At the end of 2004 a new voice exploded onto the roots reggae scene. The voice had an unworldly vocal timbre and sagacious, bitingly conscious turns of phrase that made you listen with your soul. The voice belonged to 24-year-old Jamaican singer I Wayne, whose consecutive singles “Can’t Satisfy Her” and “Living In Love” were the most astounding debut the reggae world has seen in decades.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know the strength and power of the music,” professes I Wayne of his rapid success. “I make life music with a certain mood and lyrical balance. It’s what people that know a truth want to hear.”
After years of bashment artists such as Elephant Man, Beenie Man, and Vybz Kartel running the dancehalls, Jamaican partygoers are returning to roots and culture music. In the past two years a plethora of strong, young roots talent has broken through including Ritchie Spice, Jah Mason, Jah Cure, Chuck Fendor, Ras Shiloh, Turbulence, Bushman, and Warrior King.
“You know there’s blood there already,” I Wayne explains of the switch. “The people must want a change. It’s time to live-up in love and move righteously. Bring the people together in a oneness and steer them in the right direction.”
Out of all the new roots artists the lyrical content of I Wayne’s music is the most controversial. “Can’t Satisfy Her” is a raw ode to Jamaica’s growing problem of underage sex, prostitution, and sexually transmitted diseases–issues many Jamaicans would like to deny exist. “They play it on the radio straight away ‘cos it long time since they hear that kind of song,” says Wayne.
“Living In Love” is similarly strong. The track’s hook, “I love to see my people living in love/I hate to see them fighting and swimming in blood,” is particularly poignant as a notably violent period in Kingston’s ghettos–one that saw various neighborhood dons and their crews of young male supporters slaughtered–comes to an end. “The violence has to stop,” I Wayne says passionately. “The people need to purge, meditate, end the love for hype, and stop killing the animal–that what make them so aggressive. Killing come too easy. You can’t be one with nature then kill off the animal–that’s a vampire [way of life].”
I Wayne’s eagerly anticipated, as of yet unnamed, debut album on VP Records has just been finished, produced by his Loyal Soldiers camp, consisting of Patrick Henry, Coolie Williamson, and Ronald Right. During the recording process I Wayne didn’t write down one single lyric. “I don’t have to write,” he says. “I just think and chant from my heart. To tell the truth I love the music so I don’t find it hard. Music is life and life isn’t hard. People make it look hard. You just need to deal with it simplistically.”