don’t get the hook up I’m just gonna go ahead and release it on my own label, Network Records,” he says, adding that on June 21 he’ll be throwing a record release party on the island. “I don’t think releasin’ it in Jamaica [first] will be a problem if a bigger label tries to pick it up later on.”
The song “Step Out” has been a club favorite in Jamaica for more than two years, but it’s just one side of Signal that will be heard on the album. “It’s got all different types of songs on it,” he notes. “Every song is a different flow, a different type of rhyme, a different style. So there’s a whole bunch of creativity, a lot of unusual flow and originality, not just samples.”
Plus it has the added bonus of a guest appearance by Bounty Killer, who is both Signal’s biggest influence and music business mentor. “When he found out I wanted to be an artist he guided me towards bein’ who I am,” says Signal. “He’s always tryin’ to enlighten my knowledge with things he knows will help me. He’s been through all of that before so he tries to give me tips on the record labels and what to look out for [in] the fine print and all the little tricks.
“He’s not one of them gimmick artists,” says Signal about why he looks up to Bounty Killer. “He takes his work real serious, and the way he delivers when he’s onstage [is] powerful. I really [see] that as one of the [reasons] I gotta be just like Bounty Killer with my own work and in my own style.”
Such an influence is reflected in not only Signal’s work ethic but also his lyrics. “Kids are the future and everythin’ — I got a daughter myself,” he says, “so sometimes I really watch what I say. Sometimes. But then again, sometimes I try to please a wide range of fans, and that wide range of fans don’t really want to hear that bein’ a nice guy thing. So I got a little bit of everythin’. I got somethin’ for the girls, I got a song for my mother, I got somethin’ representin’ Jamaica and then I got ‘Step Out.’ A little somethin’ for everybody.”