Despite popular belief over here, not everybody is Rasta in Jamaica. How did your parents react when you converted? I was thrown out of the house at 14 because of it. My parents were what you call Revivalist Christian. They were telling me I could become a mechanic or a doctor, somebody respected in society, if I wasn't a Rastafarian. But they were selling me a dream and selling themselves a dream. 'Cause if I tell my kid "You're gonna become a doctor," but I can't afford to send him to University, then I'm selling him a dream. In Jamaica, when you say "Rasta," people think two things: You're mad, or you smoke weed. It means nothing about consciousness or spiritualness to them. They can't comprehend it, 'cause it's not a religion where you say, "If I do this, I'm gonna die. If I don't do this, I'm gonna die," which puts a lot of pressure on kids. That's why so many rebel against their parents and indoctrination. Rasta, now, you just stick to this way of life and you sustain. It's about giving yourself principles. The control of the mind is the control of everything.
You got popular on the mic amongst Kingston's sound system scene. At that time, "slackness" was all the rage in the danchall. Did you always stick to conscious lyrics?
Yes, and I was always looked down on. They even created a dancing style after me called "Mock The Dread," where they acted as if they had dreadlocks and were pulling on them. They couldn't understand my choices. As a young child, to be a Rastafarian, listen--you gonna walk on the road and be hungry and see KFC. Can't eat there. You're gonna be with your friends who are partying and drinking, and you're not. It's a boring life. But it's the way to a great life. Great life is boring. It's simple. Complication creates excitement. Crazy stuff is exciting. You go steal a car and speed up the highway and everybody sees you on the news with the cops running after you! The youth wanna be that. What prompted "Fire Pon Rome," your most famous anti-Vatican tune? Just wanting to recognize who the oppressor is. It's not the gun that's the problem, it's the man with his finger in the trigger. You want to find a solution? Do not talk about the gun itself. Try to change the mind of the person behind it. That's how you can stop crime. So I was wondering, who's the oppressor? Is it a race of people? Is it a class of people? Where the world changed, where the world become colonialized, detrimental, that's all coming from the Roman system, the colonial system. Christ wouldn't have been crucified if he hadn't been taken to Rome.
That's why the song was banned from the airwaves?
It changed politics in Jamaica, that's why it got banned from the radio. This song, it's simple. It was directly asking our leaders, how come they get to own so much land? Where in the long line did your ancestors "discover" this land that you own 90-percent of today? Where's the paperwork? The other one that got banned was "Nah Vote Again." They said that it was because of the fact voting is a right. But the silence is a right, too, and it also expresses something.
Do you think that the music coming out of Jamaica has been softer in the past few years?
To me, no. What's happening in Jamaica is that people who love reggae music still don't recognize the music they love. They're still waiting for reggae to be shoved in their faces before they believe in it. It's the same thing as when people's image of Jamaica comes strictly from what they see on the news. Once they reach the land in person, they'll think, "Oh, Jamaica is not as violent as the media say." You think no good music is coming out of Jamaica? It's 'cause you're going to YouTube for music. Everybody in America is into Lil' Wayne 'cause he sold four million albums. There are many talents in Jamaica, but they don't have the millions to buy the media. They're not getting in the highlights.
We were having a conversation with these kids in the car, and they were talking about rap music. They're talking about Soulja Boy, how he used Fruity Loops and made some stupid thing, and now he's a millionaire. How can you go and tell Soulja Boy to do something good now--after he didn't make anything out of something good, but became a millionaire by making stupidness? I could be on everybody's lips tomorrow morning. I know what to do, but I won't do it. If I go to Jamaica and do some crazy thing, everybody in America will be talking about me the next day. Buju Banton was on every major media news network on Earth. Think about it. Kids in America would never have heard his name otherwise. And over what? Just doing some stupid shit, once, when he's been trying to do good all his life. Even the music itself becomes stupid, because that's what makes the news.