The late great Bob Marley gave us our souls back. War, worldwide tyranny, and economic stronghold controlled the people, until a new wave swept across the globe, freeing people spiritually and mentally. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” said Bob Marley, with songs such as “One Love,” “Redemption Song,” “No Woman No Cry,” and “Buffalo Soldier.” These became worldwide hits, with lyrics piercing the hearts and minds of the people. Jamaica soon gave way to reggae and dancehall acts like Beenie Man, Red Rat, Sean Paul, Beres Hammond, The Marley Brothers, Mavado, Buju Banton, Vybz Kartel, and now the hit-making phenom, Popcaan. These singers shaped not only Jamaican music and culture, but also the way others around the world perceived Jamaicans and their culture as well.
Andre Jay Sutherland was born July 15th, 1988 in Jamaica. Growing up in Three West in Portmore, Jamaica, opportunities were very scarce for the young dancehall artist. With poverty and corruption striking Jamaica at this time, ghetto youths looked to other dangerous alternatives as a source of prosperity. Dark clouds soon came as the city claimed the lives of many of his close friends, including Scumpy, the man who gave Andre the name he would be soon be known to the world as, Popcaan, along with other monikers such as Poppi and Popskull.
In 2007, Popcaan introduced himself to dancehall heavy-hitter Vybz Kartel at a local reggae event, impressing him deeply. An artist with an unusual, but different style, with his hair platted in a different fashion, jeans cuffed a different way and Clarks laced up nicely, was bound to get some views. Kartel would end up linking up with Popcaan, taking him under his wing, then soon have him perform at many events all around the country, eventually giving Popcaan the much needed exposure he knew he would be destined to receive. Popcaan would later collab with Vybz Kartel and fellow Gaza/Portmore Empire artist on the hit collab, “Clarks.” The song was infectious, and spread through the Caribbean on with Popcaan later recording his first hit single in 2010 called “Dream,” hitting the airways across the Caribbean. Popcaan would eventually sign to Mixpak Records, and form a long-lasting bond with future producer and boss, Dre Skull.
With the ongoing feud between dancehall artists such as Bounty Killer, Mavado, Beenie Man, and Vybz Kartel in the mid-2000s until then, Jamaica was fueled with war-lyrics and messages not uplifting to the people. It didn’t get any better, with the conviction of Vybz “World Boss” Vybz Kartel in 2011 for the possession of firearms and marijuana, most of all murder. Popcaan eventually came under fire for choosing not to be involved or linked with Kartel, coming under massive media scrutiny, death threats, and cruel words from the ones he once shared a stage with. But the lyrics would uplift the people; music with positive meaning, and rhythm finally hitting the land of Jamaica again as soon as Popcaan released hits like ”The System,” explaining the corruption of the system not only in Jamaica, but the rest of the world. “Weh di system do fi ghetto yutes / every day anudda mudda ah bawl / dem don’t do nutten at all / we been suffering from we small,” said by Popskull in Jamaican Patois. Infectious dance-hits like “Party Shot,” “Mi Baby Dat,” and “Unruly Wave” came to the world, getting people off their seats, dancing to the rhythm-filled songs with lyrics about good vodka, good vibes, and praising women for their great bodies and dance moves, not degrading them. The beautiful thing was that during this time that Popcaan was releasing these hit songs, he was also dropping soulful songs such as “Only Jah Know,” explaining how he turned his hurt for his dying loved ones, the way things were and still are, and everything else, into his deeper faith in God. In the hit-single “Only Man She Want,” Popcaan explained his infidelity with another woman. Whether or not it was justified is all up to opinion, but the fact that the man wasn’t treating her right gives us better insight that she found her true happiness in Popskull. Finally, the hit “Everything Nice” was a deeper song, praising the hard-workers, the struggling, and the weary for their efforts. “Work hard every day till we reach to di goal / dis a fi di people dem a work hard / all who gone to di morgue / R.I.P to a loved one / put yuh cups dem high.” A definite sentiment from a man who has nothing coming up, who now can have anything he wants.
Since his rise to stardom, Popcaan has worked with many different artists, bringing peace back to Jamaica again by an unexpected collab with Mavado on Snopp Dogg’s single “Lighters Up.” Pusha T recruited him for a guest vocal on his street single “Blocka,” which was later sampled by Kanye West on his last album, Yeezus. His recent feature with UK artist Melissa Steel saw “Kisses For Breakfast” rise to the UK Top Ten charts; even Toronto rapper and OVO/YMCMB superstar Drake has said to be a fan of the Portmore artist, rating his then recent Yiy Change mixtape, quoting his lyrics on his twitter and is said to be a big fan of the dancehall movement, due to his growing up with a heavy reggae and dancehall influence in Toronto. OVO Niko, one of Drake’s closest business partners and personal friends even directed Popcaan’s single “Unruly Rave,” shot in Toronto. His most recent album Where We Come From is unlike anything heard by a dancehall artist; but why wouldn’t it be? Popcaan is a man unlike any other, in his own lane. Big ups to Popskull, pure badness.