Mad Cobra hit #1 on the Billboard Rap chart in 1992 with the gold selling single “Flex”. In fact he’s only the second ever reggae artist to achieve that feat in over thirty years of trying. Not bad for a 26 year old who named himself after a character in the GI Joe comic books!
He was born Ewart Everton Brown in Kingston, Jamaica yet grew up in the parish of St. Mary’s, only moving back to the capital in his teens where he fostered his interest in music by guesting on the Mighty Ruler, Climax and Inner City sound-systems. His uncle Delroy “Spiderman” Thompson was the engineer at Tuff Gong and in 1989 produced his first record “Respect Woman”. That was followed by “Na Go Work”, a duet with Tricia McKay and a small local hit. Before long Carl “Banton” Nelson and Captain Sinbad were producing him, encouraging the youngster to voice titles like “Ze Taurus”, “Shoot To Kill” and “Merciless Bad Boy” in the wake of the Gulf War and Ninjaman’s success with gun lyrics in the Jamaican dancehalls.
Those early tunes were snapped up by the hardcore fans and Cobra himself aroused the attention of Donovan Germain’s Penthouse studio, where he teamed up with resident engineer Dave Kelly. The resulting singles “Yush”, “Gundelero” and “Gun Confused” were hits; so too “Feeling Lonely” which he voiced alongside Beres Hammond. A best-selling album “Bad Boy Talk” was released in 1991 and established him as one of Jamaica’s most promising dee-jay talents, albeit one who was soon in danger of excessive over-exposure.
That same year an incredible volume of his material was released. Both Spiderman and Captain Sinbad also issued albums (“Mad Cobra” and “Merciless Bad Boy” respectively), Penthouse had theirs and in the UK Jet Star compiled “Cobra Gold” which featured over a dozen of his singles for a wide variety of Jamaican producers including King Jammys (“O.P.P”), Bobby Digital (“Sex Appeal” and “Tek Him”), Sly & Robbie (“Be Patient”) and Dennis Star (“Hearsay”). It was the beginning of the most prolific period in his short history.
Two further albums “Spotlight” and “Exclusive” appeared, with the latter subsequently withdrawn in the States due to the rampant homophobia of the track “Crucifixion”. This before Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks attracted unpleasant publicity for the very same thing a year later. It didn’t seem to do him any harm with his regular hardcore audience.
During 1991/1992 he had no less than five No.1 hits on the UK reggae charts and in one particular week had nine tunes on the Top 20! UK producers like Fashion, Mafia & Fluxy, Gussie P and Donneville Davis all recorded songs with him, so did Bee Cat in NY and also Top Rank based in JA’s Montego Bay. At the height of Cobra’s popularity they released the haunting “Love Fever”; evidence that he’d switched styles by chatting romantic lyrics over a rhythm owing a great deal to softer, R&B influences. Nor did the Snake stop there. At the beginning of 1992 he wrote “Flex”, a love chat over a silky JA version to “Just My Imagination” which the Temptations sang back in the ’60’s. On the strength of this song he was signed to Columbia in the USA and within a few months he’d set new standards by topping the American national charts.
Unfortunately his follow-up with Richie Stephens “Legacy”, failed to make any further impression and before too long he was back in action on the dancehall scene, despite having to endure a vicious clash with Buju Banton at the ’92 Sting. Crossover success doesn’t cut much ice in the ghetto areas of Kingston, not unless an artist is also cutting the musical mustard hardcore style.
Cobra wasn’t, but he is now. In 1993 he returned to the dancehalls and once again could be heard booming over the sound-systems. “Mek Noise” for Red Rose & Malvo helped start the rout; “Matie Haffi Move” did further damage for Bobby Digital and “Big It Up”, “Length & Bend” and “Fat & Buff” found him back at King Jammys in fine form, both for Jammy senior and his son John John.
In 2002, he was featured on the Black Shadow Records “buzz” rhythm, where his “Press Trigger” became a huge smash in the dancehalls. He later followed up with “Haunted” for Black Shadow’s 20003 rhythm “surprise”. “Haunted” made a huge impact on the reggae charts in New York and Miami.
The Mad Snake is back, and with a vengeance.