SOUL REBEL: New album, new outlook for the reggae star.
Some of reggae and dancehall’s brightest stars often get side-tracked by the wrong things. Not I-Octane. The award-winning recording star, who exploded on the music scene with a stunning fashion sense and hard-hitting lyrics, prefers instead to muse on socio-political travails, humanity and hardships – with appealing message music that both delights and provokes thought. With his excellent new album, Crying to the Nation, I-Octane offers listeners a compelling blueprint for the way forward. In an interview with TALLAWAH, he opens up about everything from Bob Marley’s legacy and the state of reggae music to artistic growth, awards and valuable life lessons learnt.
TALLAWAH: In terms of your evolution as an entertainer, what does Crying to the Nation represent?
I-Octane: Well, first and foremost, the album definitely represents my growth as an individual and as an artiste. I have grown a lot over the years. I now have different perspectives on things, and my experiences have helped to mould me into a better individual. So it’s a mature album, but it’s still more of an Octane vibe, a conscious vibe, with better packaging.
You were recently anointed the Best Cultural Artiste of the past year at the Youth View Awards (YVAs) in Kingston. What does winning awards mean to you?
It depends on what the award is for. Because if it’s for something like the Sexiest Male Artiste then that’s not as important as being recognized as the Best Cultural Artiste. So a YVA award means a lot to me because it’s coming from the youths, the younger generation. And I believe that as long as you continue to grow you will have the respect of the next generation. It was the same with Bob Marley during his time.
Speaking of Bob, does his legacy serve as the template for how you’re fashioning your own international career?
Well, I never want to recreate a Bob Marley. But I would love to have a status like that one day, but in an Octane format. We need different brands coming out of Jamaica.
Elaborate on that. What do you ultimately hope to achieve?
I want to accomplish the highest in music. Grammys and U.K. Awards. The highest. Every major award out there, I want to win, but for reggae music. I want to help move reggae more into the international mainstream and help pave the way for the next generation. I feel that reggae music is not getting more attention because the industry is not fully developed; we need more proper structuring.
Sometime last year, your name was mentioned in a paternity dispute that has since quieted down. What’s your strategy for dealing with unpleasant matters that threaten to dim your shine?
In life those things will occur, but I really don’t put any emphasis on that. I focus on the music. I experienced a lot of things as a youngster, and in life you ah go do some good and some bad. But you learn from it and you know how to move forward. Everything that happens to me I look at it in a positive way. I am glad for the experiences because they all mould me into a better person.
So after all you’ve been through, what has life taught you? What do you know for sure?
I know that the Almighty God is real. Growing up I used to hear Buju say it’s not an easy road and I never understood what it means. I understand it now. You learn a lot about people. In the music business you face a lot of obstacles, and even people who I thought would never do certain things, they surprise you. When I just started out, my songs were not all about personal experiences, but life really teaches you. So big up everybody who love I-Octane, and even those who don’t support. Big up to everybody (Laughs).