International dancehall artist Popcaan says he fell in love with dancehall at an early age despite coming from a strict home where his mother and grandmother are avid Christian. The St. Thomas native also shared his first experience performing with his former mentor Vybz Kartel.
Speaking at an event in Toronto, Canada, about his current album, Great Is He. The artist said that he grew up in the church and had musical inclinations, which later led him to dancehall music.
“It was a bit of mixture of church and dancehall cause mi grow wid mi grandmother suh. While growing up with grandma, I wasn’t raised by Ms. Rhona,” he said as he shared that his grandmother Gwenette Sutherland was a church pastor who raised him.
“She does like when me listen to certain music and so. Me actually have to hide and listen to dancehall music when she gone ah market or when she’s not around. She more want me to listen to gospel music but I’m always intrigued by dancehall music from a tender age and I used to sing in the choir so already born with musical talent. So while going to church with grandma sometimes, when they have parties, I used to hide and go to the parties and you know when grandma find out is a madness,” he recalled.
Popcaan shared that he began playing the keyboard as a young child and later began writing lyrics and singing during lunchtime.
“The church and dancehall music is what curved by talent to this day,” Popcaan shared.
Popcaan gets candid about his upbringing, where he shared that he was raised in the church, although he would share sweet moments with his mother, Ms. Rhona, who would incessantly pray for him.
The artist’s latest album reflects a shift away from the music that glorifies guns and violence, and Popcaan has also been sharing with his fans his spiritual moods, and the reason for naming the album Great Is He.
Popcaan’s success story comes from the parish of St. Thomas, where opportunities for young people are lacking, but that is something that never factored into his psyche.
“I always dreamed big from I was small. I always think I would be a big artist, so I was very optimistic about it from even when I was in church,” he said.
Popcaan also shared another new nugget of information – he wanted to become an army man but failed the entrance exam.
“I was a performer from a tender age and when I started going to Portmore I was closer to Vybz Kartel…while I was doing music there. I wasn’t even thinking I would meet Vybz Kartel you know. [I was] just a fan. I went to do a test to go into the army, I wanted to be a soldier so when I went to do that test on a Saturday in Portmore, somehow mi fail the test,” the artist said.
“I’m glad I failed the test,” he says. “I was so disappointed, I was like I don’t even want to be a soldier, them diss me today,” he said.
That’s when Popcaan decided that he was going to get into music to make money, and he began to record music with his brother in Portmore, and then he met producer, NotNice, who recorded his first professional song, “Gal Wine.”
“I went to this party called ‘My Scheme’ and Vybz Kartel was the special guest at that party… Vybz Kartel is like we idol. Every yute a Portmore love Vybz Kartel,” he said.
It was a chance meeting with Kartel that spiraled into history, Popcaan said.
“There was a fight (and people left the venue). I just went there and tell him we from this scheme, we rate yuh music and he saw there was a lot of us there and we walked with him go to the stage and him say ‘how mi fi leave the scheme and ah my scheme’ and him start sing and everybody run in the venue,” Popcaan said.
Popcaan added, “So me tell my friend dem say this is my time to deejay and I went and tell him I want to sing a song and he said ‘yow’ sing a song and the people loved it and him tell me sing a next song and the people dem love the next one, and he was like ‘don’t move’ and then him finished perform and he gave me his number and that’s where everything started. So big up Vybz Kartel.”
The rest, as we know it is history as Kartel’s famous co-sign “wha gwan Popcaan” became instantly famous, and the artist’s career took off.