There are so many names for Lady Saw: The Queen of Dancehall, The First Lady of Dancehall or this latest one: Mama Saw. The latest name, however, is quite befitting at this point in her career because she is the matriarch for all female dancehall deejays, and arguably some female rappers. She is the first female deejay to win a Grammy (with No Doubt for Underneath it All, Best Performance by a Duo or Group with a Vocal), to go triple platinum (with said single), to go gold (with Vitamin C for Smile), and to headline shows outside of her native Jamaica.
It was the late ‘80s when Lady Saw (born Marion Hall on July 12 in the 1970s), just 15 at the time, left behind her little tomboy self who used to sell fruits and race wooden karts for the young woman who made it out of the Kingston ghetto to become a first-rate recording artist. She became a regular in the studio after quitting her sewing job in Kingston. The night she tested some of her hardcore, deejay-style lyrics at a sound system dance is the night she was granted entry into the male-dominated field of deejaying. It’s what convinced her to leave her home in the countryside of Galina, St. Mary for the studios in Kingston.
During a stint with the Diamond Label she released most of her dancehall hits from the early nineties (If Him Lef, Find a Good Man, and Stab Out Di Meat). VP Records became interested in Saw when they realized how captivating she was live onstage. Since then, her more commercial hits include Healing with Beenie Man, No Long Talking, and Sycamore Tree, for this international reggae label.
Today, Lady Saw has her own production company, Hall Productions. She’s produced major dancehall artists Capleton, Spragga Benz, Sizzla, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. She’s a mentor to up-and-coming artists on her imprint as well as to Ce’Cile, her artistic progeny. She’s recorded for Shaggy, legendary producers Sly & Robbie, Funkmaster Flex and Pharrell Williams. She’s appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Rosie O’Donnell Show. And she’s the only dancehall artist to have had a song, Give Me the Reason covered by a country singer!
*Check out Lady Saw live in Montreal on Saturday August 15 for the 12th Edition of the Montreal International Reggae Festival.