Spice is a self-made female entrepreneur and now a history-making Grammy nominee. She has just become the first hardcore female Dancehall artist nominated for Best Reggae Album at the GRAMMYs for her debut album 10. This marks the first year two women have been nominated in the category
Spice was born and raised in Portmore, Jamaica and has influenced the world to love Dancehall with her electrifying sound and stage presence. She gained international acclaim in part to her collaboration with Shaggy and Sean Paul with the hit record “Go Down Deh!”. However, Spice had already amassed a significant following over her twenty-year career prior to the single. Spice is a single mother of two and exemplifies success activism and talent.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
For(bes) The Culture: How does it feel to be Grammy-nominated?
Spice: I’m so high over the situation and happy. Because a lot of people said it wouldn’t be possible and so many naysayers said that this moment would never happen. So I need to now make my voice be heard. So other Dancehall artists and other black women can now realize there is hope. And that’s also why I’m super so grateful and happy for this historic moment. This is the first time for a hardcore Dancehall artist to be nominated for Best Reggae Album. And that’s something that I’m super grateful for because that song itself doesn’t even have a category in the Grammys. So to have created such a historic moment means a lot to me, and I’m grateful. I am very, very happy.
For(bes) The Culture: What inspired you to start your clothing line Graci Noir?
Spice: I’ve always been an entrepreneur since I was a child. I used to see my mom buy and sell clothing to fend for us. I came from humble beginnings and she was a lady with multiple hats. She had different businesses. She had a restaurant. We used to sell chicken cooked at home to make money. So, I gained the knowledge of having multiple streams of income. Watching my mother struggle to provide for us as a child, and that’s where I got my mentality.
As far as clothing, I started a franchised clothing line in Jamaica a few years ago. It was called Bicycle. I had branches in Montego Bay, Kingston and Saba Lamarr. But I recently changed the name to Gaci Noir because my real name is Grace and Graci means grateful and I’m so grateful for my journey. And the word Noir means that I’m an advocate for black people. But I’ve always been an entrepreneur for years and I’ve always been into having a clothing line.
For(bes) The Culture: How are you balancing motherhood along with being an international artist?
Spice: It’s not easy. If I said it was so easy and you know I’m able to manage, I would be lying. It’s not an easy road because there are so many times when you have to be on the road you’re traveling or touring. I’m on the road, or I have a short performance, I am calling them or FaceTime, you do your homework, making sure that things are done at home that he that that, you know, just little things. I love my two kids dearly. And so everything I do is because of them. They inspire me. There are a lot of decisions that I made because of them and everything I do, I think about them first. I remember leaving them in Jamaica to come to America and chase my dreams. One of my biggest holdbacks was that they’re still in Jamaica and I’m Atlanta, but I made that sacrifice. of them and everything I do, I think about them first. We all go down in tears because I told them, Listen, I’m going to leave you for a while, go back and forth and work. But it’s just to make sure that we have a home in America.
For(bes) The Culture: You left Jamaica and came to the US with nothing. What was that process like for you?
Spice: When I left Jamaica and came here to be in love and hip hop, I never had any family members here in America. So I knew no one I was chasing my dreams. When I rented my first apartment, there was no furniture in there. The first night I slept on the floor. To furnish the apartment, I didn’t even know where to go. So Google was my best friend. I became a member of Love and Hip Hop because I wanted people to put a face to the name because a lot of times when you’re a Caribbean artist, you want to become internationally known. So I saved all of my money, worked hard, and stuck to my goals and dreams until I could purchase my home. It’s just a beautiful feeling. I’m just grateful and humbled.
For(bes) The Culture: How did you stay focused while leveraging your time as a cast member on Love and Hip Hop Atlanta?
Spice: I was once homeless and lost my home to fire. When I was younger, I came home, and my house was gone. So I was literally just homeless and have nowhere to go bouncing from home to home, friends to friends. So I save this to say that my past inspires me, and I never want to go back there. I never want my kids to have to go through what I went through. There were so many painful moments in my upbringing and my journey. And that’s what motivates me. That’s my path. So when I came here, even when people were doing other things like going out, drinking and getting drunk, I kept my focus.
