Reggae | Tuff Like Iron

Irie Magazine | Reggae | Tuff Like Iron

The Interview

IRIE. How did you come up with the name Tuff Like Iron?

Tuff Like Iron: Growing up in Brooklyn, it was not always an easy road and as a teenager I was mostly on my own. When I was about 16, I met the Harriet’s Alter Ego family who inspired me to become a young entrepreneur and I knew it would not be an easy task, so I named my clothing line Tuff Like Iron. The phrase I adopted from a Lee Scratch Perry lyric represents the mentality we must have in order to make it. It’s not easy to be a rebel, to take the road less travelled by you have to be TUFF Like Iron.

IRIE. Your father is a talented drummer from Trinidad who also plays bass guitar, keyboard, and steel pan. Did you want to follow in his footsteps?

Tuff Like Iron: Emperor Haile Selassie I is ini father and it is through HIM guidance that this special path was chosen for I have been in love with music ever since I know I self… and I think the genes have something to do with it for sure. As a youth I was an only child and music was my best friend. My father has an intense drive when it comes to music that is his passion and he passed that on to me as well. The passion is real.

IRIE. Can you tell us about your clothing line?

Tuff Like Iron: I started the line circa 2005 under the guidance of Hekima Hapa from Harriet’s Alter Ego. Here I first saw artists creating and turning their creativity into a business. I did not want to join the plantation and go the slave master route so this creative artist life suited me well. I set out with the Tuff Like Iron clothing label on a mission to bring positive images of Black culture to the masses. From Brooklyn to Kingston and from Trinidad to Tokyo and many other cities’, the Tuff Like Iron brand has become a household name synonymous with roots and culture fashion for the People. Our hand screened tees have been a long-time favorite along with the classic African print wrap skirts, and our signature crochet crowns have become a staple in the Reggae community for people like Rory Stone Love and Gabre Selassie. Now the revolution is going from the gear to your ears! It’s a movement.

Irie Magazine | Reggae | Tuff Like Iron

IRIE. Is it true that your path to becoming a roots reggae artist began with the twins from Jah Ova Evil?

Tuff Like Iron: I originally met the Jah Ova Evil family at a weekly event at Veggie Meals on Wheels. At the time I was vending alongside my sister in design Mamayashi. We used to sell our fashions at the venue and the J.O.E. family would come there to perform. I used to love their vibrations and eventually became friends with the Gideon.

After holding a vibes at 10 1/2 one day, this riddim was playing and some lyrics start flowing and Gideon said I should practice it and come record the tune there at Jah Ova Evil. A few days later Jahnoi ‘Selah’ Nunes put me in the booth and we recorded ‘I’m Talking To You’ on his riddim. The rest is TUFF history…

IRIE. How would you define your music?

Tuff Like Iron: Tuff Like Iron music is deeply rooted in culture and focused on progress reality and positivity. It is through the Original Rastafari culture, roots with a twist of street, a twist of African, world music, hip hop, punk, rock, alternative and whatever else we may feel, that we manifest this Tuff sound. We completed our first Full Spanish recording recently in collaboration with No Le Le Records to create the Spanish version of Keep Your Head up entitled ‘No Te Rindas’, featuring Honduran artist King Fuda. So in reality no genre, language, or location is safe from the Iron train. This is the new roots! Our creativity is rooted in community, channeling a current from ancestors in an effort to reclaim our rightful places as Royal Kings and Queens of creation.

IRIE. Are there other genres you listen to? Who are some of your musical influences?

Tuff Like Iron: I have always been a huge fan of world music. I’m into African music, the old school stuff like Fela Kuti and Mariam Makeba and the new stuff like the Wizkid, Davido, Yemi Alade. As youth in NYC, we were heavily influenced by the hip hop (Nas, Notorious BIG, Mos Def) but I always loved fusion. I loved the sisters like Shelly Thunder and Lauryn Hill that could flip it in a roots style with that edge…. so special! Oh and I always love ROCKERS! Watch it every week…

IRIE. Do you find it challenging at times being a reggae artist in a genre that is male dominated?

Tuff Like Iron: I think it is challenging for a woman in any male dominated industry. When it comes to the music, it can be extra challenging if you have to balance family responsibilities with late nights at the studio, being on the road constantly, and doing interviews and performances, etc. If you don’t have the family support it would be extremely challenging. I have been blessed to find brothers to work with who respect me and the mission I am on, so much that they are willing to support me. Often times my projects are fueled by love and not money. Maximum respect to the twins and the whole Jah Ova Evil family for the strength, as well as the Rally Up family outta California who I been doing nuff works with and Nyle Banks Music, who produced my latest single Tuff Like Iron on the Black Roots Riddim. As a female artist these brothers go above and beyond to accommodate ini and it is full time some more sisters get their chance to shine.

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