EXCLUSIVE: The Unruly Boss Kicks It With Boomshots
Long before Andrae Sutherland was known as Popcaan, back in primary school—the Jamaican equivalent of elementary—he wrote a letter to God. He asked the Lord to “open my brain in school” and to let him prosper in life. Moreover he asked God to allow his parents and grandparents and his brother and sister live to inherit whatever he received. While cleaning house recently, his grandmother found the piece of folded notebook paper amongst some books and gave it to him. He posted it on Instagram with a message to his 444,000 followers: “God is real and he did answer that prayer I pray to him a long time ago🙏🏼 #givethanks.” That #GiveThanks hashtag comes straight out of Poppy’s song “Unruly Prayer,” released last May. “Look how much youth deh a jail house,” he sings on the record. “Me never haffi deh a road/Look how much youth deh a grave yard/Me never haffi deh yah don’t… So me haffi give thanks yeah… Tell the devil keep him distance yeah.” Late last month Popcaan posted a 10-minute video to his Vevo channel, the first part of a documentary called “Abundant Life.” Nursing a fat spliff before a roaring bonfire, his intricate braids unbound, allowing his hair to burst forth as an unruly bush, the artist formerly known as the “Raving King” read from Psalms 40 and 59 above the sound of a crackling fire and the throbbing beat of Niyabinghi drums: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He also brought me out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay. He set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song into my mouth…” Just as we were about to post this interview, the Internet put a new song from Drake and Popcaan into our ears. Read on to find out why this surprise release was really no surprise at all. Kick Ouuuut! Interview After The Jump…
Whoy-Yoi! Deh yah man.
Deh ya hol’ a meds.
And pree the “Abundant Life.”
You like it?
“Like” is not the word. You’re giving the people some soul food in that one.
Ya man, that ah just the start inna it yunno.
Chant a couple psalms and blaze the fire pon bad mind.
Mm-hmm. So it go.
To be honest, when I heard “documentary” I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if it was a life story or where you were gonna go with it.
Yeah yeah yeah.
But you took them right inna the scripture. You take them right inna the Psalms.
Yeah mon. That’s it bredda.
And this is just the first part? What is your vision for the whole project? What made you give them this now?
Well ah the right thing you say, “vision.” Is a vision met get for real with 19 scripture yunno. Me go sleep and me get them scripture deh. And while me ah read them, like, me ah say, “Yo, me haffi share this with the world.” Me can’t just share it with me. And me just say, along with that, me ah go just share me life story too. So me have me whole family in the documentary: me mother and me father, me grandmother and me grandfather, me bredda and me sister dem. Friends from school and all, yuh see it?
So it’s an in-depth project you’re doing here. You’re going all the way in.
Yeah man, from that time till this time. You see me?
I was thinking about your mother when I first watched this, because I know she must love all these Godly things.
Yeah man she watch it straight through yunno.
I even wonder if she inspired the whole thing. Cause when we had the chance to eat some food by your yard she was telling us how much she pray for you all the time.
Yeah man—same way so it go. But, like, everybody was surprised. Because even when me call up the drummer them and we call up the camera people them and all, everybody was like “Yo, weh you ah do? What you doing? What this is about”? And me just say, “Yo, when everybody reach we’ll see what this is all about.” And when them see what it’s about, everybody was surprised and everybody love it. Cause to most people it wasn’t what them expect still.
Well you have been defying expectations for a longer time. You know? I remember when we link up in Kingston and you explain that the new album is not a “party album.” Cause they had you as the…
They had you as that in their mind, and then you take them to the Dumpland.
Yes man, Tr8.
You take them to some different place. And since then, I’ve seen a new phase in your music. To me, what I notice, it’s like you have two sets of tunes right now. You have the godly tunes them…
And you have the “Ruppinz.”
