The Art of Balance
Considered one of the new leaders in the U.S Reggae scene, reggae artist Mighty Mystic’s fresh sound and musical diversity have proved to be a magnet for music lovers in search of that next level sound that has been missing in the reggae genre. It has attracted listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. A charismatic man on a mission, Mighty Mystic has gone from being a fan of reggae music to being a contributor to the art. Mighty Mystic came on the scene in 2006 after scoring his first international hit with the song ‘Riding on the Clouds.’ However, it wasn’t until the release of his first album ‘Wake up the World’ (2010) that he became a household name. ‘Wake up the World’ boasted several standouts, such as ‘Revolution,’ ‘Riding on the Clouds,’ ‘Original Love,’ & ‘Slipped Away’ with appearances from reggae icon Shaggy and roots rocker Lutan Fyah.
Mystic continues to wake up the world with his high energy, message driven brand of reggae music which he emphatically calls ‘HARD ROOTS.’ It is this unique spin on classic reggae blended with Hip Hop & Rock that has catapulted him to the forefront of today’s Reggae Revival. Mighty Mystic is also the younger brother of current Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness. When asked, does being the brother of Prime Minister Holness have any impact on your music? Mystic simply says “Andrew has a job to do and so do I, impact or not we both have our own mission to complete”.
The Early Years
Mighty Mystic was born Kevin Mark Holness in the farming community of Goshen, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica to parents Morris & Sonia Holness. As a child, Kevin showed early interest in his native island’s music. It was common to hear him singing the latest tunes while imitating the actions of popular reggae artists. In 1989, the family relocated to Boston, MA in search of a new life. Though oceans apart Kevin never lost the passion for his beloved reggae music. In the mid 90s Kevin began tagging alongside his older brother Stephen who had made a name for himself in the local Hip Hop scene. Kevin saw this as an opportunity and began showcasing his reggae vibes at every chance he was given. It was almost instantaneous, but young Kevin had been bitten by the music bug. The name ‘Mystic’ coincidentally was the nickname given to his father as a child and also the area in Boston where Kevin grew up. So it was only fitting that Kevin would become Mystic. By the end of his teenage years young Mystic had already developed a core following and began to take the steps necessary to build for the future. Over the next few years Mystic would have several successful regional releases as well as features on VP Records Riddim Driven compilations that brought added attention to the budding Mystic. In 2005 Mystic and Producer Mike Cip of Split2nd Ent hit the studio to develop a more authentic and true sound. The duo would return with perhaps the biggest reggae record of 2006 with the song ‘Riding on the Clouds’. This was the beginning of the ‘Mighty Mystic.’
Mystic of Today
Mighty Mystic has turned himself into one of the more sought after U.S based Reggae artists on today’s scene. His brand of “HARD ROOTS” with his high energy stage performance has been a magnet for the young enthusiastic reggae fan base. He has managed to hold firm to his Jamaican roots while adding elements of Hip Hop & Rock giving Mystic a more unique sound. In 2014 Mystic made more headlines with the release of his sophomore album “Concrete World”. The album quickly jumped to the top of the Billboard Reggae charts when the first single “Cali Green” hit the airwaves. This ferocious marijuana banger became an anthem for smokers all over and saw itself on several compilations including the popular annual VP Records release of “Hi Grade Ganja Anthems 4”. The following is a quote by Valentin Zill of the highly respected Reggaeville: “Almost all recent reggae success stories involve an artist that doesn’t shy away from stretching the “boundaries” of the reggae genre. “Concrete World” is an eclectic album of cutting-edge quality that manages to keep a distinct reggae feel to a surprising extent. It is a blueprint for contemporary modern roots, one that could define 2014… And so it did! Mystic has been described as man on a musical mission. Touring and shared the stage with some of Reggae’s biggest names such as Steel Pulse, Damian Marley, Toots and the Maytals, Lee Scratch Perry, Barrington Levy, Buju Banton, The Wailers, Shaggy, Collie Buddz, Sean Paul, Badfish, Dirty Heads, SOJA, John Brown’s Body, Luciano, Third World, Freddie McGregor, and Capleton to name a few. His message of peace, love, struggle and perseverance isn’t something new under the sun. However, it is the passion and flare delivered by Mystic that has the people saying yes.
With two successful albums (Wake up the World 2010, Concrete World 2014) under his belt, Mystic has kicked off an action packed 2016 which the March 11th release of his third album ‘The Art of Balance’, along with a U.S tour. This project was released through California based Roots Musician Records which is the brain child of E.N Young (member of Tribal Seeds). It marks the first time these two reggae entities have worked together.
Get to know this rising reggae sensation, ‘Mighty Mystic,’ by visiting his official website and pertinent social media outlets.
IRIE. You were born in the farming community of Goshen, in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. What was your childhood like growing up in Jamaica?
Mighty Mystic: My childhood was quite pleasant growing up in Goshen St Elizaeth, you know part of my days were spent tending to the animals on the farm as well as planting and reaping the many different crops which our family planted. It was a much simpler life back then, we were self sufficient and very rarely went to the local stores at a matter of fact we used to provided a lot for those same stores and surrounding community. Sometimes I look back and smile to myself and think how grateful I am to have grown up in the old school ways of doing things.
