By Richard Johnson
Observer senior reporter
Sunday, September 02, 2018
FOR many, the name Maurice Smith is easily associated with the world of track and field.
The three-time Olympian holds a silver medal in the decathlon from the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, in 2007; has the national record for the event; and has amassed a cache of medals and awards over the years. But now Smith is giving in to a lifelong passion and is venturing into the world of music.
These days he goes by the stage name Deca, an ode to his days participating in the tough decathlon — a sport which requires athletes to perform in 10 disciplines.
Smith told the Jamaica Observer that music was always a part of his life but had to take a back seat to his athletics career.
“Music has always been there from I was young. I used to write songs. I wasn't certain what direction I wanted to go as far as being a reggae or dancehall artiste; I was just young and wanted to explore my talent. But I was blessed with the ability to do sports. Going to all-age school and having five brothers who are just as talented as you are, we were competing all the time. It was long before Herb Mckenley recognised my talent at all-age champs, and so sports had to take the front seat and music had to be put on the back burner.”
After being spotted by McKenley — the great Jamaican Olympian and renowned track and field coach — Smith went on to have a successful track career at Calabar High School, which led to spots on the national teams to various meets at both the junior and senior level.
Then came every athlete's nightmare: An injury would leave Smith sidelined. At home he had the opportunity to reflect and it was then he decided to return to his other love — music.
“I got injured in 2012, and just being at the house not being able to train while I was recovering wasn't the norm for me. So I thought to myself, this is perhaps a good time to start focusing on the music. I still had all the energy and I was still in great condition so I could have continued track and field, but the music was just calling me. I had been to three Olympics, World Championships, so it wasn't like I was still yearning for that feeling to compete on the international stage. Music was just something that I always wanted to put time into but, being a professional athlete, you just have to focus on one thing at a time.”
His entry into the entertainment arena hasn't been easy, and Smith has taken his time to surround himself with a team which he believes will give him the boost he requires now that he has released his first single, Jamrock Hotta. The team includes Dancehall Queen Carlene, who handles booking and promotions. Former Jamaican athlete Brandon Simpson works alongside Smith on his visuals, as well as producer Gracious Keys who operates out of the Washington, DC, area where the artiste is based.
“The whole idea for this song came after I watched some YouTube videos from Montego Bay where some guys were talking about 'kill and collect, smoke and forget'. They were talking about smoking marijuana with embalming fluid and stuff to do with human trafficking, and I started thinking to myself what is happening in Jamaica. I love my country and just to hear about these things happening drove me to write a song that was promoting peace,” said Smith.
“I love all genres of music, so if I can be multitalented in the music industry then I going for it, just like I did when I was on the track. I consider myself a dancehall/reggae artiste. I listen to everybody's music... Alkaline, Vybz Kartel, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh .... really focussing on the content and how they create. I really want to effect change through my music, and we all know how powerful music can be. However, if you're not in to it then the message will miss you, so that's where I want to go,” he added.