New zine Ruppings gives you a flavour of the dancehall star’s lifestyle in Kingston and beyond.
This summer Popcaan went pop with his guest appearance on Jamie xx's Good Times, but he's been bubbling for years on Vybz Kartel's Clarks track and arguably the album of 2014, Where We Come From. Whilst we're not likely to see him on UK shores any time soon (because of visa issues), his label Mixpak are helping us feel like we're hanging out with him in Jamaica through their new zine, Ruppings. It's a collaboration between label manager Suze Webb and filmmaker and Blazer Soundsystem head honcho Tony Lowe. Suze talks us through Popcaan's late nights, the island's best drinks and the car sticker culture, and shares their barbershop film, The Haircut below.
So this is Ruppings Issue 1. What is the zine about and what else is yet to come?
The zine is a selection of photos and collages, mostly taken on 35mm during two separate trips to Jamaica this year. We went down there to record with Popcaan mainly, as well as doing other stuff like going to street dances and eating a lot of ital. The photos in here are just a vibe of what we were up to in Kingston, and things that caught our eye. I think we're hoping to give an insider's look into what it's like working down there, and some of Popcaan's real life, as well as parts of Jamaica that some people might not be familiar with. There'll be more issues soon, as we go back and forth between Kingston and NY!
You've worked closely with Popcaan - what's his lifestyle like in Jamaica?
Firstly he has a great crew of people around him. He's always rolling about 20 deep. It's super fun - he's a very lively person and always entertaining. It sounds cliché, but when you meet him you understand what star quality is. He's got it. He works on a really crazy schedule - he likes to record very late at night. Some of the photos in here are from a night where we went to a birthday party with him and had a pretty full night of vibes, before we hit the studio at about 3am. I think we made it home around 9am after being in the studio all night.
I see from the pics that someone if proudly holding some Clarks. Are they still as big as when Popcaan first sang about them with Vybz Kartel?
The man in the picture is called J Money and he's a cobbler - he makes those 'Clarks' from scratch. The shoes he's holding are ones that we ordered from him. They took him a couple of days to get together. It's actually pretty hard to get real Clarks in Jamaica, that's why they're fetishised in the way they are. My friend Al Fingers wrote a whole book about Jamaica's relationship to Clarks It's a really interesting story.
You feature a lot of cool cars in the zine? What are considered the coolest?
It's not the actual cars, it's the way they decorate them. The mini-buses often have amazing stickers on them or paintings, just phrases, sometimes they're religious, sometimes they're like "badman nuh beg fren." Often they might be associated with soundsystems too, so people put sticker advertisements for dances on the back windshield. People generally take a lot of pride in how things look and I love that vibe.
What is the drink of choice in Jamaica?
The people we were with were basically just drinking Hennessy. Magnum and Red Bull is a pretty strong choice as well if you're looking for a proper boost.
What were the best catchphrases from the trip?
Popcaan's catchphrases change every week pretty much. Now it's all about "get there", but definitely while we were there "kick out" was the one of the moment.
And what was the highlight of the trip?
It was one long highlight. We were recording in so many legendary places and met so many people. But I think one of my favourite moments was going up to where Popcaan lives, with his whole crew, and he did an impromptu performance with just a big portable speaker in the street at dusk. They were just freestyling on old school riddims, and let some of the kids in the neighbourhood join in. Another personal highlight was Popcaan making me clash Creep Chromatic off YouTube at a house party.
You're a big dancehall and reggae fan. What was it like to finally go to your spiritual home?
Surreal. I never thought it could exceed my expectations cos they were so high. But it did. I would encourage anyone to go there, it's a serious vibe. Obviously it helps if you like the music - the dances are so much fun. I can't do it justice in words, it's a dream.