IRIE. As a child, you would often sing the latest reggae tunes while imitating the actions of the popular reggae artists. Who were some of the artists you listen to?
Mighty Mystic: Lol… yes this is true, I would sing Bob Marley tunes, Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy and others but my family tells stories of a particular song by ‘Echo Minnot’ titled ‘What the hell the police can do’ which I used to walk up to the local policemen point at them and sing the chorus at them. Quite funny when I think about it.
IRIE. Your father’s nickname was Mystic, a name you would eventually inherit. What does the name Mystic mean to you?
Mighty Mystic: Yes my father nickname was Mystic and when I moved to the U.S I ended up in a area called the ‘Mystics’ so that to me was such a strong symbol that when I decided to do music the name Mystic came so natural and easy. The name Mystic to me means someone who is in tune with the earth from the trees to animals to people you name it. Growing up on a farm then moving to a big city like Boston makes you feel somewhat different somewhat Mystical in the new world.
IRIE. You relocated with your family to Boston, MA in 1989. What was the reggae scene like when you arrived? How has it change over the years? I hear the reggae scene now is Irie, Mon!
Mighty Mystic: The reggae scene then was young and it was predominately Dancehall-based. But it had foundation cause at that time a steady flow of Jamaicans were moving to Boston. The scene has since boomed!! Lots of Caribbeans and as we all know, lots and lots of college kids which keeps a vast diversity of people coming in and they either already love reggae or once they hear it they want to get involved with the movement. I think those factors have lead to the bubbling reggae scene in Boston.
IRIE. You use to follow your older brother Stephen around who was a successful hip hop artist in the local scene. You used every opportunity to showcase your reggae skills. Why did you choose reggae? Why not hip hop? Or did reggae choose you?
Mighty Mystic: I’ve loved reggae from the moment I first heard it. So with that said I’ve always tried to do reggae or at least my interpretation or reggae. My brother had made a name for himself in Boston as a Hip Hop artist and would do local appearances I just started following him and every and any opportunity I got to get on the mic I would take. Eventually the word got out that Stephen’s little brother had skills lol. And my passion arose from there.
IRIE. In 2005, you teamed up with producer Mike Cip of Split2nd Ent to develop your sound. A year later, the two of you released the biggest reggae record of 2006 with the song ‘Riding on the Clouds’. What influences helped you create your sound?
Mighty Mystic: For a while I was trying to find myself musically but couldn’t quite figure the formula out. I knew I loved roots reggae but had so many influences music wise and was all making my vision cloudy. So I took a break kinda reorganized myself linked up with Mike Cip and out of that connection came the real ‘Mighty Mystic’. Me finding myself musically made creating music so much more easier and fluent. Cip and I created several tuff tunes first of which was our hit ‘Riding on the Clouds’.
IRIE. You released your third album, The Art of Balance, on March 11, 2016 and are currently touring the US in support of the album. What has the response been like for you guys from your fans?
Mighty Mystic: The response has been overwhelming not only has the sales been great but the feedback and love that reggae fans have sent our way has been so humbling. We have been touring for much of the release and the turnout from venue to venue keeps on growing and surprising us at each corner. Really couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
IRIE. Can you share with us the meaning behind ‘The Art of Balance’?
Mighty Mystic: I went into this album the same way I live my life which is as close to being balanced as possible. Balance in fun, seriousness, laughing or crying, health and well being and knowing when it’s ok to eat a little Junk food. While that might sound corny it’s true, I like to keep my life balanced so why not the music.
IRIE. Who are the members of Mighty Mystic and The Hard Roots Movement?
Mighty Mystic: My brother Stephen ‘Thunder’ Holness who I used to tag along with as a child is a part of the crew he is now the riddim guitarist as well as Salvador Pineda (drums), John Felice (Guitar), Tyler Last (Bass) and Jens Sweeting (Keys). Together they make up The Hard Roots Movement.
IRIE. Put on a Mighty Mystic song and you instantly feel like your in a club yet, your songs are enlightening and filled with positive message. There is a sense of awareness in your lyrics, both socially and politically. Is that important for you as an artist?
Mighty Mystic: Yes most definitely. My goal musically is to create a brand of music that hits hard makes you want to move and engage in the music while at the same time your soaking up the message that is within the music. there is a definite aim to stimulate you mentally, physically and spiritually. So within the scope of all that deep subject matters such as political, social, geographical and so on is a must.
IRIE. What are you feelings on the growing movement to legalize Marijuana in the US and around the world? Do you see yourself as an advocate for Marijuana and Hemp?
Mighty Mystic: My feelings are why the heck is this process taking so long?!! It should have been done yesterday and several yesterdays ago. But in any case the door to change has been opened and that is something I’m pleased about lets keep it open and let the right pass through. If I can be of any help I’m more than willing and ready even if just a voice.
IRIE. Is there anything else you would like to say to the Irie Mag Audience?
Mighty Mystic: Reggae music is a avenue to speak on subject matters that arise around us on a daily basis. My aim is to capture as much of what I see in my life document it in my music so it can be replayed years from now and still have relevance at a future time. Long live reggae music!
IRIE. Maaaad Respect, Mighty Mystic!