On December 4th, during broadcast of The Impact Sound, The Grand Yoni was able to interview an up-and-coming artist in the reggae scene, Kabaka Pyramid. With his first release out in 2011, Kabaka Pyramid has been a rising star in what is being called the reggae revival. He spoke with Yoni about his beginnings, collaborations, and recent releases. Read the interview below, and stream it online.
Yoni: For a quick overview, you are playing here in Portland next Sunday at Doug Fir and it’s going to be a big show. Trinity Sound is going be supporting you along with Short Change. For people who aren’t familiar, could you tell us about yourself and this unique music that you’re creating?
Kabaka Pyramid: Yeah, man, it’s time, so let’s answer all of the listeners that have supported and all of the new comers to the Kabaka Pyramid sound. Those who don’t know, many artists come from Jamaica with a hip-hop influence and it’s all about conscious lyrics. Lyrics are the life source of high energy sets of the Kabakas, some talented young musicians from Jamaica. You know what I mean? I like the energy. I like the fire. The messages are conscious. It’s organic. It’s puts you in a very merciful place, you know?
Yoni: I just played “Well Done” and”No Capitalist” which are two big songs for you. “No Capitalist” in particular is such a light rhythm, it could have so easily been a love song.
Kabaka Pyramid: Exactly.
Yoni: You come up with these conscious lyrics. Can you tell a bit how these tunes in particular were received in Jamaica?
Kabaka Pyramid: “No Capitalist” is probably the song that people first started hearing from Kabaka Pyramid under the radar in Jamaica. Funny enough, you mention the kind of vibe of “No Capitalist” has as there are still a lot of DJs in Jamaica who don’t play that song because it doesn’t fit into all that they arranged in that rhythm.
In Weldon, though, that’s another song that I started to promote long before it became my job and because of that my song probably got noticed in the rhythm. It’s a different kind of song and definitely came across well to the Jamaican public. That is probably the song that when people see me in the streets they are like “You’re Kabaka Pyramid! You sing the song about the politician men, well done.” That is definitely the song right now.
Yoni: You talk a lot in your interviews about the emotions versus the intellectualism that you bring to your music. Can you talk about that?
Kabaka Pyramid: I would consider myself more of an intellectual than emotional person so my lyrics tend to be of that nature. I try to get straight to the point and I’m learning as I grow as an artist that people do relate to that feeling. The intellectual side of the lyrics comes out naturally, but emotion is important as well and that kind of carries a song. It’s like electricity, emotion, so, it’s energy and motion. Regular music is about energy so you have to hold that element very strongly to music.
Yoni: And thankfully we are in a time, even though we’re going through all these struggles, where people seem to be waking up. People seem to be moving more towards that intellectualism. You wrote you used to burn weed a lot and now you’ve started to read much more. Other people who want to get the intellectualism, what should they be reading?
Kabaka Pyramid: It’s an informational age and we are moving into Aquarius and that kind of brings those kind of changes to our mankind and humanity, in general. So, I think my music kind of supports that and whoever is ready to take that intellectual approach, they can appreciate my music. So, it’s definitely more for the conscious listener than the average listener, but as an artist you try and reach as many people as possible.
“It’s an informational age and we are moving into Aquarius and that kind of brings those kind of changes to our mankind and humanity, in general. So, I think my music kind of supports that and whoever is ready to take that intellectual approach, they can appreciate my music.”
Yoni: You’ve got to walk that line.
Kabaka Pyramid: I’ve been trying to find ways to not just preach to the choir and already I see fully conscious people thinking about these things that I’m talking about. The people who kind of need to wake up and see it’s all in a balance.
Yoni: Your big mixtape is titled ‘Accurate’ with Walshy Fire from Major Lazer. This is Part 3 of the ‘Accurate’ tour. You’re a hard working man, how long have you been on tour for this mix tape?
Kabaka Pyramid: Well, it started part 1 in July in the US and then in August we went through Europe doing all their major festivals, which was part 2. We brought along Koro Fyah, a biblical artist and producer, who just released his first EP. I really like his tracks. It was time to bring Koro on the road for the first time to introduce people to his violent song. This is the 3rd leg. So, basically, we just being – we were just constantly on the road, but we have 5 segments.
