By Michael Mondezie
Lyrikal (Devon Martin) has always been a trendsetter. Ever since the New York-based party starter stomped onto the scene with “25/8” in 2013, he has been showing his music peers and fans alike, the way forward for soca music.
Examine that very concept “25/8”. Lyro proposes that the 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week just aren’t enough for masqueraders, pleading: “All we need is one extra hour and one extra day”.
Add to that his messages of making the most of life (“Cloud Nine”); introspection (“Loner”); and practising contentment and self-love (“Happy Place”)…and its easy to see why his music resonates so deeply with fans of the genre.
Remarkably, he reveals that those seemingly out-of-the-box concepts are actually inspired by what he sees in plain sight.
“What informs my creative process is life itself. The things I experience personally, the things I see, hear about, things we talk about, things people go through on a daily, slang, and the list goes on. Fiction hardly ever works in music, it’s not relatable. Which makes everything that’s real and relatable resonate with people in a major way,” Lyrikal explained on Thursday.
Growing up in New York City, he was able to see a lot more than the typical island boy. He migrated to the Big Apple at age 13 and after an initial foray into track and field, found himself sprinting down soca lane.
“I always try to be a lot more expansive in regard to the topics I target and write about. To me that brings a lot more listeners to your music because you’re basically catering for all ages and in some cases different races as well. Once you establish that part of it, the rest is basically maintaining your presence and building your brand—the image, performance, stage presence, etc.”
Causing ‘Major Damage’
Lyrikal has already released an EP worth of music for Carnival 2024, including his popular project with soca princess Nailah Blackman,“Best Self”, a serious contender for the Road March title. There’s also “Stick On” on the System32 (Kevin Beharry) Sine Wave Riddim, “Blessed Day” on MillBeatz’ (David Millien) Real Life Riddim and “No Rules” on King Pin’s Full Jam Riddim are all party pleasers.
“If I say it wasn’t a target toward Road March, I’d be lying. But my main intention with ‘Best Self’ or any other project I’ve been a part of, is always the success of the song first. But the concept of this song is built for the road, the lyrical content is almost talking to and in favour of a masquerader,” Lyrikal said of his collab with Nailah.
Where Lyro truly excels in 2024, however, is in the self-written collaboration with calypso icon David Rudder entitled “Major Damage”. The song has every potential of gifting him exactly what he admires most about King David: a classic record.
“Working with King David Rudder was an amazing experience, to say the least. He’s the truest definition of what you call a legend, an icon—a true professional and a real ambassador of our culture. He was absolutely influential to me as he is one of the greatest composers our culture has seen. He doesn’t just have songs, he has classics,” Lyrikal gushed.
Working with his idol almost happened three years ago. Lyrikal said he wrote his 2021 hit “Happy Place” with Rudder in mind.
“I actually envisioned my name next to his. When I wrote ‘Happy Place’ I actually wrote it with the intention of doing it with him. But it didn’t work out due to time constraints with the release of the riddim.
“So fast forward to now, I wrote ‘Major Damage’ with him in mind again. I sent it to him personally this time, and within a couple days he reached back out to me and said he loved it. At that point, that’s all that mattered to me, if I’m being honest. It’s like, David Rudder likes a song that I wrote,” he exclaimed.
T&T still a beautiful place
Despite several countries issuing travel advisories to their citizens, against coming to Trinidad and Tobago due to escalating gang violence and crime, Lyrikal says “T&T remains a beautiful place”.
The Belmont-born singer says he welcomes recent international interest from creatives with Caribbean roots in soca music, “once it’s coming from a genuine place”.
“I honestly don’t mind the sudden interest because that’s what we basically do it for. To get people to understand, love, and help spread our culture. And this is with any genre, if you’re doing it from a genuine standpoint, no problem.
“Like anything else, people could change in regard to their love for soca. I’ve literally had people come up to me and say they didn’t like soca before and because of me they love it now. And I’m sure most artistes could attest to that as well. But if you’re just seeing soca as a way to hustle, I’m not in support of that in no way, shape, or form. I’m not with the culture vulture approach and tactics,” he said.
Local artistes involved in an ongoing violent war of words that continue to play out with physical and often deadly actions, should recognise the attention local music is getting internationally and the rewards such moves can bring, he said.
“It’s almost like some artistes’ music is being wasted in a sense because the places they go to perform are extremely limited. While I don’t know the depth and the reason behind it, I urge these artistes to try and change the narrative with less provocative music directed toward each other.
“My message to them is to be creative but just understand the power of the music as well. I think now is a perfect time to steer the wheel in a different direction and see what that destination has to offer.”