At XRAY.FM we aim to bring you new music from all over the globe. On January 8th, 2017 our DJ The Grand Yoni, with his show The Impact Sound, had the chance to speak with Jamaican reggae artist Protoje. Active since the mid-2000s, Protoje has collaborated with a host of creative forces in the reggae scene including Busy Signal, Ky-mani Marley, Chronixx, and Major Lazer. Check out what he had to say about touring, his inspiration, and most recent album, and listen here.
Yoni: Welcome to The Impact Sound. Would you like to give a quick introduction to all our listeners?
Protoje: Yeah, I’m Proteje, a recording artist out of Jamaica. I have three albums out already and I’m going on my third American tour in a couple weeks.
Yoni: You’re spreading some really beautiful music out in the world. Your album, ‘Ancient Future’, was a huge release in 2015, hitting number one on Billboard’s reggae album chart. There are a lot of really great songs on there and you’ve had some help from the Indiggnation Collective, who tour as your personal band. Can you tell me about that collective? How does that relate to your music?
Protoje: It’s just visual, musical, and performing artists that live together and work on creative projects that excel each other. It’s a whole movement of people. I’m just happy to be around so many talented people.
Yoni: You just very recently dropped “Blood Money,” which we heard moments ago. It is a very big, conscious tune. Can you tell me a bit about your inspiration for that song?
“Jamaica is a very inspirational place. Hearing and seeing what’s happening out there, getting the pulse of what is vibrating in the city, “Blood Money” is a product of that.”
Protoje: Just being home. Jamaica is a very inspirational place. Hearing and seeing what’s happening out there, getting the pulse of what is vibrating in the city, “Blood Money” is a product of that. That’s the inspiration, I just use it when it comes.
Yoni: After the success of “Ancient Future” last year you released the “Royalty Is Free” mix tape for free online earlier this year, which you can go and download right now at Proteje.com. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Protoje: I wouldn’t even really call it a mix tape. It’s a full length album, but i’ve only released side b so far, which is tracks six to ten. I was just keeping busy, keeping the craft going. It’s all practice, so I said, “All right, I have some time off in between my next record. I have some songs I want to experiment with, so let me just try some stuff out.” I came home for about two to three weeks and did that project, and it just came out really nice. It was well received and it connected me with a new audience.
Yoni: I think what everyone wants to know is, when are we going to get side A?
Protoje: I don’t know. That’s not really the focus right now, to be honest. It will come in due time. It’s well under control, but it’s just not the time for it right now.
Yoni: When the time is right.
Protoje: Yeah. So right now I’m focusing on that “Blood Money” song, which has been going really crazy over here in Jamaica.
Yoni: Yeah, I hear that’s really blowing up and that’s wonderful. I have a question for you about when you first started. Your mother, Lorna Bennett, was in the music industry. When you first started expressing your interest in moving that direction with your life, was she into that? Was she supportive or was she a little more cautious?
Protoje: Both my parents are very supportive of what I do and of me in general about everything. Whatever I do, she just wants to see me do it well.
Yoni: You certainly are. Have you left for your tour yet?
Protoje: No. I’m still in Jamaica until next week.
Yoni: Next week and then you’re kicking off the Iration Tour?
Protoje: Yes, touring with Iration all across the west coast. Thank you to Iration for inviting us. It’s going to be fun. I was on tour with Rebelution last year, same kind of route. It’s fun to be back to these places and bringing the music to a new audience. There’s nothing more I enjoy than playing for people I’ve never played for before.
Yoni: You’ve got to keep building that audience and seeing that vibe is a wonderful thing. You’re going to be here in Portland, Oregon January 26, but that’s not the only show that you have in the area. You’re going to be in Arcata on January 23 and over in Bend, only a few hours away, on January 25. You’re really lighting it up.
Protoje: Yeah, I have to keep active. Being on stage is the most fun and without that I would never be able to survive doing music. I’m thankful for any chance I have to do this.
Yoni: You’re part of what they’re calling the reggae revival. I know a lot of people kind of resist that label, but people like you, Kabaka Pyramid, Chronixx, Jah9, Sevana, and Jesse Royal. Something about your sounds make people group you together. What is it? What are you guys bringing that’s changing things that brings about this labeling?
“The point is that there is actually a lot of work being done and many youth I know are into roots reggae music because of the way that we’re presenting it to them. I think that’s the main focus, keep making new friends and keep turning it over so that 15 years from now the industry can still be moving and not stagnant.”
Protoje: Every generation goes through some sort of movement. I think a lot of us know each other and spend time together creatively, that probably makes it seem more cohesive than usual. People like to group stuff and at the end of the day the name doesn’t matter. The point is that there is actually a lot of work being done and many youth I know are into roots reggae music because of the way that we’re presenting it to them. I think that’s the main focus, keep making new friends and keep turning it over so that 15 years from now the industry can still be moving and not stagnant.
Yoni: It really is a community of you guys all influencing and helping each other. I did want to ask you a kind of a particular question. “Answer to Your Name” starts out “1971 inna England, fresh off the plane, to my dame inna Brixton.” Why 1971? Why England? Why did you set the song there?
Protoje: It is a sample from Prince Buster’s “Girl Answer Your Name” from 1966. He made a huge name for himself in England when ska music, the first real Jamaican music export exploded in the UK. When I heard ska, I just imagined what it must have been like when people were moving from Jamaica to live in the UK in the ’60s and ’70s and went from there.
Yoni: It’s a beautiful thing and a wonderful song. Certainly it has been getting a lot of play over here. Once again, Protoje going to be at the Roseland Theater on January 26. This is show is going to sell out so you’re going to want to get your tickets early. This man is bringing a whole new sound that we’re all loving and we want to see you rise higher and higher.
Protoje: Thank you so much, man. Can’t wait to get there.
Listen to Impact Sound’s broadcast talking with Protoje and their selections of great reggae from 1963 to 2017
Be sure to tune in to The Impact Sound Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM to hear The Grand Yoni spinning old ska, dancehall and roots reggae favorites from across the past decades along with up and coming artists like Protoje. As always, thanks for supporting local radio.
Image provided by Clash Music. Transcription by Ryan West.