Capleton: The Prophet Speaks

The title of prophet is often a heavy cross to bear. In addition to dealing with the constant scrutiny of those who wait to see him or her fail in their righteous mission, a prophet also has to not only avoid the temptations of the world, but find a way to get his message out […]

The title of prophet is often a heavy cross to bear. In addition to dealing with the constant scrutiny of those who wait to see him or her fail in their righteous mission, a prophet also has to not only avoid the temptations of the world, but find a way to get his message out despite those temptations.

Over the past 13 years, and for the majority of his professional career, Capleton has consistently delivered his message, aiming to uplift the Jamaican people, and Black people the world over, in a time when the African Diaspora continues to suffer. And he has done so humbly, despite being equally as popular as more mainstream Reggae artists and all the while encouraging the necessity of this musical diversity. He has also held his head and continued to bring forth his message, even as added popularity in the United States lead to serious criticism based on misinterpretations of his lyrics.

Currently promoting his latest release, Reign of Fire, Capleton spoke to Alternatives about Rastafarianism, civil unrest, commercial success, and what music means to him. Alternatives: There’s a very interesting relationship between Black people in America and Black people across the rest of the world, mostly due to how we are all portrayed in the media, that leads to a high-level of misinformation. Tell us a little about the current social and political situation in Jamaica.

Capleton: There’s some political violence with some individuals in the local community. Away from that, the youth dem focused. Because we have the music as a message and there’s no need to govern the youth, they have righteousness in terms of themselves. They know everywhere in the world, Babylon have divisions that divide the people, and have the people fighting and have each try to murder among themselves. That’s why the music come in the word sound power to govern the people.

AHHA: What impact does that have over the music? As the popularity of Dancehall grows, especially in the U.S., is there a conflict that arises between the government and musicians?

Capleton: Well, there gonna be always conflict, because with this kind of message, in term of the music fight against the system in term of the injustice and the inequality and the manipulation, there is a method that implement to all the people at a certain level. We a gon’ always see a certain vibe within the level of the people. That’s why the music is here to lead the people, so it is up to the people in terms of maintain the message and be themselves and stay on the righteous. But, this music, it will always get a fight as well. ‘Cause when you fightin’ against the system, if sound is against the system, then you do get fight from the system [globally]. But as just the music alone it shall live and never die. The more fight we get the more we get stronger. “The harder the battle and the sweeter the victory,” you know what I mean?

AHHA: At one point in your life you became more involved in Rastafarianism…

Capleton: Well, as I’m saying, growing up, we searching for the truth in terms of ourselves, in terms of our heritage, in terms of our culture, in terms of our philosophy, in terms of our curriculum. When we find Rastafari, that’s when it give us the urge to really go out there and seek out we, uplift we. And Rastafari is all about salvation, redemption, repatriation, restoration, liberation, emancipation. Rasta is all about the purification of humanity, which bring forth the fire.

AHHA: A lot of people here in the United States think that Rastafarianism is the predominant belief system in Jamaica. Is that so or is there still people who are not supportive of the culture?

Capleton: Of the Rastafari? Well as I’m saying, the truth will always get a fight. Everyone who acknowledge Rastafari is Rastafari, everyone who acknowledge Haile Selassie… And every Black man and Black woman is Rasta, whether them wearin’ locks or not. But the truth will have to reveal.

AHHA: Let’s talk a little bit more about the music. You had a big hit here back in ’95 with “Tour” and the “Wings of the Morning” remix featuring Method Man, which introduced a lot of Hip-Hop fans to your music and your message. After that and with your subsequent relationship with Def Jam, did you feel like you had to continue making the same kind of music in order to keep your American audience?

Capleton: I feel good doing what I’m doing. As I’m saying music is expansive and there’s no limit to the music. Me a gon’ always have new experiments and me a gon’ always have new transitions. I don’t see nothing with one or two remixes in terms of collaborations with other artists, including Hip-Hop artists. It’s a different market for the music. Rasta is not commercial, so therefore we still have to stick to the roots. So that’s how we end up with VP [Records] in our crossroads.

AHHA: Stateside, we usually associate Dancehall with partying, we associate it with a different kind of message than what you usually bring forth with your music. How do you find that balance with the cultural awareness, to where you’re still working with the same kind of riddims, but you’re attaching a much more conscious message to it?

Capleton: The music already carry a spirit and I just related the message, you know what I mean?

AHHA: Do you think that the popularity which dancehall has in the U.S. is having an effect on the type of music that younger artists in Jamaica are making now?

Capleton: As I said, the music is expansive. In terms of talent, Jah bless everyone in their own way, in their own form. And you have more artists will rise in them own time with their different style and their different energy. So therefore, one have fi just keep doing them thing until it manifest.

AHHA: Tell us about the new album

Capleton: It’s all about the fire, the fire of purification. We have a little Hip-Hop in it as well, a little R&B, a little Soul, still Dancehall. This is my fifth album for VP in terms of the concept of fire, of more fire and reign of fire, purification of the fire. The message is all about uplifting people in term of themselves.

AHHA: Are you planning on touring in the U.S. in support of the album?

Capleton: Yes, I think that’s gonna be around September. I just did a tour: in New York, I did SOBs, and I did Vermont, I did New Jersey, I did Washington, D.C. And I did the Wild Splash in Tampa. I’m off on a mini tour in the Caribbean this week. I’m going to Trinidad and Antigua, I’m doing the Bahamas, and maybe two more place.