NEW MATERIAL: Protoje has a new song, Blood Money, which is a stark commentary on the social situation which affects Jamaica
FOR THE past few years, Protoje has regarded the UK as his second home. The musician can often be seen in and around some of the UK’s most cutting-edge nights, checking out the music and catching up on the grassroots vibe of the place.
“I spend a lot of my free time in the UK, the music and mixture here inspires me – it’s not just hype – British people are focused on the music,” he says. “I saw the singer Jorja Smith in a small club on one visit and now she is collaborating with Drake. “This place allows you the chance to vibe on a musical level,” he tells me, with an air of ambassadorial belief.
His words are completely genuine. Proto has been aligned with this scene on many levels and now has many good friends and colleagues around the UK scene. “This is not a bandwagon thing – I understand the British music scene – the first rapper from UK I heard was Klashnekoff and it made me realise that it didn’t have to be an American rapper for a track to sound big. “I love the sound. It definitely feels like there is a connection with Jamaican music.”
Klashnekoff is not the first name that usually rolls from a Jamaican artists’ mouth when talking about the UK, so how did he come across him? “I was just searching,” he says. “Searching blogs and stuff. “It’s like a chain effect – I found out about So Solid and Asher D. I told someone about them and they said ‘if you like that, you might like that’ and so on and so on.”
He has taken the love for this nation and created music, too – with a notable track produced by Toddla T and featuring Sheffield’s Coco. Which leads us to the new project and the mammoth task of trying to match and surpass the success of his last album, Ancient Future.
The album was a balanced, well-produced collection which not only had a far reach which encompassed different audiences, but the messages transmitted themselves incredibly live.
His first effort out of the gate is Blood Money, a feisty and stark commentary on the social situation which affects Jamaica.
“Blood Money has three verses and each has its own ideology,” says Protoje. “The first talks about people who can be considered as ‘beacons’ in our society, but some of them have got up to questionable things under the table. “When you talk about crime you can’t just look at what the poor man does, they don’t have boats, they don’t bring in the drugs or guns, they have to have bosses – where are their bosses? Who is going after them?
“The second verse is about injustice which people suffer and the third verse focuses on the motto ‘Out Of Many, One People’, but it seems only one kind of people are getting the struggle and only one kind are reaping the rewards.”
This record creates conversation, particularly in barber shops which I have witnessed first hand. I was interested to hear Proto’s take on what makes him qualified to speak on this, especially as he is seen as coming from a “privileged” background himself.
He gave me the reasons why in an unapologetic fashion. “Me coming from a privileged background makes it even more important to speak out, because I have knowledge of what really goes on,” he says. “The main problem in this world is that there are so many people who see situations and can speak out, but choose not to.
“People who are not suffering don’t give a sh*t about those who are, and once the silent majority do not talk, change is not going to occur.” I respect the militancy of the record, because the fire is real, and I feel there hasn’t been enough records of this nature recently.
I wondered if he had felt any backlash from the system because of the track? “I’m sure there is, but I try to stay away from that thing – I just put the music out and let the conversations start,” he says.
“Backlash isn’t always a bad thing – it gets people talking and thinking.” His work isn’t just limited to performing as an artist, as recently, he has started a new night called “New Wave” and that sees him undertake the roles of promoter and talent-spotter.
“The idea just came to me. One of my partners came to me with a logo which was called ‘New Wave’ and it grew from there. “We wanted a space for all artistic people in Jamaica to come together and be creative. “We don’t really have many hubs for creativity, because there isn’t much of an infrastructure.
“I’m just trying to do my part to give people something to look forward to.” The effort and vision are admirable. These coupled with a hectic touring plan, which sees him kicking off in Europe on April 10 and passing through the UK for eight dates in May, means that Protoje is a man on a mission to elevate the surroundings that he holds dear. I, for one, back him in that quest.
Catch Protoje around the UK in May – visit www.protoje.com for further info