DC Music Review Talks with Jesse Royal

Jesse Royal has established himself as one of the next reggae superstars to emerge from Jamaica, and DC Music Review had the opportunity to sit down with Jesse Royal after his captivating performance at the 9:30 Club on March 11, 2018.


Karin McLaughlin: Alright, well first off, thank you very much for allowing me to do this interview, dope show, loved it. So, first full length album, 11 days – number one on the Reggae (charts), how does that feel?

Jesse's debut album, Lilly of Da Valley

Jesse Royal: ​Um, it’s a blessing you know? But there’s a time in da Earth for everything. A whole heap of youth push forward, a whole of heap of consciousness and a whole heap a people in the universe that kinda ready for the consciousness – you know what I mean?  So, nothing woulda do what it would do without the equal – you know what I mean?

KM: In due time.

Jesse RoyalYeah, so, very grateful, very grateful for the love that they showed, and are still showing right now

KM: How long did this take to come together – and get a final product that you were satisfied to say, this is going to be my first full length album, ‘I’m ready’ – this is it?

Jesse RoyalWell, it, I wanna say, it probably took about 2 years, a year in a half in tops, you know?  I mean, we were touring in between so sometime it hard for really get the time for really sit down and do what needs to get done, on the recording side of things, you know?  Because touring is a very necessary aspect to the career, but getting in the studio, is always the favorite part for most, true artists I would like to say.  You know what I mean – just the whole, creating. taking, like creating It was nothing and now it is something.

KM: Your baby.

Jesse RoyalYeah, you know?  So alongside Riff Raff and a whole host of other brilliant musicians you know.  Put a lot of I and I them time and support and effort to truly make it what it is.  You know and we’re proud to really give that to the world as our first offering you know - as the set up for the next one.

KM: And it was obviously very well received

Jesse RoyalYeah, as I say, we give thanks, give thanks for the love, you know?

KM: Nice and so - small axe, one of my favorite Buju songs (horrible singing of said song), how’d you get that nickname?

Jesse RoyalWell I mean we have power in stature, we kind of small in size, but we very big in heart and things –know what I mean?  So the name Small Axe kind of come from the whole vibration they have when lot of people they see me pon stage, from a distance, you think I’m 10 feet tall when you see me, you know? But then they say the big thing they come in a small package.

KM: Small axe, fall big tree.

Jesse RoyalRight, so there you go, we’re ready and willing, you know?

KM: And so, you, in true Rasta fashion, have songs that make you wanna dance, talk about smoking herb, but you didn’t grow up in that realm right, you grew up - Baptist?

Jesse RoyalYeah, my mother, definitely – Christian, my grandmother – Christian my other grandmother from my fathers side– ​was a Pastor of the church.

KM: So how was that?  Coming into that change?

Jesse RoyalYou know, Jah work in a mysterious way.  Call one out of every family – so here I am.  Our consciousness of Rasta is not a far fetched idea, if you understand what I’m saying. I and I conscious with Haile Salassie come from the same text that they’re reading in the Bible. You know – say Ethiopia should stretch forth their hands, you know? As well as, same people said, you know, Christ is gon return with a new name to the dreadful to the Edens and it’s true that alone carry the septor.  So if him crown David king and we still work with the thing, that means anything after that must go what? Our King. Cause we have a history, we have a legacy.  We have something that we look to -this is our dynasty.  It’s not a thing what is I write – an illusion, “Alright, I’ll pick him – to be I and I King.”  No.  This is knowledge that is there.  ​So they say the more you grow is the more you know and then the more you know, the more you realize and then the more you realize is you can start control your life.  The whole consciousness as me say, of his majesty just come through the passage of time, you know I mean?  Where once you look, you gon see.  And once you listen, you gon hear.  You know?

KM: ​A lot of similarities – I remember reading Catch a Fire and they talk about young Ras Tafari, they said he could talk to animals.  They asked him to draw a bird, the one that he talked to, and gave him paper, he drew it and it flew right off the page.  So some of the same type stories that they tell about Jesus doing what not.

Jesse RoyalNow, who you talk bout?  Who name Jesus? I’m askin you because I and I Rastafari and you tell me bout Jesus and someone says, yes you are the Christ, a great man who walk around the earth, not Africa.  And people forget that, you know – is it Bethlehem, is it?  Where is Bethlehem?

KM: Jerusalem –

Jesse RoyalAnd where’s that?

KM: Africa (ish)

Jesse Royal​ Right, see so we don’t want to hear any illusions.  This man was a real man but you have to identify.  One time you said Jesus, we see somebody who they painted for people to praise.  This is an illusion.  I don’t know anything that this person has done.  I don’t know where he came from, I don’t know but if you’re talking about Yeshua, the Christ, now we say we lead the stories, we talk bout when he come pon earth and live like a king.  Live like a king, not in a sense of wearing more expensive jewelry than everybody else.  He was rich in love, rich in morality, rich in mentality, rich in spirituality.  You know, so we hold him in the high esteem.  The next one we talk about I don’t know so I can’t comment pon what I don’t know.

