Kabaka Pyramid Is Using His Music To Take Him To Brand New Places
Born Keron Salmon in Kingston, Reggae Revival artist Kabaka Pyramid has long infused his reggae background with his love for hip hop. He first grabbed hold of the music industry with the release of his first EP Rebel Music in 2011, featuring hit “Warrior” with Protoje. Since then, he’s continued to amass an international following with fans as far as Canada, Costa Rica, and even Switzerland. The “Lyrical Deity” as he’s dubbed himself, Pyramid’s music combines spirituality, Rastafari, and consciousness to illuminate issues the world faces today. “No Capitalist” from his 2013 EP Lead The Way challenges how capitalism has long been used to sustain poverty, and he’s most recently used “Borders” featuring Stonebwoy to discuss refugee crises across the world.
Since the release of his debut album Kontraband in May, Pyramid has made 2018 his year. Pyramid most recently completed his U.S. East Coast Tour and just days later joined the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise. He spoke with BASHY on all things reggae just after his performance on the last night of the cruise.
BASHY: How have you enjoyed the cruise thus far? I know it’s not your first year, correct?
Kabaka Pyramid: Yeah, I think this is my fourth year now, second year doing the whole cruise though. Yeah, and it’s fun. It’s a timeless experience for me. Being able to just be amongst so much [of] your peers and you’re backstage chillin’ out with people that you don’t really get fi talk to like a lot. You see them and artists weh you rate and we all aj move like bredren and ting. It’s just a joy.
Could you talk more about what you think the importance of the cruise is for Caribbean people in particular?
Yeah I think this is a great model for music in general and for the reggae industry. It’s a great symbol of the progress we’ve made and the legacy of the Marley brothers, the Marley family, [and] of course Bob Marley. It’s just great fi have people from all around the world who love reggae music and are willing to invest so much money to come and see this ting and the production is always good.t’s definitely a great ting for the music.
How does it feel to be on the cruise this year in particular, following Kontraband’s release with Damian Marley as an executive producer and having him on stage to perform the title track with you?
Damian has been good to us just in terms of the work he put in with the album, the promotion and the release. And just being able to tie it in this year with the cruise being the fifth anniversary and the same year all the Marley brothers perform together for the first time, it’s a great feeling fi represent and get that platform.
This year was also big for those who call it the “Reggae Revival.” There’s been Jah9, yourself, Jesse Royal, Chronixx etc. What does reggae mean to you and what does it mean to have all of you on the cruise at this time?
As I was saying, the thing about the cruise, it’s like a graduation for artists. For the younger artists who are on the cruise, it’s like you reach a certain point in your career and then you come can represent on the cruise. So for me to do it for the second time, and Jah9 a come, Jesse [Royal], and Jo Mersa performed now, it just shows you the progress that all of us are making really and truly. You know seh yuh deh deh now inna di industry when you come pon the cruise. It’s just like how someone would well wa get pon a Rebel Salute or get pon a SumFest, but to me, this is even a tighter regiment. It’s just top level entertainment from start to finish.
So this is a bit of a selfish question, but my favourite song from Kontraband is “Natural Woman”. What inspired you to record it and why at this point in time?
“Natural Woman” you know, it kinda frustrate me to see where we’re at, especially as Black people. When we say Black, what do we even mean? We’re in such a mixed world right now. As I said on the cruise tonight, even light-skinned people in Jamaica a bleach, and inna India and Africa. The bigger picture is a lack of self-love. That’s the underlying thing and we know a lot of different things cause that so we have to address dem tings and we’re at a point where around the world, women are starting to realize their worth and the world is starting to realize the value and the worth of women so it’s like this song kinda contribute to that momentum and keep that momentum going. ‘Cause when women realize their power and strength and men realize the strength and value of women, I think the world is a better place.
To follow up, where do you see yourself in the upliftment of Black women in particular? I know you had a post [on Instagram] about a year ago when you were wearing Jah9’s “A Spiritual Woman is the Greatest Threat to the Status Quo” shirt.
My thing is, I just try to deal with everybody. How I look on things, I look at the evolution of humanity, that’s what I see myself participating in. All of the most important areas that I feel need strengthening, that’s the type of areas I address with the music. So things like poverty, immigration, refugee crisis. A lot of these things, for me, are much more crucial issues than some of the things people are fighting for. Women’s rights is right up because at the end of the day, we are all human beings and you can’t treat one any less than the other, especially just because of their gender. That nuh mek nuh sense. So obviously wi deh yah fi address them issues, just for the progress of all humanity because we all have to reach up to a certain level.
Definitely. So you’re also coming off of your U.S. East Coast Tour. How do you see your music progressing in and outside of Jamaica?
It’s always an upward progression. We always touching new places, getting fi see the crowds and the sizes of the venues increase over the years. I got some of my first support from outside of Jamaica when I first dropped Rebel Music in 2011. I didn’t really have the network or the platform to have DJs and sound systems playing it, but we got support and people gravitated towards it in Europe and the West Coast in the U.S., places where the reggae market has been developing well over the years and obviously there’s a lot of money there. The economy is better than in Jamaica so it’s easier for artists to spread them wings in Europe and the U.S., than it is in Jamaica. In Jamaica, it’s more about how much hype you can create around yourself and then once you reach to a certain level and you have the song to back it, then you can be very successful. It’s just about what you do with your career after that. A lot of people end up get the song, but they don’t have a vision or their team don’t have a vision for how they will keep the thing going so some of them fizz away. Some of them keep finding songs and depend on having hit songs to have a career, but me now, me have a whole vision for my thing. So we formed the band and mek the sacrifice and have been touring over the years and developing these different markets and even Cham look pon mi the other day and say, “Nuh watch nothing because when you do find that one song that just pon that level deh, all this work weh you pon it a go bear fruit.” Because we’ve already been to a lot of these towns, some towns weh man never even hear bout. We a go up inna Ithaca [New York], inna di snow, fifteen degrees. So you know, it’s a long term investment and we’ve seen success so far so we give thanks.
Finally, what’s next? Kontraband is out now so what can we expect as a follow up?
I have a lot of things working on. I have a video to drop from the album. I have a few remixes done as well that I’m looking to put on next year. And I’m working on some productions too. I want to contribute to the industry that has given me so much and use my resources and help to provide a platform for some other artists as well.
Cover image by Tizzy Tokyo
This article is part of BASHY’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise coverage.