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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TIFA Says She's Here to Stay

"...Every time I decide to leave something good happens and I end up staying."   

Graphics: Camilla Facey
As a child Latifa ‘Tifa’ Brown was diagnosed with Blount Disease, which is a growth disorder of the shin bone (tibia) in which the lower leg turns inward, resembling a bowleg. Her first corrective surgery happened in a time when her parents were recently divorced.  She travelled to Canada at the age of five to begin the mending process while being under her father’s care. This Certified Diva hardly remembers the dark times in her life. With the bone disorder a thing of the past, her leg now adjusted giving her the “so sick walk,” she tends to focus on those treasured moments and the eclectic values absorbed from the adults in her life.

She gloats about her childhood, claiming she lived every child’s dream—the big house, the farm animals, which she classified as pets; especially her ram, affectionately called “Bulla.”  She also remembers the invaluable time spent with her grandmother and 1978 Miss Jamaica World, the late Joan McDonald, where she learned the importance of being a lady.  So, yes, the tea parties, fashion shows and brunches at the Hilton with “grandma” had certainly been useful in her nurturing.

“When I’m around my grandmother, I had to speak proper English,” she jokingly reminisces. 

But she was also exposed to the not so polished side of life, having tagged along with the grown-ups to the yard parties, with blaring dancehall music from the favoured colossal speaker boxes.  Of course, what makes this artist so compelling is the perfect incorporation of her “uptown” and “downtown” upbringing that appeals to a wide audience.  And as a result she boasts of knowing how and when to “switch things up."

Since she exploded on the scene in 2005, Tifa has wasted no time in gliding that upward spiral.  Some of her most memorable songs are Bottom of the Barrel, Move Yuh Body, and Spell It Out, where “A Wha Do D.E.M.!” was conceived and has since become her tag line.

I suppose that would explain why she took home four awards after receiving seven nominations for Jamaica’s Youth View Awards recently held on February 5. Oh, and let’s not forget that she has grabbed the attention of American rapper, Ludacris.  He was so impressed with the stellar deejay that he invited her, and a few others, on his How Low remix. 

So allow me to dig deeper and get a bit more personal with our Jamaican Diva.
Photo: Marvin Bartley for BackAYard Magazine

Who is Tifa?
She laughs. To be honest ah don’t know… um…Really, Tifa is just a projection of Latifa.  She’s shy, creative, determined, stubborn, spontaneous, and secretive.

What’s your sound and style?
It’s dancehall, reggae, hip hop, and a mixture of an uptown and downtown vibe. 

Do you always write your songs?
Ninety-nine percent.  The only one I haven’t written is by Lil Joe, who recently passed away.  It’s called “Single” on the Cobba Cobba Riddim, produced by Equinoxx.

I understand that you don’t have a manager.  Why is that?
She sighs. I had one but it didn’t work out. But I have guidance from Ward 21 and Headline Entertainment who help oversee some of the projects I work on.  I prefer it that way because I get to know first-hand about the other side of the music business and I get to personally handle my affairs.

But at the rate at which your career is going, don’t you think you will need one in the future?
I’m going to need one soon.

What’s your average day like?
These days things are a bit slow, but usually as soon as I wake up, I check my blackberry for show updates and respond to emails. Then I bathe, go on the road to deal with interviews or make special appearances.

What’s one thing you can’t leave the house without?
My bag, because it has everything in it: my phone, comb, brush, and my lip gloss—can’t leave without ma lip gloss!

What are you addicted to these days?
Nothing really. I’m a seasonal girl and have my phases.

Favourite Colour?
I’m not a “favourite” kind of girl.  But lately I tend to be into pink and gold. But if I’m in the mood for something I’ll be into it. That’s how I usually treat everything, music, fashion, men… She chuckles at that.

Okay, so you’re not “a favourite kind of girl” but what about artistes in the business that you look up to?
Locally I love Lady Saw; Lady G; Macka Diamond; Movado; Agent Sasco. I like international artists such as Bob Marley; Maxie Priest; Dennis Brown; and most definitely Mary J. Blige, especially the older version of Mary J. I take a lot of inspiration from her.

What irks you?
Dirty nails and dirty dishes.  I have to be extremely tired, not to do my dishes.

Since you entered the music scene in 2005, you’ve been gradually progressing and gaining popularity both locally and internationally, what has been your most memorable collaboration?
I’ve really only done two collaborations, with Tami Chynn for the Certified Diva music video and with Ward 21.

Is there anyone you hope to work with in the future?
I’m not so keen on collaborations, because usually I find that one artist usually ends up doing better than the other afterwards.  I don’t like that experience for me or for the other person I work with.  But if I had to choose, anyone who sounds good and who’s happening right now.  I’m more a “spirit tek”[1] person. If we have a connection then I can work with you.

