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Jesse Royal: "We’re not gonna try water down this ting"


ONE OF the joys of my job is when you see an artist that you think has something special finally get the recognition from the fans worldwide.

Jesse Royal, The Palace Pickney has definitely done this by scoring a Billboard number one with his debut album Lily Of Da Valley. Not that this has gone to his head - as I speak to him on the phone he informs me that he had just left from getting fresh seafood in Portmore. Lucky him.

Jesse was among the roster of names that was part of the so called “Reggae Revival” a few years ago that included Chronixx, Protoje, Jah9, Kabaka Pyramid, Iba Mahr and Dre Island.

I remember meeting him for the first time in Kingston in November 2014 with the backdrop of the National Stadium. We reasoned for about an hour and I walked away with the feeling that I had just spoken with a young Peter Tosh. He seemed very stern in his mannerisms.

Rolling onto today and he tells me “It has been a long journey and hard work, but we are truly grateful. Just like Buju said, ‘Its not an easy road.’ This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have more work to do for the next youths to come through with another level of creativity and confidence.”

Long road indeed. I remember seeing Jesse’s name on the legendary Fattis Burrell’s Xterminator label, but the song Modern Day Judas, produced by Winta James on the Rootsman Riddim - the same riddim as Chronixx’s Here Comes Trouble would bring more attention. However Modern Day Judas is just one side to Jesse Royal though - if you have ever seen him live you will know how much soul is in his music and delivery.

“You have some people who came forward after Modern Day Judas and kind of expected just that sound. They never really had the chance to dive into our catalogue deep enough to realise or to know what music means to us.”

“Some of the early critiques was certain song sound sweet, one and two tings sound soft, some of the tings sound different, but we had to render ourselves to the music and feel confident in the creativity of the music,” he explained.

“But the funniest thing is some of those that said it was soft have come back and said that the track 400 Years is the toughest ting they hear inna them life!”

400 years is the epic intro to Lily of Da Valley. This is straight up hard-hitting roots music for this millenium. Lyrically, this is the Royal I met in 2014. Another track that caught my attention was Stand Firm.

He recites a line from the song and laughs. “Nah go nuck mi toe inna Buckingham.” He then adds: “Its for the youths dem to have to know we don’t have to get bullied down, and it’s ok to have perspective and its ok to have ideas.”

“When me say burn certain bridge its not in a negative perspective of feeling any man is an island, but more to understand if you nuh deh pon weh we deh pon, then we have no reason fi link.”

“We’re not gonna try water down this ting, or jump on anybody’s ship to get no hit. This generation has to ensure we do what we have to do, so the next generation don’t play catch up.”

Throughout our conversation, Jesse consistently makes reference to this generation as if it is a team effort. If it is then it seems like there is strength and depth in the team. All seem to be scoring pretty well on the field right now.

On the album, he teams up with the next generation of The Marleys. Jo Mersa, son of Stephen Marley shows lyrical skill and delivery on Generation, which is one of the highlights on the album for me. Mersa definitely has that hard-hitting vocal of his uncle Damian.

Jesse expands on why this generation is so important. “Our generation to me means hope and potential. A chance to rewrite certain laws, break certain stigmas, address certain issues that has been plaguing us and our nations for years.”

“I feel that our generation has come at a special time. With the age of information, we are coming to the table with a different perspective. We get to find out who write the order and who wrote the anthem! So we have the chance to approach things from a different perspective. So when it’s all said and done, its good over evil, ya dig.”

Even with Jesse’s hard stance I would have to agree with some of the critics that there is a welcomed smoothness as he takes you on a journey throughout the album – definitely enjoyable and a skill that I always rated from Jesse Royal.

Lily of the Valley is out Now on Easy Star Records

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