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Popcaan Is Making Dancehall Nice Again

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.

Read more:The Fader

House of Marley Takes Dancehall Back to its Roots in Kingston Soundsystem

The vibes flow heavy and full in “Kingston Soundsystem,” this exclusive clip from The House of Marley’s new campaign The Get Together. Emphasizing the communal spirit that music brings to the often rough and rugged city, the sixty-second clip, directed by Wonford St. James, revisits the DIY pick-up loaded amplifier systems of Jamaica’s capital city and rightfully places the modern-day speaker line in the rich tradition of old-school Jamaican dancehalls. Below, St. James recounts the real-life party that served as the backdrop for the speaker house’s latest visuals.

“To communicate the campaign message of one idea reaching many,we did the only thing that felt right for a speaker designed to bring people together – we threw a party, original dancehall style, hosted by legendary selector Albert ‘iLawi’ Johnson at his yard in Kingston. The Get Together dance was a celebration of old school dancehall played out by Jamaican soundmen, DJ’s and selectors. The party was a vinyl only event with iLawi digging through his extensive archive of 45’s to drop a roots and culture history lesson on the gathered crowd while MC’s Fyah George and Natty Pablo toasted and bubbled on the mic. iLawi was joined by DJ Yardcore who represents a new generation of Jamaican selectors dedicated to keeping the positive fires of roots and culture reggae alive in modern Jamaica.”

Read more: The Fader