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Dancehall prince

Topping charts at only age eleven, Jamaican QQ, known for the song Skip To My Lou continues to be phenomenal in music despite having to juggle doing music with homework. Kenyan youth love his dance styles from the videos. MATILDA NZIOKI sat with him at CHAT Awards

Tell us a bit about yourself...

My real name is Kareem Dawkins. I’m 17 years old and I attend Calabar High School. I live in Kingston, Jamaica, and I hold the record of the youngest child star in Jamaica.

How did you get into music?

I grew up in England, that’s where I attended primary school. I was in a choir with 69 girls — I was the only boy. We once got a chance to perform for the Queen, and afterwards, she personally chose me to sing for her. That was in December 2004, and it’s at that point that I decided to pursue music. I went back to Jamaica and told my dad that I wanted to do music.

You were only ten then, how did you find the industry when you joined?

It was hard, because I was young and the game was flooded with big established singers. Also, there was no child market there at the time, and I worked hard to create it. The song Poverty was my biggest break when it topped charts, though it was my second song. The first one was Better Must Come.

Why do you think many people are attracted to your music?

Many people can relate and appreciate my music. For example if one is down in the song, Everything Has Changed will encourage them. On the other hand, if they are in a party mood, they can dance to Skip To My Lou.

What are your other achievements?

I’ve gotten a chance to perform and record songs with international musicians like Missy Eliot, Chris Brown, Usher, and also Shaggy. I’m also proud to be the youngest person to have a sold out show at Cayman Islands. The chance to perform for the Queen was also no mean feat.

You have more than 20 songs out and doing well, why don’t you have an album yet?

This is because I’m in negotiations with a major label in America, and I want to wait for this to mature so I can do a debut album.

What do you think of the music industry in Jamaica currently?

It’s crowded. There are many people fighting for the number one spot, which I think is an easy target. I’m more focused in the wider market.

You are a highflying recording artiste, yet you are still in school. How do you manage?

It’s been hard . As a musician, you do tours, you have shows, and classes are ongoing. The balancing has been taxing. I have tried my best and I maintain good grades. Time management has been really instrumental to achieving the right balance.

How does your typical weekday look like?

I get up early and get to school by 7.30am. We have lunch at 11.30 — that’s our half-day. After lunch, I have three classes and school is done by 2.10pm. Apart from classes, I hang out with my boys, we give trouble like any other school boys; it’s just a normal day at school.

Afterwards, I take two hours to do my assignments, either at home or at the agent’s (studio). After homework, I do music. Sometimes it goes on till late but I go to bed at 11.30 pm, even if I get home early.

When I’m not busy, I enjoy chilling with a bunch of girls; hanging out at the beach or even going out.

And how do other students treat you?

Everyone knows I’m a big star but I leave that behind when I’m in school. If anyone calls me QQ in the school compound I don’t respond. I try as much as possible to be a normal student. People give me the acknowledgement but I try to fit in.

What about the teachers?

They treat me normally; they understand that I should not get any special treatment. If I’m out of line, they put me back in my appropriate place.

Have you ever been punished?

Definitely, you know sometimes you can get into stuff. I’ve gotten detention severall times. They don’t cane kids back home. It used to be there but I came at a time when it had been banished.

How has your experience in Kenya been?

I like the weather; I thought it would be sunny and hot. The people are warm and polite and the girls are off the hook! I find Nairobi a bit congested though, there’s lots of traffic. It’s a great achievement to come to Africa. It’s every black person’s dream in the Caribbean. It’s like pilgrimage. Everyone wants to make money and visit Africa at least once, because it’s the land of our forefathers.

In your video Take It To Dem you talk Nigerian pidgin fluently. Tell us something about your family background.

I like to keep family affairs private. I have two sisters and a couple of brothers. I live with my dad, who is my manager. I came here with my mum, as she is my co-manager. She works alongside my dad. And no, I have no Nigerian blood. I’m fully Jamaican.