By Marc Parc
Internationally acclaimed superstar, Elephant Man has been one of the models for consistency within the Jamaican music industry for over a decade. Prior to being known as Dancehall's "Energy God," this prominent artiste had long been embedded within the genre's framework; taken under the tutelage of a duo of Jamaican musical legends.
Elephant Man was born Oneil Bryan on September 11th, 1974; earning the nickname "Dumbo Elephant" as a child for his larger than usual ears. Despite concerns his mother expressed regarding his early pursuit of becoming a musician, Bryan followed his dream. While attending high school, Bryan was known for using his desks to bang out Riddims and tunes, to the enjoyment of his classmates and friends.
During Bryan's high school years, two internationally renowned deejays, Bounty Killer and Shabba Ranks were residents of his Seaview Gardens neighbourhood while the legendary King Jammy's studio was just block from his house. On occasions, Bryan travelled to King Jammy's in an attempt showcase his talents; hoping producers and fellow artistes would take notice. His attempts proved successful as Bounty Killer took notice of him while singing at the studio's gates; suggesting that Bryan join a group he was forming featuring Seaview-based teens.
The group featuring Bryan was originally named Seaview Family, but was later changed to the Scare Dem Crew as a result of Bounty Killer's hit single, "Big Guns Scare Dem." While recording with the group, Bryan was also mentored by Grammy Winning deejay, Shabba Ranks who dubbed him with the stage moniker, "Elephant Man." With his new stage name, Elephant Man, alongside Harry Toddler, Nitty Kutchie and Boom Dandimite proved a formidable group while with Scare Dem Crew. The group's presence was strong during the mid-90s and in 1999, Scare Dem Crew released their critically acclaimed album, Scared From The Crypt.
However, the other member of the Scare Dem Crew soon questioned Elephant Man's loyalty to the group as a result of his eccentric performing style; presuming he was more focused on building his own persona instead of the group. During a 1998 performance, Bryan jumped on top of a moving TV crane; singing high above the audience while gathering a resounding applause from fans. That, along with other instances lead to a rift within the group; resulting in Elephant Man's departure from the group to focus on a solo career.
Between 1999 and 2000, Elephant Man marked his solo debut when he released his first album, Comin' 4 You via Greensleeves Records. The album gave fans a more up-close looks at his strong vocals combined with a hip-hop style of music. Also, Elephant Man scored a major hit within Dancehall circles for the song, "Headache," featuring Delly Ranks.
2001 saw Elephant Man blossom as a solo performer when he released the infectious dance single, "Log On." The song was an overnight success; playing in sessions across Jamaican while the "Log On" dance became one of Jamaica's pop culture nuances in 2001. Additionally, following the infamous World Trade Centre terrorist attack on his birthday that year, Elephant Man recorded another hit single, "The Bombing," addressing the concerns many Jamaicans had regarding flying out of the country as a result of the deadly attacks.
Elephant Man's status within the Dancehall fraternity continued to grow and over the next two years, the "Energy God," would assert himself as one of the genre's most promising prospects. Focusing on creating Dance songs that fans of all ages could enjoy, Elephant Man unveiled hit singles such as "Elephant Message," "Online" and "Higher Level" that all did well on local charts.
However, Elephant Man's aura would reach new heights as he capitalized on the international wave Dancehall built as a result of Sean Paul and Shaggy's successful album. The "Energy Gad" accumulated his biggest hit to date when he unveiled the single, "Pon Di River," that year. The single and accompanying video were mainstays on local and international airwaves and made him a much sought after commodity; earning him an MTV2 Award nomination at the 2004 MTV VMAs as well Dancehall artiste of the year nominations. His VP Record produced second album, Good 2 Go featured the highly rated single as well as other reputable efforts such as "Signal Di Plane," "Blasé" and "Jook Gal," featuring American rappers Twista and YoungBloodz as well as his new protégé, Kiprich.
In 2005, the tragic shooting of internationally renowned dancer, Gerald "Bogle" Levy had a profound effect on the "Energy Gad." After releasing the hit single, "Sesame Street," featuring Bogle not too long before his death, Elephant Man did a single dedicated to Bogle entitled "Willie Bounce," that once again proved his transcendence while keeping the memory of his long-time friend alive.
As his fan base grew overseas, Elephant Man continued to capitalize on his run of form; eventually meeting up with hip-hop mogul, Sean "Diddy" Combs. After Combs took notice of his many talents and the success he'd already gathered with "Good 2 Go," he signed Ele to Bad Boy Records in 2006. Despite a handful of delays, the album was finally released in 2008; featuring collaborative efforts with American superstars such as Chris Brown with "Feel The Steam" and former Fugees member, Wyclef Jean with "Five-O."
During that two year period (2006-08), Elephant Man racked up more his; collaborating with then teenage singer, Kat Deluna for the single "Whine Up," which received multiple reviews. However, it was his dance oriented songs that proved contagious amongst fans; pushing well-received songs such as "Gully Creepa," "Nuh Linga," and "Sweep." All three singles were made more popular during and after the 2008 Olympic in Beijing, thanks to multiple world-record holding runner, Usain Bolt who did all three dances following his masterful performances in the event. Additionally, Bolt featured in Elephant Man's video for "Sweep," that garnered more positive attention for the deejay.
2009 saw the "Energy Gad" continue his ascendancy as one of biggest acts in Dancehall when he joined forces with dancer turned deejay, Ding Dong for the single "Dip Again." Other singles such as the Gospel themed, "Badmind," and the ZJ Chrome produced ballad, "Nah Go Mek It," showed Elephant's growing range as an artiste.
Within the last year and a half, the Dancehall industry witnessed the long-awaited reunion of Elephant Man and his mentor Bounty Killer as they collaborated for the internationally revered single, "This Is How We Do It," that earned rave reviews and was regarded as one of 2010's biggest songs in Dancehall. They recently collaborated again for the Di Genius Records produced single, "Survivor" in September; signaling their intentions to leave their indelible marks on Dancehall together like they did during the Scare Dem Crew era. Some of Ele's other; more recent hits include "Nah Sell Out," a remake of Lil Wayne's "How To Love," along with "Everybody Get Bad."
Elephant Man's consistency and uniqueness within Dancehall has always stood out given his unorthodox stage antics and ability to create a fun atmosphere with his variety of singles. Given a quite loaded resume, it seems as if the "Energy Gad," has a lot of energy left in his tank.