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It’s His Time: A Conversation with Protoje
“Everybody has to still make and invent reggae, but the music is always about the roots.”
With his 2011 breakout hit, ‘Rasta Love’, we see Protoje’s journey as an evolving conscientious man. Now, in 2018, with the release of his new album, the fans witness Protoje’s highly evolved spiritual growth, intellect and world views.
In the past 12 months, he has had a massive hit with the single Blood Money, has been blessed with the arrival of his daughter, and has released his 4th studio album, ‘A Matter of Time’, to raving reviews.
From an outsider, one may think Protoje to be a shy and demure man, he is anything but that. He is witty, articulate and an intellect. Protoje commands the stage as a confident and energetic performer who
understands his mission; to spread reggae music worldwide and keep the message forwarding.
As he prepares for his world tour, Protoje took some time to talk with me about the album, the current state, and future of, reggae music, along with a variety of other topics. First, let me congratulate you on the success of the new album; ‘A Matter of Time’. It reached the top of the charts after 1 day! Also, belated Happy Birthday and Happy Father’s Day.
Official Website: Protoje.com
IRIE. Now that you are a father, does it change your world views, and how you approach your music?
Protoje. It just gives me new prospective and that makes me think about people’s feelings and emotions and more musically just makes me work harder. I wouldn’t really say it changes the way I write, but change how I perceive life, that is going to filter down to the music.
IRIE. You’ve been on the scene a minute, what guidance do you offer to young upcoming artist like (my favorite) Koffee?
Protoje. I mean the best advice I always give is to just keep bettering yourself every day, get better.
Find where a partner in the musicianship that can help you advance.
Just keep advancing your craft and learning new things, and not let becoming complacent, and be patient.
Those things will take you a long way.
IRIE. Blood Money speaks volumes about the current climate in the US. Was our condition, in the US, on your mind when you wrote it, or were you strictly thinking about Jamaica?
Protoje. I was thinking about Jamaica, but what happens in Jamaica happens globally, we are all part of the same world problems, everything is related, but definitely was focused on Jamaica.
IRIE. Do you see a comparison of the politics between Jamaica and the US?
Protoje. I see a comparison of the politics for sure, nah mean. US is a circus still right now I must say, even crazier than Jamaica to me.
IRIE. ‘A Matter of Time’, your fourth studio album, and second album produced by the genius Winta James, seems to be more political and socially focused. What was the motivation behind this one?
Protoje. To me, the focus on this album wasn’t really set to be more political or more social commentary, but jus the time that you’re to just talk about what’s on your mind. I just singing about what’s on my mind.
There are a lot of different things. You have Like This, Bout Noon a talk about some different things. ‘A Matter of Time’ for me it’s just widespread.
IRIE. I know all the fans are happy to see another beautiful collaboration with Chronixx on ‘No Guarantee’, and a new collaboration with Mortimer on ‘Truths & Rights’. Do you have a ‘bucket list’ of artists you would like to collaborate with?
Protoje. I have a couple people I’d want to collab with. You have Anderson Pack, Daniel Caesar, Kelani, SZA, Rhianna always – just a vibes. Nuff artists. Black Keys.
IRIE. Do you think reggae will continue being the genre of Conscious music in the world?
Protoje. Reggae will certainly be one of, you know, and I just think it’s our job to spread it worldwide and keep the message forwarding.
IRIE. Jamnesia is the ‘movement’ that includes you, Jesse Royal, Kabaka, Chronixx, ZincFence, Raging Fyah, can you tell us where you hope the future of Reggae Revival is headed?
Protoje. I’m hopeful of where it’s going, I think it’s progressing, artists have more work to do, and you know keep the focus really going, keep helping each other, keep supporting each other.
IRIE. You have 755k monthly listeners on Spotify. Are these numbers you look at, do these things influence or bias you in any way?
Protoje. Nah I mean obviously I pay attention to my numbers. Actually, it’s to over a million now since you I guess asked these questions, but I do pay attention I do know what’s going on I have to be, like I do run my label as well it’s part of my job, it don’t influence anything.
IRIE. Do you feel a responsibility to help society, whether you had this platform as an artist or not?
Protoje. I find it necessary a help people ya understand, that is my focus is people because sometime when you say society is overwhelmed so I focus on people a part of the society and take it one by one.
IRIE. Damian and Nas’ album ‘Distant Relatives’ introduced a whole new demographics to reggae music in the US. However, reggae shows are still poorly attended here in comparison to Europe. What do you think it will take to get more Americans to love reggae?
Protoje. Well I mean otherwise he didn’t even look at the American music industry them low hype jumping up and down on a different type of mints, so for me I have to kinda make it palatable but at the same time, for me I not compromising on the type of music I want to make so we shall see what happens, but it is not something I’m going out of my way to see what I can do, making the music, being in the right places, doing the tours and doing the promotions.
IRIE. Various artists, from country to metal, will sneak in a Bob Marley tune during their sets, and the crowds go wild, yet they don’t come to shows with a reggae artist headlining. Why do you think this is so in the US?
Protoje. Oh, because dem playing a Bob Marley has nothing to do with coming to a show of modern day artist. American public will know Bob Marley more than they know reggae music so it’s all and good they play a Bob Marley but it is of no consequence of them coming to a show of a modern day artist.
IRIE. Are there any new reggae / dancehall/ dub artist we should be watching out for?
Protoje. I would say Lila Ike’ I know for sure and Koffee, two I really, really like, and there’s the guy name Tessellated who’s making some good hybrid songs coming out of Jamaica.
IRIE. Who are you looking most forward to seeing at Rototom?
Protoje. If I have to be honest, I don’t even know who is performing at Rototom. I just know that I’m there I will wrap my head around looking and the festivals and where I’m playing, we leave on Tuesday and I’m not sure when I do my show, if I see somebody that’s awesome.
IRIE. As all things evolve, so it is with reggae music. Do you see the extinction of roots reggae, or is there still a future for this genre?
Protoje. There will always have a place for the genre, I mean there can always be a place where the genre can go, understand, and take it further, but still there are certain parts of it that can remain the same. Everybody has to still make and invent reggae, but the music is always about the roots.