What was it like collaborating with Ludacris? Did you work with him in person?
No I didn’t; but it was an amazing experience.  I was surprised to learn that he was even a follower of my music. I can’t thank Alric and Boyd enough for making the link.
For those who don’t know, Alric and Boyd are master music mixers who’ve developed sounds for Rihanna on her Rude Boy mix, and naturally Ludacris’ How Low remix.

Do you have a favourite video?
I would have to say Spell it Out. I like Move Yuh Body too, but even today Spell it Out is my baby. I’m always involved in my video productions and that was the easiest and the least stressful.  Everything worked out according to plan and I got exactly what I wanted. 

Photo: Marvin Bartley
Discrimination against female deejays in Dancehall; does it still exist?
Things are getting better. In the past it used to be one dominating female dance hall artists and now we have much more. 

Yes, but is the tension still there?
Definitely. It won’t go away. We always want to be on top, to be the number one artists, but to be honest I believe the market is big enough for everyone. My style is different from a Lady Saw or a Stacious, and the world is big enough for everyone to get a piece. I love when we as female artists come together and get a chance to shine like on the Ward 21 Production of Dem Gal Sitt’n Medley. It really highlights our individual styles.

Have you faced discrimination?
Yes. A lot of persons didn’t believe in me. They would look at me and see the “ben foot” and say things like ‘Where’s she going with that?’ or ‘She doesn’t even have a degree.’ I grew up with so much discrimination that I learned how to have a thick skin and continue to do what I know I can do.

But you have a degree now.  You studied at University of the West Indies (UWI) and graduated with a BA degree in Psychology and Human Resources Management.  But you’re a dancehall artist. What happened?
Nothing happened.  I’m my mother’s only child and she wanted her daughter to have an education.  But Psychology wasn’t my first choice, I wanted to do Business Management, but UWI didn't give me the option. I’m making good use of it though, especially when managing myself.
Has it ever been so hard that you want to just throw in the towel?
A lot of times. But every time I decide to leave something good happens and I end up staying. So I guess it’s a sign that I should stay put.
You have a lot of singles out, but so far no album.  When will we see an album from you?
This year definitely. Before, the time wasn’t right, but people have been asking. I wanted to wait for the right opportunity and want to put out songs that people haven’t heard before and would actually want to buy. So I’m coming up with new songs like Get Flat.  That video is coming soon.  So look out for that.
So…You performed in Slovakia…? What was that like, being surrounded by so many persons who don’t speak English, let alone Patois?
It was amazing. It was good to see my fans, in their “I love Jamaica” T-shirts, singing the words to my songs even though they didn’t speak English. I also performed in the Czech Republic and am the first female dancehall artist to perform there. I’m very proud about that.  
She has also performed in Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and Italy. Tifa’s performance was so riveting in Italy they dubbed her the Queen of Dancehall!

I read in an article where one writer described your journey as “somewhat easy.”  Do you agree?
Yes and no. I have to give thanks because so many artists have been in the business for fifteen, twenty years and haven’t put out a song, done any music videos or performed in the places I’ve been.  So I’m blessed to have Ward 21 and Headline Entertainment giving me guidance and helping me make the right decisions in my career. There’s no formula. When it’s your time, it’s your time.  The good thing about me is that I’m consistent.

What’s in the works for 2011 and beyond?
Apart from working on my album, I’m a brand ambassador for Nuvo liqueur.

Are you interested in anything outside of music?
Real Estate, Fashion, Perfume, Hair.

Where do you want to go, that you haven’t visited yet?
Japan! Ever since I was three years old and watched an episode of Sesame Street when they went to Japan.  I also want to go to Bahamas and visit Atlantis because I’m a very adventurous person.

So what’s stopping you? Just go!
After a mild chuckle, she says...Soon.

[1] spirit tek: When one feels he or she naturally meshes with or can relate to another without force.

For more about TIFA, follow her at and 

Check out Tifa's videos here:
Her latest: "Nah Stop Shine/Move Yuh Body"                             


 Her Favourite: "Spell It Out"

My favourite track: "Why"

LIKE THIS STORY??  Leave your feedback below and feel free to share!


  1. I like it Chev! If 9 -5 or modelling no work, your own magazine or blog will work. Keep it current and the readers interested and it ah go MAAAD!

  2. Great article - This showed me a different side of Tifa! thanks and keep more coming plz

  3. It was a great read, maybe am greedy but I wanted to read more. I enjoyed the songs at the end too, but how come my fave nuh mek the list "bottom a di barrel":)

  4. very nice. really love this post. Big up Tifa.

  5. Love this post Chevy!! liking the sounds.. never heard of her before

  6. Lovely Article, this girls personality is soo much like mine,Tifa is such an inspiration!

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