Written by: Robert Gordon
The sun is shining, the air is thick, and the weather is sweet. In the Kencot neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica sits Bebble Rock Studios—a creative refuge for a number of artists who specialize in blending dancehall with hip-hop. Kabaka Pyramid is the label’s head and is best known for his role alongside artists like Chronixx, Jah 9 and Protoje in popularizing what many are calling the “Reggae Revival” movement. While he has had a relationship with music all his life, it was not until he released the Rebel Music EP in 2011 that he was formally introduced to reggae fans globally. Since then he has established himself as not only a talented singer and songwriter, but also an accomplished producer with an intimate understanding of mixing songs and recording both himself and other artists.
Kabaka has long cited his respect for hip-hop lyricism as one of his primary musical influences and considers Nas, Canibus, Inspectah Deck and Dead Prez some of his personal favorites. With that said, some of his more recent releases like his 2013 studio album—Lead The Way—are clearly nodding to his reggae roots and the inspiration he draws from Rastafari. Additionally, he is a fierce and pointed critic of capitalism, who does not mince words about what “Babylon” means to him. Considering that Jamaica’s economy has been held captive by international financial institutions—most notably the I.M.F., for at least the past twenty years—and the result has been crippling poverty and an ever-declining standard of living, his critiques are necessary.
Aside from creating socially and politically conscious music that sometimes creates controversy, Kabaka also works hard to promote lesser-known artists on the Bebble Rock label like Koro Fyah, an up-and-coming singjay. Just last week the label debuted a rootsy ganja anthem entitled “Eyes Red” that is produced by King Kabaka himself and already has a music video to accompany it. The visuals begin with a quote from Bob Marley that reads, “To say Marijuana is against the law is like saying God made a mistake” before dropping into crisp footage of Koro singing and shots of heavy smoking. The song is reminiscent of Chronixx’s “Perfect Tree” in that both tracks are laidback, melodic, and roots-heavy odes to cannabis.
Like Kabaka, Koro Fyah also cites hip-hop as a major influence on his musical style and considers Wu-Tang, Nas, Sizzla, Peter Tosh, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder to be some of his biggest inspirations. There is something to be said about how reggae has been able to rebrand itself in the past few years and how many of the most popular upcoming artists internationally—the Bebble Rock crew included—have grown up listening to MCs from hip-hop’s golden era.
Be sure to watch the latest video from Bebble Rock Music below and check back for more music from Koro Fyah as he prepares to release his first official EP. Kabaka Pyramid just wrapped up a countrywide U.S. tour and is currently gearing up for a handful of fall shows in Europe.
Burnin’ and Lootin’ is a column by Robert Gordon that showcases upcoming artists, musicians, poets, and entertainers from the Caribbean. From Kingston to Miami to New York City and beyond the Caribbean continues to have a lasting cultural impact and each week we look at one individual or group that is helping to promote island culture through the arts.