wha gwan popcaan? he's the newest face of jamaican dancehall!
Popcaan popped into most people’s consciousness with his addictive verse on Vybz Kartel’s Clarks, a dancehall celebration of the British shoe brand, but now the 25-year-old is making his own waves with new album Where We Come From.
Popcaan by Olivia Seally
The night I chat to Popcaan there's a big album launch party in New York in his honour, but he's roadside in Jamaica (he doesn't have a visa to the States), on his way to the weekly clash night he puts on. "We pon di main road now if you hear vehicles driving fast, y'kna?" he tells me, before greeting passers-by with, "Why pree? Auntie, wha gwan?" Despite being hailed as Jamaica's biggest new dancehall star, he's clearly still a low-key local boy. The new album shows off his sense of humour, his wicked way with words and his ability to put out a sex-laden party track (singing "Ya pussy pretty like the building dem a Canada" in Love Yuh Bad), but there's a core of socially conscious anthems here that also establish him as a sensitive and smart singjay for the ghetto, most especially its youth.
Hey Popcaan - looks like your album is going to blow up. Drake is a big fan and is promoting it heavily for you.
Only time will tell, y'kna? Ya dun kno we do a great job for the people dem.
You were great on the Clarks song, but people probably didn't expect you to become such a big solo star.
Yeah, for real. When I did Clarks, people were saying I'm not talented. People have a right to say whatever they want - it only up to me to change that. By me doing good music, we reach them ears and then they accept Popcaan as a real musician.
Can you play instruments, or is it just the singing and songwriting?
Yeah, me play the keyboard sometimes, but me not perfect at it, at the moment. I will be though. You'll soon see me on stage playing a piano and singing. For selected events!
I like that the album is about 50% socially conscious anthems and 50% sex.
I was aiming to do an album for the mass, so everybody can get involved. There's a lot of sufferation going on around the world and such, so me just decide fi highlight certain things that happen around me. At the same time, mi fanbase is still a lot of girls, so I did some material so they can sing along and make themselves comfortable.
You sing about social problems - are you hopeful things will improve soon in Jamaica?
Honestly, I don't think it will happen soon, but me work for the best, because me think it can. Just not any time soon.
You're the big new Jamaican star. Which older Jamaican stars do you look up to?
Vybz Kartel and Sizzla, their work ethic, creativity and craft is outstanding. I admire them musically. Big respect to them.
When you worked with American artists like Snoop, Busta and Pusha T, did you find it different working with Americans than Jamaicans?
It's a big difference. In the studio, there's more cameras and more people and the music is built differently, because you'll have somebody writing at the same time as Snoop is there doing lyrics. But in Jamaica, we may do it somewhere else, then go to the studio sometime. We would sing a piece in my studio and a next artist would put on his verse. But it's great working with both local and international stars.
Dre Skull is the Executive Producer. How was it working with him?
Dre Skull is a very brilliant bredda y'kna? Me respect Dre Skull to the fullest. It's always nice working with him. Me love how he tek the music serious and he has visions towards the music.
Where are the best parties in Jamaica right now?
My party at Fire Links on a Monday, Wappings on Thursdays and Unruly Clash on Wednesdays. That is me doing Unruly Clash, where young artists battle in the streets. Lyrical clash. Honestly, that is the best I can do for the youth dem.
Do you like the beach or the mountains in Jamaica more?
Me love the hills coz me born inna di hills, y'kna? Right now I'm talking to you from the Red Hills. Me like the beaches, but me rather the river. Football match pon di river y'kna? That's how we live round here, man. When you fly into Jamaica, we'll take you around. Dre Skull is all joy and happiness when he's in Jamaica with us.
You always have your little catchphrases and words. Do you have a favourite new one?
We favourite new thing fi say is "way up!" Way up and stay up! You need fi hashtag it pon ya Instagram. That's where we're at right now.
Text Stuart Brumfitt
Photography Olivia Seally