THE LAST few months have seen the tourist resort of Montego Bay in the news for all the wrong reasons. After a spate of violence, the Jamaican government declared a state of emergency in the second city to help quell the crime that has been occurring.
In February 2017, I visited the troubled area to speak to Montegonian artists Chilando and Ryme Minista as I was aware of the underground market that had steadily been getting noticed from the bigger city Kingston.
Since that visit, the musical rise of the coastal town has been nothing short of remarkable. Tommy Lee Sparta had been the main export, but now there is a list of artists that are claiming their piece of the pie. Notably, the Up Top artist Teejay and the focus of this week’s column, Rygin King.
Having big songs in the streets is a must to be one of the contenders for the dancehall hot spot. Rygin does not lack that. Learn, How Me Grow, Things Go Change and now his latest single Tuff have had the airwaves, mixtapes and dancehalls under siege.
Upon your first listen of Rygin, you may think he sounds a little distinctive. His style is unapologetically different but his lyrics are nothing short of ghetto poetry. In all of the tracks I mentioned, the young Montego Bay artist bears his heart and soul. Nothing is
left to your imagination over the hard life he has endured.
“Mi memba when mi did poor daddy / And no, mi never had no mother to be proud of me / A lot of night me sleep hungry” are the opening lyrics to How Me Grow. You can’t help but get pulled into his world of desperation and hard life.
This struggle that Rygin seems to have faced had been bottled up, but now it comes out in every line as he delivers the lyrics with such passion and raw emotion. With all this hype surrounding him, his performance in his hometown at the 2018 staging of Reggae Sumfest last month was eagerly awaited. Will his voice carry? Can he perform? Is he the real deal or just another studio artist?
When he touched down on the big stage at Catherine Hall he answered all those questions and more with a powerful performance on his biggest stage to date. I, like many others, witnessed this electrifying performance via the live stream, but I felt the unquestionable power through the laptop.
We hooked up together for a chat a few days after this seminal moment, and it was a long overdue chat. Sometimes the deepest characters are the ones that close up during conversation. Rygin was reluctant to talk about the hard life that he so easily sings about, but he did profess something.
“These struggles are within me – a lot of struggles that I don’t wanna disclose right now – but it’s the same struggles that a lot of kids face. “I’m sending the same message that I’ve been a victim – I sing about my surroundings.”
What he was less shy to speak about was his performance at Sumfest. “It was 5am and my people were waiting on me – new demand! The energy was massive, I felt lightning from my toe to my head.
“I went out there militant and in demand cos that’s my place, that’s my people, mi ah di king mi city! I had to let my people know I am the ruler,” he proclaims proudly. King is not shy at grabbing hold of the coveted dancehall king title.
This is a crown that has been battled over for many years. Just ask Vybz Kartel or Beenie Man. Listen to any intro and you will hear his signature “A One King, Dancehall baddest ting”.
When questioned to where that con dence comes from, he quickly replies with no hesitation: “My ego!” I don’t think I was ready for that amount of honesty, but he continues: “I’m bringing greatness, something that has never been done before.
He knows that there is a lot of expectation when you use that title, but also just being the top boy comes with pressure. “The people expect me to do better – they want me to excel inna mi craft. I will be getting those Grammys, those big collars – I got goals and we gonna come knock them out.”
Those are some big ambitions for a young artist at this stage of his career, but I actually do believe the hard times that he has faced will prepare him for this raggy road of dancehall. He has already proven to the people that doubt him what he can really do.
Skatta Burrell of the Sumfest management team is one of them. Skatta was one of the judges on the Jamaican TV show Magnum King and Queen, a dancehall talent show.
At the time Rygin was called Jah B and was a contestant on the show. He unfortunately never progressed far in the competition, but as fate and hard work would have it, he is now head- lining the stage show for which Skatta curates the line-up.
Dreams can come true.