Popcaan “Never Sober” official music video
“Nimble with the syllables, sometimes Popcaan’s flow nods to Kartel’s fluid flip-tongue tumble, while elsewhere his badman balladeering recalls a modern wailer like Mavado.” Wayne Marshal
Growing up in Portmore, Jamaica was not an easy road for Andrae Sutherland. As young as seven years old, Andre trained himself as a vocalist and performer in the tradition of many of the great Jamaican musicians that came before him. As many of his friends took the well-travelled route of drugs and crime, Popcaan continued to follow his musical calling. His break came when he was spotted by his idol Vybz Kartel at a local talent contest and things took off from there. Taken under Kartel’s wing, Popcaan burst onto the scene with a feature on “Clarks” and never looked back.
Quickly proving himself as one of the island’s most talented artists, his distinctive voice and impressive instinct for melody flew him through international hits, from “Only Man She Want” to “Ravin.” His back catalogue features everything that dancehall has to offer – from poetic ghetto laments to party smashers and gyallis anthems. As well as a huge local fanbase and a dedicated worldwide following, the Portmore MC became the first dancehall artist since Sean Paul to have his track playlisted on the BBC, shortly followed by a US Billboard chart placement. His well-known catchphrases and charismatic energy have lead him to cult status, finding a loyal fan in Drake as well as features with Busta and Snoop. Continuing the course to pop stardom, this past year saw him feature on both Pusha T’s “Blocka” and Kanye West’s Yeezus.
Popcaan first joined forces with Dre Skull in 2012 for the release of “Get Gyal Easy,” followed by “So We Do It” and “The System”, racking up millions of YouTube plays. His debut album (released on Mixpak) is executive produced by Dre Skull, and features additional productions from Dubbel Dutch, Anju Blaxx, Jamie YVP and Adde Productions.
With the release his debut full length, Where We Come From, Popcaan has made his grandest artistic statement to date and confirmed his place as an important voice in the tradition of Jamaican music.
Where We Come From presents a fresh take on dancehall that stays faithful to the model by doing what the genre has always done: sculpting global pop and world club into Jamaican shapes. All of the album’s producers bring to the boards a fluency with pop, rap, and dance music from around the world. They also share a penchant for making melodic, emotive dancehall tracks. A headphone-friendly album with soundsystem-sized ambitions, the music of Where We Come From aims at club spaces and head spaces, at the dancehall massive and the various audiences of contemporary bass culture. Engagement with electronic dance music of all stripes animates the album’s instrumentals, subtly evolving forms that make Popcaan’s accompaniment as interesting as it is functional. Songs build slowly and with determination, details unfolding in their time as arrangements shift: a fresh synth here, new pattern there, sustained tones to staccato breaks, echoes bubbling in the background. The textures are layered but clear, the timbres lush if ethereal.
At bottom, Where We Come From has a sound. It holds up, and clicks together, as a body of work. In an age of Soundcloud specials and iTunes one-offs, a moment when pop, reggae, and club acts are increasingly focused on singles, an album-length statement of such consistency is a rare and special thing. What we have here is no less than another sustained and fruitful collaboration between Jamaica and New York, taking its place in a long line of dancehall classics made neither in Kingston nor Brooklyn but in that limbo space where synths flicker, snares skip across the bar, and Yo! becomes Yaow!