Hayfield, the rural village in Jamaica’s Saint Thomas parish where Popcaan spent his earliest years, isn’t on the map—at least not the allegedly omnipotent one used by Google. But for the 25-year-old dancehall artist, who’s about to release a debut album called Where We Come From, it’s a place substantial enough to rally up a caravan of friends and associates for the two-hour drive from Kingston just so a visiting journalist can get a window into his roots. We depart at midday from Shocking Vibes studio, the Kingston facility that is the central axis of all things Popcaan, and make stops to pick up passengers and supplies. Popcaan drives. Wildman, a reggae artist in a Bob Marley tee and Yankees cap, meets us at a roadside stand just outside Kingston city limits in Bull Bay and stocks the trunk of the SUV with mangoes and tart june plums. When it’s decided that we’ll be playing soccer upon our arrival, we make a detour to Morant Bay, a coastal town known for a bloody 1865 rebellion and a market where, it turns out, shorts can be bought for the equivalent of $4 US.
After turning onto a narrow and rocky dirt road up inna de bush to an area known as Sunning Hill (or maybe it’s Sunny Hill—in Jamaica, place names and spellings are sometimes fluid), we finally arrive at the banks of the Roaring River, a somewhat misleadingly named stream where Popcaan’s father, known as Shaggy, and a few other relatives have set up grills along the shore, preparing jerk and curry chicken. By late afternoon, the crowd has swelled to about 50 people: cousins and other extended family, Kingston friends and curious local youths who’ve ridden up the hill on bikes.
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