Jesse Royal, youth in revival
This summer, Jesse Royal hit the promotional trail, tilling soil in preparation for the October release of his debut album, Lily of Da Valley. The long-awaited 14-track production re-positions hits the 'Small Axe' has become known for, like Finally and Modern Day Judas, but by all accounts, the album reinforces the nearly exhaustible idea of reggae revivalism.
Lily of Da Valley follows other reggae album debuts, like Black Gold by Samory I, Chronology by Chronixx, and Damian Marley's first album in ten years, Stony Hill. The album invited contributions from other young musicians in the arena, who in their own right represent maturing millennials.
Producers Llamar 'Riff Raff' Brown, Kurt White, Phillip 'Winta' James Kareem 'Remus' Burrell - son of the late great Fatis Burrell - are some who have added their sound and skill to Lily of Da Valley. The Small Axe also pulled on one of Bob Marley's legacy, Jo Mersa Marley.
"This generation a go relay the message", read Generation, the album's second track sung along with the young Marley, with background vocals by the fighting Denver Smith, aka Feluke.
Youth in Revival
In 2015, Vogue magazine published an observation of the reggae revivalists, highlighting emerging reggae acts like Chronixx, Jah-9, Protoje, Kelissa, and Jesse Royal. After the release of Lily of Da Valley, some fans' immediate reactions dubbed Jesse's debut as a 'true revival'. The Gleaner asked if he accepts the 'revivalist' label, and in essence, he does.
"We definitely entertain the thought of a whole enlightened generation moving forward, regaining them consciousness 'over-standing' them worth, in this whole scheme of things. And understanding seh we have a job to do for the youth after us, just like a job was done before us," Jesse said.
"The youth dem a get conscious, the youth dem a wake up, the youth dem a open dem ears yah now - to certain different ideas, an' a entertain different situations and vibrations and ways of dealing with tings. We definitely know dat sumn ah gwan, and sumn ah guh continue gwan, because it's just the tip of the iceberg."
Travel & Vinyl
Jesse Royal's Royally Speaking mixtape, produced by Major Lazer's Walshy Fire, solidified his reputation as an artiste to watch, and opened a door into the international reggae music space.
Now, Lily of Da Valley's promotional road has meandered across Europe and the United States. Regardless of the tense state of foreign affairs, the reggae artiste moves without apprehension. "We travel with a divine protection. We are children of the Most High, so we neither worry nor fret about anything at all," Jesse told The Gleaner.
Frequent flying also allows the artiste look royally 'fit'. "My style cues really come from myself, and mi definitely travel. Whether you believe it or not, you are influenced by your experience. But on a roots level, we a militant yout' and we connected to the earth, so certain tones resonate a likkle bit more wid we. We wear what we like, and whatever we feel feels right, yuh nah mean?"
Once A Man
Following hits like Modern Day Judas and Finally, speculation arose that the Small Axe dulled the blade, since the arrival of his daughter.
"The birth of my daughter has definitely had a positive effect on my life. I don't know if it's softening me or simply balancing me out, because leaning to either side too much isn't good, yuh nah mean?" Jesse told The Gleaner.
"So it's not too hard, not too soft. With I and I, she definitely play a big part in me in terms of my first experience of not just being a child anymore - and then trying to dive into the realms of what woman means to me - and trying to relay this message to this likkle princess, who will one day be a queen.
"Family on a whole definitely affects you as a man. But music is music," he continued. The Always Be Around singer suggested that true artistes acknowledge their life's influences and experience, and allows that to inform their work.
"You cyaa run from it from you is a true artiste. Things that is happening around and things that you're feeling - you're going to someway, somehow put them in your work. So, love I and I life without a doubt, so [my daughter] definitely change I life, for the better."