Tifa on Top: Meet the Girl Running Jamaican Dancehall

With a combination of super-cuteness and sassy lyrics delivered with style, young dancehall deejay and singer Tifa has shaken up the scene in her native Kingston and wound up on top. People are always talking about the award winning vocalist’s latest single (“Inside Me”) and her crazy videos, while the gossip sites love to discuss her supposed feuds with other women in dancehall. (We decided not to chew on well-worn territory and asked her how she feels about the men, instead.) All the attention just comes with the territory and it’s nothing she can’t handle.

Known early on for her TNT mixtape with Natalie Storm and Timberlee, this Ward 21 protege has long since made a name of her own. She can objectively say she’s one of the most popular artists in Jamaican dancehall, but when we interviewed her, we found she has a solid sense of perspective balancing her huge ambitions. Read on for more insight into the what it takes to triumph in Jamaica’s famously competitive music industry.

How did you get involved in dancehall?

I was basically born into dancehall music. I grew up partly downtown. That’s what you guys would call the ghetto. Growing up downtown, my grandmother had a restaurant and bar. That bar always had that kind of music. That was how I was first introduced to dancehall. Then, growing up, my mom and my stepdad and my uncle, they’d always had record stores that always had first dibs on all of the dancehall music.

And my stepdad, he’s a producer actually. I got a lot of insight and a lot of background. After I finished school, I started backup singing for him. One day, after four bars were missing from a song, I was like “Let me just freestyle something here” and everybody was like “Yo, you should do that more often.” And the rest is history, you know?  I started working with Ward 21 and Ward 21 introduced me to the world, basically.

And now you are getting a lot of love. Do you feel like you’ve reached the peak of your career yet?

Oh, ha ha. I’m never satisfied. I’m in a good place with regard to the love that I get from people and with regard to people knowing who Tifa is. I’m one of the most popular artists in Jamaica right now.

But I’m never complacent. You can always do better. You can always elevate yourself. I’m one of the most popular artist in Jamaica right now, but there’s still much farther to go. I’m never like “Oh, I’m the baddest thing in dancehall.”

What would have to happen for you to feel like you’d really made it?

I guess when I’m like a female, Jamaican Madonna, then I’ll probably feel like I’ve made it. When I’m that ambassador out there for Jamaica. When I’ve sold a hundred million records and I’ve go a record on Billboard, like a world record on Billboard. Then, yeah, I’ll feel like I’ve made it. You know what I mean? When I’m like a female Shaggy or a Sean Paul.

What is the song “Champion Bubbler” about?

“Champion Bubbler” is basically about dancing. You know in Jamaica we lov to wine and grind our waistlines. I most Caribbean countries you hear songs about wining and grinding. And we love to wine and grind in dancehall. So “Champion Bubbler” is basically saying nobody can move their waistline and I’m the champion when it comes to that.

Which of your videos was the most fun for you to make?

It would probably be a tie between “Hold On,” “Move Your Body” and “Champion Bubbler” because being a boxer [as she was in the “Champion Bubbler” video] was always one of my fantasies, so to get dressed up and fight in the ring with everybody, that was kind of cool. “Hold On” was a cool video because we just rented out a theme park and acted crazy. It was a fun, silly video with friends and other artists. We were just having tons of fun in the amusement park.

“Move Your Body” was a very fun video because I love dance scenes. And any video where I get to go into character I love. For “Move Your Body” I wasn’t really a stripper, but I got to learn to move on the pole. That was awesome.


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