From coast to coast: Kabaka Pyramid tours US, Europe this summer
In recent years, Jamaican airwaves have ebbed and flowed with the voices of the revived generation, constantly referred to as the Reggae Revival, and have flushed the music scene in a flurry of new figures, their names floating by in a whisper of new stardom. Now, the general attitude seems to be that these newcomers will leave a long lasting impact on the international scene.
Kabaka Pyramid, one of the fresh faces in this new mix, recently wrapped up the Accurate Pt. 1 tour, which is based on and named from his mixtape produced by Walshy Fire of Major Lazer, along the US West Coast.
"Walshy approached me from about two years ago," Kabaka revealed to The Sunday Gleaner. The Major Lazer selector wanted him to record a song with American rapper, Raekwon, of Wu-Tang Clan fame, on a track by Winta James, the producer behind Protoje's last album, Royalty Free. "I did all the recording in Jamaica, and we sent stuff back and forth. Him come with some fresh ideas, like hip hop which is my background." What started on a whimsical idea that went unfulfilled for two years became a quest fulfilled and expanded. The aim to record one song evolved into the need to make many.
The release of Accurate, on June 15, was quickly followed by the Accurate Pt. 1 tour, on the United States West Coast.
"I take an international approach to my music because, I know it includes Jamaica, but it's broader than that," the artiste said. Despite describing himself as a dancehall and rocksteady artiste, Kabaka Pyramid specifies hip-hop music as one of his main influences and his introduction to the love of lyrical stylistics. The artiste confessed to The Sunday Gleaner, that he has been heavily influenced by the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. "A lot of late '90s, East Coast hip-hop," he said, chuckling at the irony of currently tarrying up and down the West Coast.
He recalled to The Sunday Gleaner, over the phone from California, that he has performed in the state "five or six times" already, but he marks the first performance of the Accurate Tour Pt. 1 in Los Angeles as particularly significant. "It's easier to get that full appreciation and crowd interaction," the lyricist told The Sunday Gleaner, comparing the response of a foreign audience to Jamaicans. "It's a different vibe. They have an appreciation for conscious music," he continued to noting that reggae music usually evokes a high energy response with foreigners.
The Accurate Pt. 1 Tour began on June 19, and it continued with six other shows in California. "Sierra Nevada World Music Festival," he said emphatically, referring to his last performance of the tour. "People said my performance was one of the best of the weekend," he told The Sunday Gleaner, offering evidence that all the tour merchandise "did sell off".
"In Jamaica, the song has to be popular," Kabaka observed. "Jamaicans want to be impressed, but on the West Coast, people just want to be blessed with the music." Kabaka Pyramid extended the rationale behind his blossoming career into providing a complete artiste-to-fan package. "It's a full package deal now," he surmised. "You have to be on social media, have merchandise, have physical CDs and online availability. All of it."
His foreign influences has played a great role in his current lyric-driven style and his international approach to artiste development. It is likely then, Kabaka surmises, that his lyricism and the resulting comprehensibility has made his music more palatable to a foreign taste, particularly in the United States and Europe. When asked how he has managed to attract this international attention, even without an album, he told The Sunday Gleaner, that he believes his advantage may come from language use.
"I think Jamaicans limit themselves by expressing themselves in a way only Caribbean people can understand," he mused.
His approach to music is similar to the lyrically driven signature style of Grammy winner, Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley, who he uses as an example for one who seems to have bridged the language gap.
"Even with Damian Marley, it's patois but it's also English, so you can still understand it," the lyricist continued, highlighting Jr Gong's own lyrical prowess and subsequent successful international career. "Also, I'm not limited to one sound. I don't think our artistes give themselves more of an opportunity to reach a wider audience," he concluded.
So far, Kabaka Pyramid has managed to secure multiple performances overseas, with only a compilation of songs and a mixtape. He assured that an album is in the works, but a release date is not something he's ready to discuss.
"Actually, Damian Marley is producing my debut album," he added modestly. "We've been doing some work in a studio in Miami."
The Accurate Tour Pt. 2 tour takes Kabaka to the origin of his hip-hop influence, the United States East Coast, on July 20th, "I have four shows then, then about 18 or 20 in Europe for August and September, for the major festivals", he said.
As for the Walshy Fire from Major Lazer Presents Kabaka Pyramid's Accurate, "it's fun vibes, whole heap a lyrics," the artiste told The Sunday Gleaner. "Lyrics right through. Everything precise. That's why it's called Accurate."