“I strive to innovate, never imitate,” says TONY KELLY, whose dancehall offerings explode like boomshots heard ‘round the world. Tony’s sound has been instrumental in developing identifiable styles for such popular artists as Beenie Man (with whom he’s collaborated on several albums including The Doctor, Art and Life and Tropical Storm) and Baby Cham. His monster hits include Sasha’s “Dat Sexy Body,” Sean Paul’s “Deport Dem,” T.O.K.’s “Chi-Chi Man” and “Money 2 Bum” as well as Sean Paul’s chart topping single “Like Glue.” He’s also produced Tanto Metro & Devonte’s “Everyone Falls In Love,” Hip-Hop vixen Foxy Brown’s “Saddest Day” featuring Wayne Wonder, and several tracks on Wayne Wonder’s No Holding Back album. Dancehall legend Super Cat commented, “Tony Kelly in the place and the place haffi block.” Tony’s output travels far beyond his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica, setting trends for a worldwide audience of urban music lovers who are more than happy to follow.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Tony began his musical journey in the mid 1980’s as an apprentice engineer at Jamaica’s legendary Tuff Gong Studios where he learned the fundamentals of his craft from studio wizards Scientist and Errol Brown. “Scientist and Errol Brown were two good teachers,” Tony says. “What they taught me shows in the quality of the music I produce now.” From that foundation, he went on to engineer groundbreaking records for Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, West African reggae artist Alpha Blondy, lovers rock crooner Maxi Priest and a large selection of artists on Donovan Germain’s Penthouse label, including Buju Banton.
Tony’s superior producing, mixing and writing skills have helped bring the attention of the American market to Jamaican deejays. During the early 1990’s, his involvement in projects for Shabba Ranks, Mad Cobra and Snow furthered the development of a dancehall sound that was more accessible to a new audience of Hip-Hop and R&B fans. His work with dancehall diva Patra culminated in her crossover 1993 release, Queen of the Pack. “I created Patra,” Tony states, “wrote, produced, and engineered nine tracks for that album, including her single ‘Worker Man,” for which I received the first gold record of my career.” Tony’s phenomenal international status also includes production on popular reggae artist Shaggy’s “Boombastic,” released on Virgin Records and his multi-platinum selling MCA record Hotshot, Buju Banton’s Unchained Spirit for Epitaph Records, hit singles “Anything for You All-star Cast Remix” by Snow, and soundtracks for successful feature films Dancehall Queen (the title track, which features Beenie Man and Chevelle Franklyn) and Hype Williams’s Belly, which features track “Top Shotta” by DMX, Sean Paul, and Mr. Vegas. Tony also pushed Soca music to the forefront when “Big Phat Fish” from Machel Mantano’s 1999 Any Minute Now album became a worldwide club hit and the second Soca song to ever hit the Jamaican Top Ten.
Tony’s prolific body of work expanded with his inclusion in Def Jamaica’s compilation project Red Star Sounds Presents Def Jamaica—an album that teamed the hottest dancehall stars with some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop. For his contribution, Tony helped produce several songs, including “Murda” featuring T.O.K., Scarface, and Nokio.
Tony Kelly insists on setting trends, not following them. “I’m more melodious than most,” he explains. “International fans don’t have to understand every word of one of my songs, but they can dance to it and they can always sing the chorus. With every new release I always try to switch it up. Keep people interested.” And he hasn’t missed yet.