Yeah. You know say we Godly, but we unruly same way. Cause you done know we nah left the street. The street is a part of me yunno. And Popcaan is an artist who represent for the street and the ghetto them at all times. Cause there’s so much youth inna the ghetto weh, them nah have nobody fi look up to, fi tell them to go right or go left. Me as a person who beat the struggles, me feel like say it’s a part of my job to give people the advice wha me think can help them still. You see it?
No question. But what about yourself? Who are you turning to for advice these days? Because you are moving on some new levels right now. Every time I turn around it’s a new international collab. So much things going on for you. How do you keep your head level?
Well, you know say, most advice weh me get nowadays is from Andrae Sutherland still. [Laughs]. You see me ah say? The inner me. Because while the days pass, me ah grow up too. Me experience so much things while growing up at a young age. So it come like me old before me young. You know? [Laughs]
Yeah, for real.
Yeah, me turn big man when time me young. Because me grow amongst the elders them. When me see how people take Popcaan music, and even me slangs them—as me say, me slangs ah the worst. People gravitate to things me ah do, so me have to always keep me focus. Keeping my focus is always working. See me ah say? Me no take time time off and me no take vacation. Yeah, me just work.
There’s no way. You couldn’t take vacation. Every week, if it’s not Bobby Shmurda it’s Jamie xx—so many international links. And then you keep the juggling going same way.
So all those records, do you look for them or do they come to you?
Yeah man, everybody reach out to me for those songs. Because I’m not an artist that really go to other artists and ask for collaborations. Cause me no like get shamed, you know? [Laughs] So me rather just chill and wait for my time. Me like how them acknowledge my music still, and them can give me an opportunity fi go pon them songs same way. Like the Jamie XX track it happen through Dre Skull still. Yeah, them reach out to Dre Skull and you done know we and Dre Skull do business. So Dre Skull just link me bout it and me record two verse. And then after Dre Skull said that a rapper would be on the track too. Then in the long run. Every one of them, Pusha T, Snoop, even with Aluna George. Sharon tell me about it same way. The other day I was chilling with M.I.A., same way, Maya. And right now I’m in the studio with an England artist. She name something like Emily Sanders or something like that. I don’t sure.
Emeli Sandé? She’s wicked!
Yeah, she right in the studio right now. Cause she’s in Jamaica and reach out to me same way. So me just always ah work as me say. You see me?
And you say you were building with M.I.A., the “Paper Planes” girl from England?
Yeah man, she. Me and her chill the other day and hold a vibes. We were supposed to record but something happened in the night where I couldn’t reach the studio again, and she did have to leave in the morning. But we still ah go make it happen anyway.
You’ve got a lot of top-level artists reaching out. That’s gotta feel good.
Yeah man, very good. But you done know, hard work pay off bredda. Ah just that right now. The music is not just weh every dancehall artist ah sing. You know? It’s a different thing.
No question. You have your own sound, your own language, your own swag and everything.
How are the Unruly Wednesdays going? You still keeping them?
Yes man, it bigger and better right now. You need to check it out. We have stage and everything now.
Still keeping it by Shocking Vibes same way?
Yeah, same way. Right now the yard can’t hold. Right now we about to change the venue.
Really? So what’s the plan with that? Once you have a winner what you gonna do with them?
Well, the winner take $100,000 and get a contract from Unruly Entertainment still.
OK, when are you planning to pick the champion?
Well, we already eliminate some people still. The best of them still left, and there’s a lot of them. So we’re still in the process of choosing the winner. We don’t really see a winner yet, cause there’s a lot of bad artists there.
I’m sure. You inspired a whole lot of youths to step up and do their thing.
And I see people around you making big moves, like Chi Ching Ching.
Yeah man, Chi Ching Ching ah do very well right now. And it’s a blessing cause Chi Ching Ching is the first artist signed to Unruly Entertainment. And that will go in history too. [Laughs] So the next time me talk to you, me ah go tell you about three other new artists.
Crazy. What about my youth Vybrant? He’s still rolling with the camp too?
Yeah man, Vybrant deh bout same way. Him just release an EP too. Seven Chakras it name. The family is together same way.
