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Interview: Protoje at Bob Marley Museum

Interview: Protoje at Bob Marley Museum

Interview: Protoje at Bob Marley Museum

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"We don't preserve our culture like other countries do"


Protoje unveils his third album Ancient Future on March 10th. His first long player since he stopped working with cousin Don Corleon, it’s produced by Winta James of Ovastand Entertainment and represents the most complete articulation of Protoje's artistic vision yet.

Angus Taylor met Protoje and his friend Yaadcore at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. There Protoje gave this short interview. He also took us through a track by track summary of Ancient Future which we’ll publish soon…


On why the Ancient Future album was postponed from its original release date last autumn…

“A multitude of reasons. The most important one being sample clearances. There were some issues we thought we would have come through earlier but that didn’t happen. Also, the mixing took longer than anticipated because it was being done overseas so we didn’t have so much control of the time. Some other nick nacks but those two were pretty much the main reasons.”

On whether Ancient Future is his first truly unified sounding album (the first being a marriage of his ideas and Don Corleon’s more R&B pop direction and the second being bolstered by singles added from outside the project sessions)…

“Definitely. This is the first I feel that way about through and through. It was a concerted effort to let that happen. That was clearly because the producer and I are on the same page in terms of the sound we wanted to be putting out. It was a total match. On the last two albums you could hear the influence of the type of music that Don was more geared into making, which he is very good at, with the R&B type of sound. But for me artistically what I wanted to do on this record was to totally be in this groove. I think Winta and I found a way to do it.”

On why he has been singing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit on his last tour and whether he was a Nirvana fan as a kid…

“Yeah my cousin gave me that Nirvana Nevermind CD with the baby on it chasing the dollar. Kurt Cobain was a songwriter I really rated and I think he represented a whole generation and a whole movement. What he did for grunge music really took away the attention from the big super rock groups. I love their music. I grew up on them and Rage Against The Machine, all sorts of music like that.”

Kurt Cobain was a songwriter I really rated

On whether there is a parallel between what Nirvana did in terms of taking attention away from the soft rock that was dominating and how his movement of roots music is supplanting the soft Jamaican reggae that came before…

“I think if you want to draw that parallel there could be because that movement just came out of nowhere, like bam! That west coast thing just blew up and revitalised a different type of energy for the youths of that generation. And I feel that’s one of the things we were doing with our generation. Message-wise there is a difference but for the energy it created and for the fact that it spoke for a generation – which I think Nirvana definitely did in America.

In Smells Like Teen Spirit it says “With the lights out it’s less dangerous… Here we are now, entertain us”. It’s almost like “If you’re not paying attention to the youths them, if you don’t take stock of what we are doing then sooner or later we are going to be there in front of your face and you might not like what you see”. So I kind of find some connection there.”

On whether he will follow Chronixx in doing a collaboration with US rapper Joey Bada$$...

“We’ve been speaking. He wants to do some work with me. We’re trying to get him on a remix for something off this album and he said he’s down so we have to see if the timing works out.”

On how interviewers for US magazines want to talk about hip hop as much as reggae…

Protoje“That’s America for you. They’re not going to leave their culture out of the thing. So they see us and they are going to be asking us about hip hop. The thing is I grew up on hip hop and I’m very comfortable talking about it. I’m quite knowledgeable about it so it’s not like I’m out there wondering what to say”.

On whether, unlike the USA who never leave out their culture, the Jamaican music industry and particularly the media tend to look for outside validation of their music…

“Yes, I think that’s our colonial past. You look to mother countries to tell you if things are ok. That’s something that has been engraved in our psyche for years and I feel like it’s still present in the peoples’ minds. Like a lot of the time it has to be accepted abroad before it is accepted here. A lot of the time though it is accepted here first too – it depends – but yeah we don’t preserve our culture like other countries do.

Trinidad preserves soca music. It’s an event. It’s on a world stage. We [he and Yaadcore] were just having this conversation where we just had what is supposed to be Reggae Month this month and it doesn’t have an impact how in other countries things have an impact. It should be a month long thing like you have Brazil Carnival – people from all over the world know to go there. You should have something for reggae where you know that no matter what, from all over the world you are coming to the capital for it.”

On how popular reggae really is in Jamaica today…

“It’s popular but it’s not really appreciated. Every now and then there are some reggae songs that are in the mainstream that really blow up. Like last year Who Knows was one of the songs that did that. But it’s not going to be commonplace like dancehall is commonplace. But I definitely think that from where it was in 2010 to where it is in 2015 it has doubled if not tripled”.

Reggae's popular but it's not really appreciated

On his upcoming show in London with Rodigan, Toddla T and Congo Natty…

“I was there for Chronixx and Rodigan’s show. I was in Germany and we spoke about me performing so I came over and did Who Knows and it was crazy. So on the night the guys that kept that show were like “Right we have to talk about doing yours” and it’s here manifesting. Rodigan was one of the people that believed in me from my first song on Seven Year Itch. He was supporting the music. So it’s a pleasure to be going to England for the first time with Rodigan and it means a lot to me.

Toddla T is on the line up too and when he didn’t know me from anywhere he just called and got a link for me about a dub to Kingston Be Wise a year and a half ago. So we just kept the link and he is the coolest youth.”

On Jamaican diasporic music in England…

“I don’t really know a lot about jungle but I hear it and there is some of it I like. I’m getting into the whole UK scene. Grime and everything. Trying to see what’s there and what’s there to learn from it and they have some nice stuff”.

Rodigan believed in me from my first song on Seven Year Itch

On London…

“I love London. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s one of my favourite cities I’ve ever been to. I love the style, the fashion, the music, the food, the fact that it never really sleeps. There’s a lot of culture in London, a lot of different cultures together in a melting pot, and I really want to spend some more time in the UK”.

Read Protoje’s track by track interview about Ancient Future here

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