Yoni: You’re part of what people are calling the reggae revival along with artists such as Chronixx, Protoje, John Nigh, Savannah, and Jesse Royal. Big artists coming in with more conscious lyrics. Do you see this evolution of music as part of dance hall or is it something new and separate?
Kabaka Pyramid: Well, I kind of look at dance as an expression of reggae music in general. If you want you can use reggae as just a general term for all the different expressions of music originating from Jamaica and African dance in that sense. I would use the term reggae in terms of what our kind of chapter and episode this thing represents. Most of the artists describe it as reggae as oppose to dance hall, but I am heavily influenced by dance hall. I do dance hall music. My genre of music would say it has that sound, but I think we have influenced dance hall culture. I think we have influenced that culture, but we have definitely made more of an impact on the reggae sound.
Yoni: And soon everyone is going to know all these names of course because this is a take over, not a make over that is for sure.
Kabaka Pyramid: Yeah, that’s the plan.
Yoni: You talked in the very beginning about being influenced by hip-hop and you have this track “Kabaka Versus Pyramid” where you battle yourself and it’s mind blowing. I understand you are were into hip-hop before you were doing reggae music. Can you talk about your journey?
Kabaka Pyramid: Hip-hop was an expression that I was comfortable with in my early days as an artist. It’s mainly about rhymes, flow, and melody. In my early days I wasn’t really conscious of those things and how to project my voice in a way that accompanies singing and melodies. Hip-hop came more naturally to me, as somebody who didn’t even know how to sing. I had to develop the reggae side over the years. I started getting confident in my ability to project reggae music in a way that was comfortable around 2011. So my music is still heavily hip-hop influenced with the rhyme schemes and some of the things I would say in the songs, but I was stepping out as a reggae artist so it just took some time. I was definitely developing both sides at the same time.
Yoni: That certainly comes through in the ‘Accurate’ mixtape. You had been able to work with people like Ray’Quan on that, too. That’s amazing.
Kabaka Pyramid: Yeah, he’s [Walshly Fire] a very connected person. When he has an idea in his mind he usually knows what contact to get it done. He actually contacted Ray’Quan about that song and then he linked me after to kind of get on board at the time, as it was my type of beat. Winter James who actually made songs like “Here Comes Trouble” and “Modern Day Judas” and “Revival” is the one who actually composed that track.
Yoni: Alright, one more question for you before I let you go. You’ve talked before about being a new evolution of Rastafari and Babylon Education influencing you, but using that towards your own ends. Can you talk more about what you mean by that?
Kabaka Pyramid: When I wrote the “Evolution of Rasta” I had been under-privileged when it comes to the standard of education that you can get in Jamaica. A lot of ideas of rasta were perpetrated in that sense. What I happened to know is that 2nd generation rasta children were being sent to good schools. You have rasta children who are doctors, lawyers, and all of these prestigious policemen in a place like Jamaica. As much as I wasn’t a child of rastafari I kind of symbolize that kind of victory over the system that as much as rasta people are being held down, subjugated, imprisoned, and murdered for holding up a positive idea, we can stand proud and say we have this dedication and are using it to benefit the rastafari community because there are obviously positives to getting an education. The literacy rate in Jamaica is very low compared to other countries and education is very expensive. A lot of people in Jamaica don’t have it.
The other community works that we are doing is using our knowledge of the system to benefit our goals and our dreams and achieve them, that’s what we are doing with the music.
“As much as I wasn’t a child of rastafari I kind of symbolize that kind of victory over the system that as much as rasta people are being held down, subjugated, imprisoned, and murdered for holding up a positive idea, we can stand proud and say we have this dedication and are using it to benefit the rastafari community…”
Yoni: Well, thank you so much for your time. This is Kabaka Pyramid,he will be at Doug Fir Lounge next Sunday, the 11th at 9PM.
Kabaka Pyramid: Bring up everybody, a part of the show. The whole promotion team, all the songs, yourself, and the radio station. We are looking forward to the vibes, it’s going to be Accurate.
Tune in to The Impact Sound Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM to hear The Grand Yoni playing all your ska, dancehall, and roots reggae favorites alongside new, innovative artists such as Kabaka Pyramid. Here’s the broadcast with Kabaka:
Transcription by Ryan West.