(Photo: Protoje via Instagram)
Active in the music scene since 2009, 33-year-old reggae phenom Protoje is no stranger to musical success. Though he hails from Jamaica, the Caribbean's main island of musical export, his music is not limited to the quintessential reggae influences of yesteryear. He brings a fresh new perspective to the genre, dubbing his unique sound "dub/rap reggae."
"I kind of made a hybrid of reggae music and hip hop," he told BET.com. "Very heavy guitar riffs, especially on stage."
Infusing his love for both hip hop and roots reggae, Protoje's individual aesthetic meshes a clear yet raspy vocal tone similar to a Ziggy Marley with the modern rock-infused production of Jay Z. This collision of sounds all stemmed from his Jamaican upbringing.
"In Jamaica, everyone is into music," he said. "I got really interested into music when I heard hip hop and rhyming. I wanted to do that with my own language and style."
While this style features inspirations from some of his favorite hip hop artists including Jigga and Slick Rick, many may be surprised to learn that the reggae crooner is a fan of modern-day pop.
"Right now, I'm listening to a lot of the Black Keys...lots of Lana Del Rey," he said. "That should surprise people."
What does not surprise Protoje, however, is the commercialization of the Caribbean-born genre into the main pop circuit, which saw it become watered down and capitalized by artists who know nothing about its origin. While some Caribbean natives may take offense to this trend, Protoje sees it as just musical freedom, but is well aware that Jamaican artists are slighted when presenting their craft without all of the bells and whistles.
"Music is free," he said. "Anybody can do what they want to do. I just feel like we as Jamaican artists might not get the opportunities to get our music out there in the same market. When American artists use Jamaican music into their pop music, they get all the credit, but I just believe you get what you deserve."
This "in your face" rawness can be found on the musician's third album, Ancient Future, which is slated for a September 2014 release. Bringing the true essence of dub reggae back to the forefront, he exclusively enlisted only two collaborations on the album: Jamaican musicians Chronixx and Kabaka Pyramid.
"[When] I met Kabaka, he was rapping at the time," he said. "He came and stayed at my house for eight months and we worked. I heard his production and heard him sing and was like, 'Wow, he is really amazing.'... And [with] Chronixx, it's just heavy beats, drums, snares, and very much more of a modern-day version of what people think reggae is."
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