Modern reggae music has some sprawl to it. Whether it be dancehall, roots, dub, ragga or some tiny sub-genre in-between, there is enough diversity to the sound to keep the genre fresh even amid oversaturation. Protoje manages to do the genre one better by bouncing between dancehall, hiphop, R&B and good old-fashioned reggae with ease.
Protoje was born in Saint Elizabeth, Jamaica to singer Lorna Bennett and a former calypso king of Saint Vincent. He came on the scene in 2005 with his mixtape “Lyrical Overdose Volume 1.” The record leaned heavily into hip-hop with dancehall in its DNA and protest in its veins. There is a confidence to this early work that gives a solid glimpse into the fluidity Protoje would show with his major label debut.
With 2011's “Seven Year Itch” and 2013's “The 8 Year Affair,” Protoje finds a righteous anger focused on life in the Caribbean. If the constantly up-tempo beats weren't so energizing, both records would be considered protest albums. As they stand, the records manage to have serious lyrical content and fun, dancehall vibes without ever clashing.
Last year's “Ancient Future” leads the charge into a movement known as the Reggae Revival. On the album, Protoje delves into social responsibility, philosophy and an even fiercer rage against a system that won't recognize his struggles. It's by far the strongest of his records and makes a compelling case for political relevance in modern reggae music.
“Royalty Free” was released in June as a free download and is a short collection of B-sides from “Ancient Future.” Still, Protoje would rather reach a larger audience with his ideas, as opposed to rapping for scraps in a world that becomes less and less inclined to spend money on full albums anymore. But if his message stays this strong and his hooks continue to be so catchy, people will continue to seek out his music, regardless of the medium they come in.