Tarrus Riley’s foray into music was inevitable. The talented singer and songwriter was always surrounded by music from an early age. His father is veteran reggae singer Jimmy Riley. Riley has learnt a lot by merely being in the environment of the music business. He caught on very quickly and made his recording debut as a teenager. “I’ve always loved music; I used to deejay but everyone used to encourage me to sing. They used to call me “Singy Singy” because I was always singing,” Riley commented.
In 2004, Tarrus released his debut album, Challenges. “I was fortunate to have recorded my debut album with an independent label out of Miami”.
The secret to his success is quite simple – “when preparation meets opportunity”, stated a self-assured Riley. ‘I sing for the people – this is the contribution I can make and after I make a song; it isn’t even mine anymore; it belongs to the people.”
Known for his ‘healing’ music, Tarrus released his sophomore album Parables in 2006 to widespread acclaim and spawned hit singles – “Stay With You”, “Beware”, “She’s Royal”, “Lion Paw”, among others. “I worked on Parables with Dean Fraser and I wasn’t surprised at the success it has had, but how fast it all happened”, Riley reflected.
“I’ve known Dean a long time and to work with him on something as great and historic as Parables, is an honour”, he also said. “Parables was a confidence builder and has set the foundation for everything else that I will bring to my audience”.
“I define myself so I make thought-provoking music about Black consciousness and experiences. I want to open people’s minds and let them think. My music isn’t prejudiced towards colour, class, creed or nationality,” he explained passionately.
“I target women and children with my music because slavery tampered with the woman’s mind and that’s why I wrote She’s Royal. She’s the head of the household so she has the power to influence the young men and women of tomorrow,” Riley added.
Tarrus works with a group of friends on a movement proudly titled BLAKSOIL – Bredren Living According King Selassie-I Overstanding & Iritical Livity. Through this movement, Riley hopes to further target the consciousness of our women and children.
Riley has consistently racked up awards for his work. Among his accolades are Best Singer, Male Vocalist, Cultural Artiste, Song of the Year, and Best Song. Some of the awards institutions which have rewarded Riley include the Youth View Awards, The Star People’s Choice Awards, EME Awards, and the Reggae Academy awards. Said Riley, ‘I have received awards both locally and internationally. But to be honest, the best award I receive consistently is from the people themselves – when I can look in their faces and see the impression my music has made – that is the best award I can ever get’.
Nonetheless, Tarrus is the proud holder of CVM’s 15th Anniversary Award, held in February 2009, for the ‘Most Admired Song in the Past 15 Years’ for the hit, “She’s Royal”. “That award really means a lot to me because it was chosen by the people in the streets,” said Riley.
In 2009 Riley released his third opus Contagious on Cannon Production distributed by VP Records. The album contained the hits Start Anew, Contagious, Good Girl Gone Bad featuring Konshens and Superman, a cover of a Robin Thicke original.
2010 saw the release of the chart topper Protect the People, which scaled several charts in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.
Early 2011 saw the release of the Black History themed Shaka Zulu Pickney which was featured on the Nyabingi rhythm from Bombrush Music. The video for the song which was directed by Storm Saulter was well received upon its release. His interest in educating the youth about Black History resulted in the Tarrus Riley Freedom Writers Competition, which ran on Jamaica’s Irie FM radio station.
Riley has performed on several stages around the world. His performances have drawn credible reviews from the media in the Caribbean, North America, the United States and Europe.