COVER

THE BIG FIX

Dancehall Icon Popcaan Keeps The Faith

By Glenn Alderson

F

From the moment Popcaan pops up on our Zoom call, the international dancehall star and CEO of Unruly Entertainment is on his best behaviour—for the most part. It’s an overcast day with light showers in Kingston, Jamaica and the 32-year-old is sitting shotgun in his Range Rover Sport, on his way to pick up some weed.

 

“Yeah fam, getting high in the rain bro,” he says with a disarming smirk on his face, his eyes glassed over, half-focused on his phone while partially distracted by his surroundings as the vehicle keeps a steady pace through the city’s slick downtown streets. “What’s good?” he continues.

 

Popcaan, aka Andrae Sutherland, is fresh off the release of his new album, FIXTAPE. Its lead single, “TWIST & TURN,” features Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR, with production from dvsn’s Nineteen85—a true OVO family affair. The song is a certified bop with its tropical dancehall vibes and catchy chorus that picks up where “One Dance” and “Controlla” left off. The dancehall icon has been winning awards and topping international charts for many years, but with the kiss of approval from the OVO collective—he officially signed with the label in 2018—Popcaan’s FIXTAPE is one of the hottest mixtapes of the summer, and he’s beaming. 

From the moment Popcaan pops up on our Zoom call, the international dancehall star and CEO of Unruly Entertainment is on his best behaviour—for the most part. It’s an overcast day with light showers in Kingston, Jamaica and the 32-year-old is sitting shotgun in his Range Rover Sport, on his way to pick up some weed.

 

“Yeah fam, getting high in the rain bro,” he says with a disarming smirk on his face, his eyes glassed over, half-focused on his phone while partially distracted by his surroundings as the vehicle keeps a steady pace through the city’s slick downtown streets. “What’s good?” he continues.

 

Popcaan, aka Andrae Sutherland, is fresh off the release of his new album, FIXTAPE. Its lead single, “TWIST & TURN,” features Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR, with production from dvsn’s Nineteen85—a true OVO family affair. The song is a certified bop with its tropical dancehall vibes and catchy chorus that picks up where “One Dance” and “Controlla” left off. The dancehall icon has been winning awards and topping international charts for many years, but with the kiss of approval from the OVO collective—he officially signed with the label in 2018—Popcaan’s FIXTAPE is one of the hottest mixtapes of the summer, and he’s beaming. 

From that moment in the club, I knew Drake was one of us. And time proved to all of my family that he is definitely a real one.

From that moment in the club, I knew Drake was one of us. And time proved to all of my family that he is definitely a real one.


“It’s a fixtape, not a mixtape,” Popcaan says, casually correcting my choice of words. “I have this slang that I say: ‘to fix tings.’ It’s a Jamaican grammar that we use. [If] we’re going to work, we say we’re going to fix tings. If me and my girl are having an argument, I say I’m gonna fix tings.”

 

If you look at Popcaan’s discography over the last 10 years, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything broken in terms of his productivity and methods of success. Ever since being taken under the wing of dancehall kingpin Vybz Kartel—Popcaan’s longtime mentor—and signing with Kartel’s Gaza Music Empire in 2008, the singer has been on that late-night tip, keeping the tape rolling in the studio, writing and producing music full-time.

 

In 2010, Popcaan teased the international market when he appeared on Kartel’s single, “Clarks,” an ode to the famous British shoe brand. The single was so successful that it caused a nationwide rise in Clarks sales and won both artists multiple awards. Ten years later, Popcaan is still following Kartel’s trusted advice. “He [would] always tell me, the only thing I’m supposed to focus on is music, and I should always just stay recording. So that’s what I do; I just work. When we used to work together, there was a challenge,” Popcaan says, pausing to take a pull from his spliff. “It gave me a different drive being around Vybz Kartel. The things Vybz always said to me just made my work ethic even crazier. At the end of the day, it’s just music, and that’s why we do it.”

Popcaan’s heavy involvement in his church’s choir when he was younger gave him a taste for performing, and it was the keyboard his grandma bought him that set him on his path to success. “I would always use that keyboard and practice to play it on my own,” he says. “From there, I was writing lyrics at my home, and when I would go to school I’d sing them in the corridors. Everyone at school knew I was doing this, but my grandma didn’t. She didn’t know I was doing it like that. She knew I had talent from when I was young though, because I was always singing in the church and people loved it.”

 

Equally informed by the gospel music his grandma played at home, which included Kirk Franklin and Glacia Robinson, and the modern-day legends he would hear on the radio like SizzlaBuju Banton, and Beenie Man, Popcaan found his sound, fusing his spirituality with equal parts roots-reggae and vocoder-infused dancehall. “There are two forces that rule the Earth: good and evil,” Popcaan says, his Range Rover now idling at his pick-up destination. “There is always going to be a challenge there. But it doesn’t matter what challenge I get, I will never lose faith, and I will never lose confidence.”

 

Just as he finishes his sentence, his friend pops back into the driver’s seat, throwing a big bag of weed into the backseat. Re-stocked and ready to take on the day, Popcaan lights up another joint and adjusts his Unruly/876 Gad face mask that’s tied around his neck. “We’ve got your package lined up, don’t worry,” Popcaan says, laughing. “Next time you’re in Jamaica, definitely we gonna smoke one.”

 

Fixtape is available now via OVO Sound/Warner Music.





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