Here’s an interview I did with Capleton five years ago this month. A couple years after this somewhat awkwardly written interview, I was in Kingston and spoke to the Fireman at his yard. After pleasantries were completed, he asked me if I was from Montreal. I said yes, and then he said “You interviewed me over the phone a couple years ago. I remember you.” Lucky guess or is Capleton just that perceptive? I’d go with the latter…regardless, he still remains on of the most exciting and energetic acts out there. The following is a director’s cut of a piece originally published in the March issue of the now defunct Heads magazine:
Capleton’s powerful voice has made him one of the most popular deejays today. Rarely, if ever, at a loss for words-the man released about 50 singles within the first three months of 2005-and blessed with sharp reasoning skills, there’s a reason why Clifton Bailey III was dubbed Capleton, the name of a well known lawyer. Fiercely and controversially committed to his Rasta principles, the Prophet, as he’s also known, has no plans on quenching or cooling his fire anytime soon. Capleton, or Uncle Shango (as I like to call him), was a whole lot calmer when I spoke to him after a recent show in Burlington, Vermont than when I saw him decked out in sparkly gold lame at Luciano’s record launch party in Kingston. His clever anti-Bush rants made me love him then, and though my personal thoughts on a few topics are probably miles away from his Bobo Ashanti views, he further endeared himself to me during this interview.
E: How do you find the concerts in the US different than concerts in Jamaica?
C: Jamaica is home, it’s where it started. So of course, in foreign it’s going to be totally different. But outside Jamaica you have white people, Chinese people, different kind of people, relating to the music. They don’t speak the language but they still sing the songs word for word. It’s good. It’s wonderful. There’s a good vibe, you know, there’s no limit to the music.
E: Given that dancehall has been getting more popular in the US, would you ever think about doing any more hip hop collaborations like you’ve done with Q-Tip and Method Man?
C: Nothing is wrong with a one or two crossover. But you still cannot stray from the roots, from the culture, from the tradition, you know what I’m saying? You cannot get to commercialized because it is a tradition. Me know. I’ve been there because I’ve been to BET, I’ve been to MTV, I was on DefJam. It’s not like a new thing. Capleton has been there and done that. But there is no limit to the music. The music is so expansive, we’re going to always have new experiments, so nothing is wrong with one or two crossover. Basically, music is a message. So whether it is soul, calypso, hip hop, whatever, as long as the message is good, it’s music.
E: What artists do you think are good now? Do you think it is a new day for conscious, cultural music in Jamaica?
C: Fanton Mojah, Bascom X, a whole heap of upcoming artists right now. I wouldn’t say a new day, nothing’s changed. There is no limit to the music and we always have upcoming artists. I know say most of the music spread through Capleton, from in the early days, even from when Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Ninjaman, it was Capleton until now. So it’s not new. Artists have new experiments, new vibes.
E:And the women?
C:Yeah, yeah. Macka Diamond. I’m grateful for her right now. She’s doing well. We have Lady G, one of the best cultural woman artists. Give thanks because this is not a man’s world and this is not a woman’s world. This is a man and a woman’s world, that’s how it’s supposed to be. We come into the earth through our mother and father. It’s 50/50 between man and woman, the king and the queen. The woman bring good vibes.
E: You’re from St. Mary, and every year you host a concert, “St. Mary Mi Come From”. Through that you’ve been able to raise money to give back to the community.
C: For real. Like hospitals and schools, cause you know that health and education is really the ultimate. You know what I mean? It is very important to give back because the youth they emulate and want to look up to you. The youth relate to us more than the government, you understand? So it is very important both to me and other artists. The attitude is also very uplifting for upcoming artists as well so they will give back to the community as well.
E: In your tune “Invasion”, you stalk about how “Babylon coral my place it look like dem wan overthrow me.” Sizzla’s Judgement Yard studio has reportedly also been targeted. Why do you think this is happening?
C: Invasion is a reality song. The police dem raid my place and jump over di gate and ting…But they will have attitude towards certain artists, certain artists who are involved in certain things. Every man have his own idea, his own opinion, sometimes people get involved in things that they’re not supposed to do and the system will have an eye on dem. On the next level again, you done know a Rastafari always have been terrorized by police. It’s a problem for the system. When you’re uplifting righteousness, and when you’re uplifting heritage and culture, and Selassie I, picking out in the system in terms of the injustice and the inequality, manipulation and exploitation. So therefore, when I and I chant the message and burn the fire, Babylon will terrorize us.
E: For a lot of people in North America there is little understanding of what Kingston or areas that artists talk about such as Hope Tavern or Papine or August Town are actually like.
C: Papine is a real ghetto. A real garrison area. There’s political violence. There’s where we fit in. We kind of protect the youth dem, help the youth dem. For I and I and certain other artists it’s real important to be amongst the youth dem. To keep them circumspect and keep them focused and keep them in awareness of Rastafari and righteousness.
E: You are a Bobo Ashanti rasta. What does this mean to you?
C: I wear a turban because the turban represents royalty. Bobo’s all about salvation, redemption, black international repatriation. But Rastafari is really one. So whether Bobo or Twelve Tribes or Nyabhingi, Rasta is all one, because everyone is saying death to black and white, equal rights and justice for all. Salvation, redemption, repatriation, restoration, Ethiopia, Africa, all should be honoured.
E: In terms of repatriation, do you have any plans to go to Ethiopia?
C: Most definitely. We go wherever Jah leads. Whatever the most high says should happen, we have to discover it and then carry out the works. Restoration and repatriation don’t literally mean, it’s not just on a physical term, you have to mentally repatriate before you make a physical choice. If you are not ready for it, then there is no benefit to go. But definitely I need to go sometime.
E: Marijuana is a sacrament for rastas. Do you have any thoughts on legalization?
C: All we need to do all over the world is tell the system that marijuana should be decriminalized. We know it is the healing of the nation. Have people smoke marijuana instead of coke and other hard drugs and the world would be a better place. That’s why they fight the weed because them know how spiritual the weed let the people get. They’ll stay away from crime and violence, be humble and maintain their humility and be tolerant instead of hurting themselves and the people. Them know the rastaman, his sacrement is weed, from which comes inspiration and belief. It’s an offering. It is a natural thing. If we decriminalize the weed, we have a better society, a better economy.
E: Recent controversy over your music has led to a lot of discussion about the violence in your lyrics.
C: When we burn a certain fire, it is not all about what they are saying. It is all about message. This is political. They know that the music aint promoting no violence or advocating no violence because Bob Marley said “I shot the sheriff” and he didn’t use a literal gun or a bullet, he used words, it’s metaphorical. So why is Capleton literal and not metaphorical? Babylon set up dem ting, and designed a method to fight the music. Bob Marley said “I feel like bombing a church.” It wasn’t a literal bomb, he is telling that the preacher is lying and when the church get bombed, it’s with words, power and song.
E: Many people separate your music from earlier reggae. Do you see a difference?
C: There is no difference. The fire never change. Burning Spear burn the fire, Bunny Wailer burn the fire, Bob Marley burn the fire, Toots burn the fire, name them. Dennis Brown, every man burn the fire, it’s the same thing. Bob Marley said death to Babylon, chant down Babylon, burn down Babylon; Bob Marley said kill, cramp and paralyze the wicked. Him never tell a man to literally go out there and kill a man. It’s with the words and the message and the music and the livity.