The artist known as Popcaan has accomplished a lot in the world of dancehall reggae within a short period of time (including a turn on Vybz Kartel's 2010 single "Clarks" and his 2012 single "Only Man She Want"). Currently creating buzz for single "Everything Nice," he's been able to create an international name for himself with a unique brand of dancehall that is equal parts gritty and high-minded, garnering cosigns from names like Snoop Dogg and Drake. Not bad for a 25-year-old from the parish of Saint Thomas, Jamaica.
His new album is called Where We Come From, out now on Mixpak Records and Popcaan tells Exclaim! that Canada — Toronto specifically — is a place that he can't get enough of.
"I've been there five times already. Some of the most beautiful ladies are in Canada. And my OVO brothers are in Canada. Canada is really and truly my home away from home," he says over the phone from Jamaica.
Executive produced by Mixpak label head Dre Skull, the 13-track album represents a fresh take on dancehall reggae, largely straying away from "badman" type lyrics and leveraging elements of modern hip-hop and smoky Weeknd-styled R&B vibes. As the protégé of currently incarcerated dancehall artist Vybz Kartel, Popcaan (real name Andre Jay Sutherland) notes that the new project — created in "four or five months" — was something that signals his own growth as an artist.
"What I learned from Vybz is to always take music serious and be always working. That's something that Vybz has on lock. [It's just about creating] more exposure and more levels. Most of all, it was about time, as the fans were wanting something from me," he says, adding that the sound that he's crafted comes from the ghetto environment that he grew up with in Jamaica. "[Suffering] and youths who lost their life with guns all over the world. It's a worldwide thing. It's just the world around me that that inspired me to do an album like this. Everything that I learned while growing up."
In all, 23 tracks were created for the album; 13 made the final cut. The creative process is all about "just being in the studio and listening to the beats" in creating the lyrical content. American hip-hop stalwart Pusha T makes an appearance on the record ("Hustle"), something Popcaan notes that he truly appreciated: "It's a next level thing working with Pusha T. He decided to be a part of the album and I respect him for that."
While from the proverbial ghetto, Popcaan chooses to keep his lyrics on a generally positive tip, preferring to talk about a love for women (tracks like "Love Yuh Bad") and discussing the socio-political issues such as a track like "The System."
"The people just to take the message. The system is a thing that people have to live with every day. In Jamaica there is a certain system and [now that I'm] going out into the world I see there is a messed-up system also. It's a thing that the people see around them every day."
While he wouldn't divulge the next single for the record, he did note that he plans on creating "five or six" videos for the record. "The reception has been great. It's pure good response and people are buying and showing support. All I do is give to the music [and] all of the love I'm getting [is due to the music]," he says. "Success if you can take care of your family and it is happiness for me. It's making your dream a reality. I expect to get good results."