Nice, nice, nice. So we’re going to premiere your video on the Life Support Riddim, “Weed Is My Best Friend.” Tell me about that song. When you say Weed is your best friend and “Mankind no trustable,” what’s the meds behind that?
Well it’s life experience same way, you know. Because there’s so much people weh sometime you would take out your heart and give them it still. And those are the same people who will turn pon you. So that just make me see say, nuff human being make me can’t trust them same way. And certain of my problems, ah just me and me weed go through them. Me just smoke weed and overcome obstacle. You see it? That’s why me say “Weed ah me best friend.” Because even when some of my family they’re not around, my weed is around. [Laughs] We no deal with friend. Ah family we deal with. So that’s why we say “Weed ah my best friend.” Every youth who you see me par with, ah me family dem. Straight.
Yes, all the time. And the herb is free in Jamaica now?
Yeah man, right now it legal. No feds can charge we yunno. [Laughs]
Is that gonna help you with your movements? Cause it’s a weed charge they held you for a while ago, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a weed charge.
I heard something about how they’re wiping people’s records of weed charges. So does that mean you’re clean now?
Yeah man. [Singing] “Clean, clean…” [Laughs] Well clean man.
Fresh like water.
Yeah man. Same way ah so. Right now me clean as me heart.
Trust me, we’d love to see Unruly reach New York. The place shut down.
Yeah man, this year the place ah shut down man. I’ll be in New York this year for sure.
Big and serious: You really think this new weed law can help with your visa situation?
Yeah man, it will.
Cause that was what I understood to be standing in the way. I read it was an old weed charge that was preventing you from being able to travel.
Yeah man, cause I was locked up for weed once. And them time deh it used to give people record.
Yes, but they are wiping the records now. I heard this directly from a government minister, Peter Bunting, who said all the youths who have weed charges have had their records wiped clean.
Yeah man, the real way. [Laughs] That will be a day to remember.
Trust me, that needs to happen urgently.
Another question about the “Weed Is My Best Friend” song. Tell me if I’m imagining things, but the lyric kinda remind me of the PG-13 record. Was that any kind of inspiration for this song?
Which record is that?
The PG-13 song “Radio” where they talk about “Me nah trust Popcaan.”
Oh I never heard of PG-13.
Oh, for real?
For real. I don’t know who that is.
So that has nothing to do with this song then.
OK, so that’s not even on your radar.
All right. What’s going on with the new album? Any update on the next Mixpak album?
Well, me can’t give you too much update right now still but it’s in the making.
You think we’ll get that this year?
No, probably next year.
So the focus now is on all these collabs, and developing new artists?
Yeah man, building up Unruly Entertainment you see it? Straight up.
It was great seeing you on the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise by the way. I didn’t speak with you after your performance. What was that experience like for you overall? How did that feel to perform on the cruise?
Well it was a pleasure being there. And while I was there I was, like, bigging up my status too. Because there was so much big artists there—artist who deh here long long long before Popcaan exist. I was the youngest artist on the cruise, so me feel good within meself, yunno. Bless up Jr. Gong same way, you see it? Ah my bredda same way.
I think a lot of those people on board were probably watching their first Popcaan show.
You reached a new audience on the cruise.
Yeah man, it was a good experience.
No doubt. Now, what’s the latest with your people in Toronto, the OVO massive?[Laughs]
Will there be any Unruliness on Drake’s new album? I remember you were on his mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
Mm-hmm. Yeah man. We nuh know if Unruly deh pon the album, but anything possible still. Yeah, cause Unruly and OVO relationship just get stronger every day. You see it? Yeah yeah yeah. You done know Drizzy Drake, him open me up to a different audience too likewise. Him always ah show me support from me know him up till this day. Him always support Popcaan to the fullest. You see me? And ah same thing—yeah man. Ah my rapper dat.
Give thanks for the reasoning, Poppy. Looking forward to the next episode of “Abundant Life.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You haffi stay tuned for part two. It ah go way more madder than the first one you see it? [Laughs].