When Cayenne The Lion King, a local hip-hop and reggae artist, talks about performing, he often speaks about “energy,” both from the audience and from the DJ who performs with him.
The phrase “Ding Ding Ding” is “a form of ringing the alarm to bring people back to cultural awareness and community,” Cayenne said.
Some of its lyrics reflect that message of empowerment and pride:
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“No matter where you come from / You’re still African / This is true speech, have to teach everyone.”
Another verse states:
“Just big up your culture two Pom Pom / Wave up your banner / Make we rise from the slum / Wave up your banner / Make we rise like the sun.”
During a rehearsal, Cayenne explained the importance of the relationship between singer and DJ.
“I tell Damu, it’s an honor to have him DJ for me,” he said. “The energy is there before I get on stage.”
Their job as a duo “is to bring up everybody’s energy,” he said. “He is one of the most important parts of the show: He’s holding the canvas.”
Damu recently DJ’d for the opening of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ exhibit “RACE: Are We So Different?” and will perform at a sickle-cell benefit in Cary on Friday.
Quality of sound
At this run-through, Damu sets up two turntables, a mixer, a soundboard and other equipment. He remembers the days when he had to carry around crates of recordings, amplifiers and receivers.
With modern equipment “you can come out a lot more compact but have that quality of sound,” he said. “The bad side is, now everybody thinks they are a DJ.”
On his Facebook page, Damu discusses how DJ’ing is a form of expression. The laptop he uses with his set-up proclaims, “I am not ... repeat, I am NOT a radio DJ!” During the pre-digital days, DJs had to learn from their elders, who “made you practice.”
Cayenne adds, “That was a craft, being able to take one record and mix it with another.”
Vinyl version coming
The new single grew out of performances in South Carolina and other tour spots, and because of audience response Cayenne decided to record it.
At first, “Ding Ding Ding” will be available on digital formats, but later he wants to release it as a 45 rpm vinyl record. He also will be performing music from his more recent “Warrior Music” release. A new release of 14 new compositions is planned later this year. After The Pinhook concert, he will tour North Carolina with Jamaican reggae artist Ricky Chaplin.
Cayenne grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he heard classic soul and rhythm and blues music. His father, Willie Lemons Jr., was a singer who opened for Otis Redding and other soul artists. He also was a ghost writer for Atlantic Records in the 1960s.
Cayenne moved to Durham in 1989. Many local listeners know him through his performances at the Shakori Hills festivals, Cat’s Cradle and other local venues. For 11 years, he hosted a reggae and hip-hop show on WNCU-FM, and ran the former Cocotree Culture Shop on Chapel Hill Street.
After a brief run-through rehearsal, Cayenne praised Damu for his skill. “He took time to listen to my music ... This song you heard, it gets the crowd energized.”