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Popcaan: The only man we want

ON THE RISE: Popcaan

DANCEHALL STAR, Vybz Kartel, has a habit of touching things and watching them turn to gold (can somebody say Clarks shoes?) and his latest protégé, Popcaan, is no exception.

The 24-year-old star, dubbed the ‘Ravin King’ following the sweeping success of last year’s hit track, Ravin, has gone from strength to strength since Kartel signed him to his Portmore Empire in 2007.

Vybz, who became Popcaan’s producer and mentor, first gave the world a taste of the young star with the release of Gal Wine and Gangster City, but it was arguably 2010’s hit track, Clarks, on which Popcaan featured, that really brought him to the world’s consciousness.

The catchy song (yes, all about the ‘sensible’ footwear made by an 85-year-old family company from Street in Somerset) is responsible for sparking the Clarks sales boom, namely their Wallabees, DesertBoots and Desert Treks range.

The song became so popular that shoe shops in Jamaica doubled their prices from J$6,000 to over J$10,000 – the equivalent of £78.42 a pair. Michael Borge, marketing director for Clarks in North America, confirmed the increased demand.

In March, Popcaan, real name Andre Sutherland, released Only Man She Want. The track, that I’ve had on heavy rotation since its release, landed the young star his first Billboard entry on Billboard’s R&B/HipHop chart.

Ravin, his preceding single, also earned the artist three awards at the Youth View Awards, Jamaica’s ‘answer to the Grammys’ including Chart-topping Song of The Year and Summer Song of the Year.

When we caught up backstage at the recent St Kitts Music Festival, where he performed to over 5,000 screaming fans, I asked whether he ever got worried about having to top previous successes.

The surprisingly softly spoken star, who I am forced to hand my dictaphone just so the mic can pick him up, smiles before he answers.

“Nah, I never get scared to do a follow up. I’m always geared up for the next song because you have to stay current. That means new music and new sounds every day. I’ve never questioned doing a follow up. I will always be following up!” We both laugh.

He then goes on to tell me about why he believes The Only Man She Want was so popular outside of his hometown in St Thomas, Jamaica.

“The Only Man She Want is real life and I just sing about what happens in my life. It happens in other peoples’ life so you know they can relate to it more? Popcaan Is The Only Man She Wants though, straight,” and we’re off again.

But the conversation turns to a slightly more mellow tone when I mention Kartel’s recent imprisonment in connection with a murder and what effect it is having on the young star.

“It affected me a lot because it was all me alone. For the longest while it was just Popcaan representing Gaza (Vybz Kartel’s musical camp) and keeping it on the forefront.

“Vybz Kartel influenced my career a lot. Since school days I’ve been listening to Vybz Kartel and it’s a great pleasure to know Vybz Kartel and work with him. Big up to Vybz Kartel because he changed my life in nuff ways. I just have to carry it on from where he left it, you see me?”

Is he proud of his young protégé?

“Well, I guess he is. Because he did expect that from morning, so his talk didn’t go to waste when he said that ‘Popcaan is going to be the next megastar,” In another life, this guy could be a comedian.

I catch him looking at a passing solider, one of many drawn in to provide security for the annual festival, and find it an opportune time to ask him about his initial plans of joining the army before embarking on a musical career.

“Yes, I wanted to join the army, but music changed my mind. I decided to do music because music is more fun and I have more time for myself. If I was a soldier, right now I’d be in my uniform and making sure everything in the show is okay.”

He adds: “I’m a solider anyway, with or without the uniform.”

The Only Man She Want is out now through Sounique Records

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