Jesse Royal, the small axe with an unrivalled creative zeal Image

by Biko Kennedy

Jesse Royal is slowly but surely defying the times; building his fan base admirably differently from the average vocalist. He simply aims to spread messages that need to be heard while he chops down the 'Morden Day Judas'.

"We the people need a change right now on all fronts…not only in Jamaica but the world governments need to have a drastic changing game plan right now. We can't keep putting money over the people…we need to put the people over the money or else we will keep fighting until we truly find some true compassions as human beings."

Royally speaking with Jesse shed some light on his career long journey while touching on the most philosophical quote he holds close to his thoughts and what unity within the Jamaican musical spectrum could mean to the world.

JAmusic: You've often said that you're 'one of those artistes who is brave enough to say what is needed to be said', which is pretty much reminiscent of a young Peter Tosh. How do you channel artistes such as Tosh when you're in the studio recording or on stage performing? And why do you think you need to be one of the artistes who needs to say what's needed to be heard?

JR: Truly…I get a lot of inspiration and a lot of influence from these elder artistes but we are who we are and we are what we are. Everyone go through their own tribulations and situations that bring them to where they are today. So myself like them go through the struggles of this [corrupt] system and was one who almost became a victim of it but we kept it musical and we use music as a tool to enlighten our people and fire [lyrical] shots at Babylon and let them know that they need to fix up themselves because in reality the government is there for a reason so it's all about holding them accountable for what they are doing.

JAmusic: What's one song that you hold close to you because of a particular line or better yet what's the most philosophical quote you've heard in a song that you hold close to your heart?

JR: There are many but currently there's one by Israel Vibration that says "I give a little here/ I give a little there/ and I keep a little for myself/ life is so unfair/ yet it's good to share/ and it's nice to help some else" from the single My Master Will…but you have a lot of great quotes out there and it's not just persons who sing or do art. You have a lot of great individuals who fight for causes. Me personally every song means something special to me so it's hard for me to pick one line cause I'm just a vessel. But as I say there is a lot of great influences from great people; His Majesty being the first among them all…he has so many great quotes you really can't pick one. But first of all is "until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior there'll be war" so that is my quote (chuckles).

JAmusic: We live in an era where the average person's attention span is limited to what they want to see or hear. What are you doing differently that will hold their attention?

JR: Keep it real cause everybody feels…so even persons who can't see and can't hear can still feel it, so that's how we keep everybody attracted; by giving them music with feeling and giving them our energy and our entire life force in the music because we are but a vessel so we have to make sure that Jah message come through as clear as possible with our little spice. So that's how we're gonna keep them interested because people will always look to the light – running in the dark you'll spin in circles but from we give them some light they can always see it and follow it (chuckles).

JAmusic: With success comes a lot of negative feedback, how do you react or deal with negativity?

JR: Well we take negativity and mix it around and make it positive because in everything there will always be a positive and negative reaction; people complain about the rain but we put out the flowers when the rain falls and when the sun is too hot we find some cool shade we don't really complain. So negativity is just a part of life but we never allow it to get the best of us. And like Bob [Marley] says "people will always have something to say" but we know that we should do it our way, which is Jah way…so we don't watch negativity.

JAmusic: Could you talk a bit on the idea behind the phrase 'In Comes the Small Axe' and the correlation to Bob Marley and the Wailers' single 'Small Axe'. Especially what the Wailers' song represented.

JR: That song was a very powerful song to me as a youth. Because of the underlining concept it holds; even I am a small person in statue so it's easy for me to be underestimated in my capabilities and can easily be over looked. At the same time it represents the movement in the sense where a big tree would be the capitalists and the government who put money over people so we're here now putting people over money and that's what the small axe represent and that's where we'll start chopping from: the capitalists and all the corruption taking place that finds it so hard to share with the needy.

JAmusic: How do you think singles such as 'Modern Day Judas', 'Light Like A Feather' and 'Greedy Babylon' has changed, altered or is evolving your fan base?

JR: People feeling it and once they feel it, it can only attract them. Just like if I feel a beautiful lady she's going to attract me…so it's the same with the music being real and authentic it's going to attract some people and there's still a lot more people who are going to be attracted by this music.

JAmusic: How do you feel on how Jamaicans have received you throughout your career thus far and by extension the world?

JR: Jamaica is nice and will always be nice and it takes time for people to catch on to things. The world is lovely too; takes time to catch on to things but wherever the wind blows that's where the music will go and I can stand behind that. And there will come a time where they will be tired to see my face because my music will go in every crevice and corner and every little place there is…because this message will be heard…not must…will be heard.

JAmusic: What kind of future plans have you set for yourself as an artiste? (To accomplish and maintain with JAH as the guidance of your thoughts)

JR: Right now it's more than just music…eventually in my lifetime I want to build a school and also use the music as a tool as a platform to do a lot of things. Still it's like you can't fly the gate on people who aren't educated and you can't have warriors who don't know what they're fighting for. Even if my music change only my outlook on life I know I have accomplished something great…but I'm continuing to do the music as a direction and enlightenment for the youths as well as for our self also.

JAmusic: Could you talk a bit on the Rastafarian faith; the livity versus the fashion image.

JR: There's no versus…Rastafari is livity (chuckles). The way of life; Haile Selassie I is the example and if you not following the lead of the most high then you have nowhere going no time soon…so that is Rastafari…it's not the styling of the hair…it's who you are as a man and how you live amongst your brothers be them black or white…so I really don't know about the next side, I only know about the livity cause that is Rastafari for I and I.

JAmusic: One of the most admirable things happening on the musical scene among up and coming acts is the level of unity being shown as displayed at varying stagings with the most recent being the Behind the Screen series where Kelissa, Keznamdi and Chronixx joined you on stage. How important is this level of unity and what can it mean for the music industry?

JR: It's very important because no man is an island and for change to come about you have to have shots firing on Babylon from all angles so we the youth have to come together cause we learn from a few elders before who kept it together who said this is the way to go and as well we learnt from the many who didn't keep it together and now they are at odds with each other and can't find a way out. So we realize to get anything done we have to organize and centralize as one and drop ego and pride behind and know that it's Jah work we're here doing and no man is bigger than Jah works.

JAmusic: This level of unity is reminiscent of earlier Reggae/Dancehall times where working together was the aim at getting the music out there. Do you think the lack of unity is one of the reasons why it'd seem as though Jamaican music is somewhat at a stagnant position at times?

JR: Yeah man…that is a key thing – unity – because it's not just the musicians need to unite but also the managers, the media, the people of Jamaica and the parties that are in place. That is why Jamaica is in its state right now. But yes the unity is important but we need to have a purpose as well while we are being unified.

JAmusic: What insight can you give on the power of music and its ability to communicate certain messages verbally and non-verbally? And what do you think your music represent?

JR: It's very powerful cause music is the voice of the people and I and I music is the voice of the voiceless…I sing for those who don't have a voice and I'm talking on behave of all the people who just want a chance; that's what I and I music represent....limitlessness to use as inspiration.

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