For(bes) The Culture: Spice is Grammy-nominated and featured on former President Obama’s playlist. What do you feel when you hear those words?
Spice: I’m not going to lie; I’m hyped over it! I have been celebrating the success of it. Because whether I walk away the winner or not, I feel like I’m already a winner just to be nominated. In the words of Fat Joe, “Yesterday’s price is not today’s price.” This is Spice, is Grammy-nominated and Obama is listening to my music.
For(bes) The Culture: You made a controversial statement by seemingly changing your complexion. What are your thoughts on colorism within the music industry and Black culture?
Spice: When I did the full body paint, that was my way of protesting. I wanted to have the world’s undivided attention. I wanted to create awareness for colorism because I wanted people to know that colorism is real and affects our black girls within the community. For example, many people will bleach their skin in Jamaica and alter their appearance to look lighter. Society made them feel like they were prettier, being lighter-skinned.
What Brought on the idea was when a black girl commented on my page. She was saying she couldn’t understand why I’m so rich and that I’m not bleaching like I need to turn off my complexion. These people really believe that you cannot make it being a black woman. And so I had to create awareness so that my black girls can know that they are beautiful, that they can make it by being true to themselves, who they are and loving themselves. I’m a living testimony that it is possible.
For(bes) The Culture: Dancehall and Reggae culture has a complex relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community. What has been your experience as an ally to the community within your genre?
Spice: I recently accepted a performance as a headliner for a Pride festival in Toronto. And when they announced that I was the headliner for the LGBTQ festival, two of my male peers in the dance hall and reggae came out publicly to bash me, saying that I should not be aligning myself with the LGBTQ community. I retaliated by saying, I love everyone equally. I don’t go to my fans and ask their sexual preferences. They have supported me and it should not be a situation where I can’t support them. I love each of my fans, and it doesn’t matter their race or sexual preferences.
I believe as a Caribbean woman that even though the community makes it seem like it’s against the LGBT community. I feel it’s hypocritical because a lot of male artists use two females making out in the videos. And so it’s hypocritical because it’s like they’re saying it’s okay to be a member of the LGBTQ community if you’re female because they enjoy it and they sing about it. So even though I’m currently being bashed, I firmly stand behind equal rights and justice and love people regardless of their race or sexual preferences.
For(bes) The Culture: What is the driver behind your high energy stage presence?
Spice: It’s the love for my fans. I believe that if somebody is going to take their hard-earned money to come to a concert to see me perform. It should not be something they could listen to on the radio; they must see a performance and be entertained. I’m labeled as “The Queen Of The Stage.” I always get that burst of energy because my fans are there; they come out to have fun. And that’s just my motto. You must have one at my concert; you must be dancing, you must be in a great mood, you must leave feeling that energy.
For(bes) The Culture: What advice would you give your younger self?
Spice: Oh, wow, I have never been asked that before. I would tell little Grace that tough battles are going to be ahead of her. But she must stay focused. Coming up, I would have been more prepared if I was able to tell my younger self to be more prepared.
For(bes) The Culture: Many modern artists are pillaging the Dancehall culture and sound. What are your thoughts on this?
Spice: A lot of times, you see big artists use something that you can identify, like an image or a song that comes from Dancehall, but then they don’t credit it. Even sometimes, when they’re doing interviews, they’re talking like they got the inspiration from something else. Why is it so difficult for these prominent artists to pay homage to Dancehall? When you can see visually, and you hear it in their songs? Sometimes I get really upset over the fact that credit isn’t given where it’s due because the Dancehall all genre is a force to be reckoned with. And it has worked well in collaboration with so many other genres.
For(bes) The Culture: How have you been able to assert dominance and create a space for yourself in Dancehall?
Spice: I tell people all the time it’s a man-dominated business. And I remember at one point in my life, I used to go to the dance hall and there were no females. So being in a male-dominated business has never been easy, but I believe I have paved the way for females in the genre today. I created a dance group called Team Spice. We took to the streets and demanded that female songs be played and have a segment in the dance halls and radio. So I personally have demanded that respect for women. So now that we have those things, I’m happy and grateful that it is now possible.