Dexter Stewart is a man of the people, a "grounds man" he calls himself. During our interview, in the usually quiet lobby at the T&T Guardian offices, there are many interruptions. Every passer-by has a comment, compliment or handshake for the singer.
Stewart smiles and responds with humility and kind words. He is not surprised by the attention."It wasn't easy for me to become a soca artiste. People say you have a good voice but you aren't marketable; you're fat, they had a problem with the skin colour," he says.It is the same dark brown skin colour that inspired his moniker–Blaxx.
The 50-year-old artiste has been in the soca arena for more than 20 years, having performed with a number of bands, namely Succession Brass, Upstream, Atlantik and Blue Ventures before finding a place to call home with the Roy Cape All Stars."Kurt Allen approached me and asked if I wanted to join Roy Cape. I had always wanted to join Roy Cape."
Shaking his head, Blaxx says he wasn't focused when he was younger. He says his success came with Roy Cape. For Blaxx, success does not equate to riches."I have never been rich. I used to play music and basketball in the same slippers. Now I am doing a little better."
He has no regrets."I was thankful for being poor. I wish poverty could motivate people like it motivated me."I don't even have a car. I still walk Frederick, Charlotte and Henry Street to get a taxi."He says Roy Cape All Stars is the best band in the world and calls it the university of soca music in Trinidad.
"They still keep me in check. Up to this day, those guys will be on my case. If I say something out of place I would get a look and know to cool it down."Papi Cape saw the potential and invested in me. The band has invested in me and my goal is to give back as much as I can. They have invested financially and by talking, guiding and teaching.
"It is sad that we have so many young artists out there without help. Corporate T&T usually waits till you have blown up to offer a hand. Roy Cape All Stars has been my corporate sponsor."The band is my priority. If the band is getting five dollars for a job and I am offered $50,000 for a solo performance, my priority is that five dollars."Blaxx, a Morvant resident, smiles as he recalls growing up in South Trinidad.
"I grew up in Penal, Point Fortin and Siparia. I was a public servant and a mechanic. I could still fix a car but I saw no future in it. One day I entered the South vocal talent competition. I placed high and I called myself The Mighty Hot Chocolate."Mum wrote my first calypso. She is a singer and my dad is a musician. I was born with music," he smiles.
Although Stewart grew up in south Trinidad, he loves his community in Morvant."Morvant is home. People will walk up to me and say 'Blaxx yuh better mash up de place' and I know if I don't do exactly that it is trouble.
"I have a connection with the people. I love going in to Morvant and seeing small-goal football or basketball going on and just taking off my jersey to show off my big belly and join the game."
"I love sports and I love kids. I have five children and I want one more."Blaxx says his first big soca hit was his 2007 song Dutty. "That song was written by Nadia Batson and produced by Juelio–the same guy who produced the Future Riddim with the song Leh Go. He also produced Super Blue's song Fantastic Friday."
This year, Blaxx hopes he can win the Groovy Soca monarch title with his infectious song Leh Go.The song was written by soca artiste Olatunji Yearwood and took four hours to record.Stewart believes this is the first year he feels completely confident that he can win. Leh Go has been benefitting from heavy rotation on radio stations and it is also one of the songs that crowds respond to the most at soca fetes."I never won Soca Monarch and I want it. I want a title so it can be part of the legacy I leave for my children."
"Soca Monarch isn't only about winning. It offers so much more advantages. It is being streamed live to computers around the world. I have gotten calls from Holland and Belgium just from performing on Soca Monarch night."That being said, I love the competition," he said. "Being competitive is nice. I love the adrenaline and the vibes." He explains that it was difficult performing on Soca Monarch night.
"Unlike other artistes I don't have my own band. I work for a band so by the time I reach Soca Monarch I would have already done about three jobs.""Last year the band, understanding what Soca Monarch means to me, put me up in a hotel and gave me the night off."Before it was five hour energy (an energy supplement) and I still used to be really tired."
Blaxx said this affected his performance on competition night, resulting in him not placing higher in previous years, despite the fact that he has had numerous hits.He looks at me and says: "If I could be tired every day of the year thanks to soca music I would be grateful."You can keep up with Blaxx by following him on Twitter @dsBlaxx or by visiting his Facebook page Dexter Blaxx Stewart.
To vote for Blaxx in the Groovy Soca Monarch competition, text BLAX to 4768.