Kabaka Pyramid: ‘A Song Blowing Up In Jamaica Is Not Enough’

KABAKA PYRAMID was back in the UK last weekend delivering his firebrand of hip-hop fused conscious reggae to sold out crowds in Manchester and Leeds.

The 34-year-old loves it here in the UK and is part of a growing army of new skool artists from Jamaica who understand the contemporary music landscape and what it takes to buss worldwide.

Talking to the artist following the release of his last album, Kontraband, Kabaka spoke fondly about why he loved performing and especially in the UK.

“It’s always steadily improving. I’m not the type of artist that every DJ will play all of my songs in every dance, it’s people who are interested in my type of vibe that will know my music,” he says.

“A song blowing up in Jamaica is not enough for it to get that type of global exposure you need. When you think about Jamaica there are songs tearing down the place every day, every week and they may not go global.

“So you know there is a next step and markets like the UK, markets like Latin America, there are certain markets that can really push the ting so that the labels are really aware because the numbers are there to back it.

Image result for Kabaka Pyramid“Once you have those things in place then you have a platform to go international.”

So what is Kabaka’s ‘vibe’? Speaking on where he saw himself in the grand scheme of all things reggae music he outlined his journey in industry, which saw him evolve from Ronny P, to the Kabaka Pyramid the world knows today.

“My name was an evolution in itself,” he admits. “The name with me evolving as a person, spiritually and things like that. When I first started writing music I was heavily influenced by Sizzla, his music kind of changed my life and directed me on to the path of Rastafari.

“I grew up a Christian, with Christian parents, went to church every Sunday and was baptised at 10. I never really used to question anything in the church or question anything theologically.

“Rasta just came and [shook] up everything. So early on, gravitating to the music and having a little sound system with my bredrens at 14 years old it was after that I started to write music.

Image result for Kabaka Pyramid“I wanted to sing like Sizzla but I never knew how to sing, I didn’t have any control of my voice. I was writing my reggae vibes but it didn’t sound how I wanted to sound. I found, though, that when I wrote my hip-hop stuff and I was experimenting, it was easier for me to deliver.

“At that time I was listening to Eminem and Cannabis, a lot of those lyricists as well as Wu Tang and those types of artists. So I was always very lyrical.

“I ended up having two roads that I was [tread – ing] at t h e same time. I was working on the reggae side and then there was the hip-hop side ,and if you heard some of that, you were saying I was ready.

“I was doing it with the east coast, New York accent because that was the epicentre.

“At that time I just made up the name Ronny P. My government name was Kerron, it was just out of the blue. I was Ronny P Clarke and I was wearing Clarkes [shoes], too.

“When I found Rasta, with my initials being KAS, I called myself Ras Kas.

“So when I did reggae music I as Ras Kas, when I was doing hip-hop I was Ronny P.”

Image result for Kabaka PyramidDelving deeper in the overstandings of Rastafari Kabaka says his spiritual walk at that period of his life took him in the direction of the Africa and it was there he encountered his moniker.

“A bredren gave me a book entitled The Ancient Book of The Dead and that’s when I started getting into Ancient Egypt, Kemet.

“I gravitated to that immediately and the pyramids stood out, so I ended up saying that the P in Ronny P stands for Pyramid. So all of my hip-hop stuff is under Ronny Pyramid.

“Kabaka came into play when I was looking up an African name. I liked Rask as but I wasn’t feeling the spirit in that name, it was just a name I gave myself, people were calling me by that name but I didn’t feel it.

EVOLUTION: Kabaka Pyramid has found his sound

“I didn’t have an elder to give me a name and I was living in South Florida at the time living with my mum, so I just did some research and I buck up on the name Kabaka, which means ‘king’ in Uganda. I’ve since found out that other African countries have their own meaning for that but the Uganda meaning was what I went with in the beginning.”

Kabaka fans will see the duality between hip-hop and reggae in pretty much everything he does. His love affair with the American genre is defined by his exposure to it at a pivotal time in his life.

He says: “The hip-hop journey for me started in 1996.

“That’s when we switched from local television, two channels, to cable. Once that came in we gravitated to BET, MTV and stations like that. We got heavily into P Diddy and the family because that was all we saw on the television.

Mo Money, Mo Problems – those songs were just coming out. “Biggie had died earlier that year, Hypnotize was out and I don’t know, I just gravitated towards it.

“I already had some influences before because I remember my father had Shaggy’s CD, Boombastic, and that had a hiphop vibe.

“When I watched local television sometimes they would show one or two videos from people like Ini Kamoze, Here Come The Hot Stepper, so I think I always had a inclination towards hip-hop.”

Kabaka accepts the challenge of making music that changes the universally acknowledged sound of contemporary conscious reggae, albeit an uphill task.

Producing content that adheres to the conventional sound of traditional ‘one drop’ reggae doesn’t interest him as much as carving out his own niche as well as forging a way forward for new artists who may want to flit between genre boundaries.

He said: “I get a lot of love for what I do and people have me as that hip-hop-ish reggae artist, that lyricist but I still feel like there is a lot more that can be done in bringing it together and showing that it is really one music and one source that it’s all coming from.

“Anybody that is doing positive music I would love to see them link up, whether it’s hiphop, soul or whatever, we need to collaborate more. That’s what I want to see, exposing new artists to different markets. “A lot of us would love to sing on different riddims, but it’s because reggae music is a certain ‘way’, you have to do music that sound a certain way – but I would love to hear Jah9 and Lauren Hill or Jah9 and Erykah Badu. I would even love to produce something like that.

“That’s one of my goals. I don’t know how many other people share that vision but others are doing it.

“Chronixx has done songs with Joey Badass, he’s done songs with Maverick Sabre. I’ve got a song on Rudimental’s album with Maverick, too, and he’s a wicked artist.”

Moving forward, Kabaka says for him the challenge is to make music with a message that doesn’t weigh too heavy on the mind of the fans who simply want to enjoy themselves.

He says: “I think the challenge is to make message music that feels as light as the pop stuff. Message music can come across as a little heavy, difficult for you to process it.

“After a long week at week you don’t want things that will make you think too much.

“The challenge is make you think but it doesn’t even feel like it.

“That’s what Bob Marley did. One love, one heart, but then you go into the verse. The man was talking about some things, but it just didn’t feel that way because the music was [uplifting].

“These are some of the challenges that I am looking to take on and see how we can elevate the ting.”

Source: Kabaka Pyramid: ‘A song blowing up in Jamaica is not enough’ | The Voice Online

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