Lady Vee, V. Rocket sound system land on Amazon Prime
Supersonic journey which got its start in 1964, continues from the UK
V. Rocket International has the distinction of being “the only sound that goes to the moon”, so it’s only right that the legendary sound system, which was started in the UK in 1964, should have its own documentary chronicling its supersonic journey. V. Rocket International: A Sound System Dynasty had its star-studded, sold-out premiere at the Savoy cinema in Nottingham last month, and it was undoubtedly a moment of intense pride for the entire sound system culture and especially for Valerie ‘Lady Vee’ Robinson.
“I have to commend Marcus [Hall] for doing such a good job of producing and directing this documentary,” Lady Vee of V. Rocket shared. “He is [selector] Parliament’s son, and he urged us to document the journey so that the younger generation can look back at how it all started. And then … for us to put out the documentary and for it to end up on Amazon Prime is absolutely amazing for us.”
It was Lady Vee’s parents, Dougie and Imogene Robinson, who started with a 50-watt component system nearly 60 years ago and now it has grown into “a monster” that has performed on several continents and has hosted and won some of the most memorable clashes. “Most sounds in England between the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s, we killed them all more than once, so we’ve paid our dues,” top selector Belly, who started selecting with V. Rocket when he was about 15, told cantstopwontstop.co.uk.
As a woman in a male-dominated arena, Lady Vee has distinguished herself in a managerial capacity and, along with name brand selectors Belly, Parliament, Val B and Reuben, is focused on maintaining not only the V. Rocket legacy but the entire sound system legacy as well. Her own son, DJ Marlz, along with Parliament and Reuben’s sons, is now numbered among V. Rocket’s selectors.
V. Rocket International: A Sound System Dynasty is a 92-minute documentary about “the humble beginnings, struggles, growth and development that made V. Rocket International the legendary sound system it is today. It details the monumental career of V. Rocket and some of the significant milestones achieved along the journey. This is a story of passion, commitment, love, unity and family”.
“I came to the UK from Jamaica in 1966 as a little seven-year-old girl, and my parents had a 50-watt sound system that they used to use to keep house parties. I grew up with my brothers and their school friends and, as the sound started to grow, I remember them coming home and saying that they did an event and didn’t get paid,” Lady Vee recalled.
That was the official start of her own amazing sound system journey, as she volunteered to help them out by taking the bookings for the sound while waiting to go to college. Although she did end up going to secretarial college, her dreams of becoming an air hostess were put further and further on the back burner as Lady Vee became consumed by the sound system.
“I started getting more involved in the music and started keeping events. I enjoyed the trips to Jamaica to get the dubplates and meeting people like Fada Pow [and] Rory Stone Love. But I have no regrets at all,” Lady Vee shared as she spoke glowingly of sound system giants such as King Jammy, Channel One and Coxsone.
She recalled with a smile that, as the person who secured the dubplates, she knew them all. Therefore, when the sound was involved in a clash, she was one of the few persons who Reuben would take instructions from.
“I would go to him and whisper, ‘Yuh nuh feel that now is a good time to draw this Super Cat yah?’ or I would say, ‘Drop this Nitty Gritty next.’ I would also be able to feed him with lyrics and say, ‘When yuh come on back, this is what you must say,’” the affable Lady Vee shared.
According to her bio, “Lady Vee’s early break came when she did an event at the Ad-Lib club in Nottingham with David Rodigan. One early and memorable event was at the Palis, again in Nottingham, at Maxi Priest’s very first stage show. Continuing the momentum, Lady Vee started UK Cup Clash – hugely successful in the Sound Clash industry”.
Quizzed about the most memorable event in V. Rocket’s history, Lady Vee, who is also known as Mummy Vee, Aunty Vee and Rocket, mentioned the trip to Jamaica in 1987, taking the full sound.
“In January each year, we would lay out our plans for the year and we decided that a trip to Jamaica was necessary for everybody to get acquainted with the place where it all started. Fifteen of us travelled, and we spent three months. We shipped down all the equipment ahead of us and, when we reached, customs told us that they were concerned that we were going to sell the equipment, so we needed a deposit of $80,000. In those days, that was a lot of money, and we didn’t have it. And, you know what ...? The lady who owned the shipping company instructed her people to put down the money for us, and that’s how we got our equipment,” Lady Vee shared.
Not only was it an experience of a lifetime, it upped the profile of V. Rocket, which returned to the UK as “a different sound”.
“Both my late parents and Parliament’s late parents are looking down very pleased. From 1964 to 2022, the legacy has lasted. Long live reggae music; long live sound system culture; long live V. Rocket!” Lady Vee declared.