KM: So also you performed here two years ago at Cannabis Festival and despite popular belief, Cannabis wasn’t always legal in Jamaica. But now and you spoke a bit on stage -

Jesse RoyalStill not legal – Decriminalized.

KM: So you spoke a bit on stage about that but how do you feel about that changing and going forward – you know, like back 10 years ago, somebody catches a charge, for possession and they’re, they’ve got a permanent mark on them, you know?  And now, we see the movement towards, both here and there, especially in D.C.

Jesse Royal​We love progress, on a whole.  In whatever way, shape or form, you know?  Where the marijuana is concerned, we definitely overjoyed because, we as Rastaman, we know the many benefits of this plant.  But because of the ignorant stance of individuals who are in positions of power, they have demonized – a plant! Because you still - I’m sure when you make a sandwiches, you put lettuce in it, right?  Because that is what the lettuce is good for.  But if, now that an America thing yeah.  If you go place like Asia, they will use the lettuce as the wrap.   Right?  So them use it in all a different way right?  And then you have some other individuals I’m figuring that have many other uses.  So it’s just like any other plant.  For you to glorify one or ostracize the other without, um, the right amount of research is like, the highest level of ignorance.  Me now, no say, it’s just what’s going on in the world.  We inna the age of information.  Once upon a time, we now on different age, them say we inna age of infrastructure, technology or all sorta kinda different kinda thing.  Where now, might not hadda focus pon book, I focus pon thought you know?  I might not really focus pon Wikipedia, I focus pon thought.  And you can’t knock it either because all a these things, it how the world move and this is a necessary point in time.  If the age of information is too fast, we still a try figure another road to drive pon now.  So everything have it own time in time but here we are in the age of information. So once the youth them have information then everything is going to be what it is supposed to be – the reality is the reality.  Imagine when time, we figure out and move out of the age of information.  We as human beings master that stage.  Imagine like how our children are gonna laugh at us.  You guys spent three hundred million dollars on weapons and couldn’t find $10 million for feed starving people?  Because this is going to happen and you gon to find out a lot more things, a lot more changes is going to happen because once the people them educated, them is going to be liberated.  What you think they used to think back in the day?  Deny you knowledge.  Because what you don’t know, you don’t know.  If you don’t know, say you’re free, I can make you whatever I want you to be.  You understand?  So with a concept like that, is what they built their whole world on but now, a different time on earth in now, you see.  What you have to understand is some realms are gonna open up where you and I did not even, or we couldn’t even fathom or imagine.  Why?  Because we’re brains so small, you understand?  When we reach that level of thinking, it’s like when, you know, before, before you walk, crawling seems like the biggest thing in the world.  But then when you learn time fuh you learn to walk, then you think bout jump, or when time you learn to jump you want fly. So it the same thing in now, with everything in our life, you know?  So just, let’s watch what the youth gonna do, look what the children gonna do. 

KM: And I think the song, Generations speaks a lot to that.

Jesse RoyalYeah mon – (quotes the song lyrics):

Frivilous like progress
I wanna see the ghetto youths dem hopeless
We a go lef' the old Vatican pope-less
Is a take over, not a protest

Trodding on the wine press much too long
The four hundred years have come and gone
I hope somebody out there see it clear


KM: And also, speaking of your generation, you’re in the mix with a lot - you also gave props to Chronixx, Protege all that

Jesse RoyalDaniel Bombatta, Joe Mersa Marley,(names a whole list of artists) Raging Fyah,  what you have to understand is - Think of Bob Marley alone, did a sing. Peter Tosh alone did a sing.  Whole heap of youths just a sing, just a singing time.  And then if there's a time inna earth, now, who them can use and commercialize, and make media friendly, or whatever, then they will do that. That don’t mean, say, there’s not things going on, It’s like one time – Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo them bad, you know.  

KM: *Laughs*

Jesse Royal: You laugh, but whatchyu know?  You have some little youth, who is 11 years old, that you and I don’t know yet.  But when him done, he gon make Messi look like him never know how to play futbol.  You know why?  Because him have Pele, Maradona and Messi and Renaldo and Nemar.  AND Ronaldino.  Because Ronaldino the god of futbol.  Ronaldino is the what?  Repeat after me: Ronaldino is the god of futbol

KM: Ronaldino is the got of futbol

Jesse RoyalRight, yeah mon.  The man that reinvent the game.  Just like when me talk bout crawl and walk, Ronaldino start a something no man ever know, make man start think bout things, they never think about before. Said he couldn’t do the bad. And make man start think bout some other tings now.  You understand?  So him, was a very necessary part of futbol, you understand? What this little round thing the man put here?  Well since the beginning of time, I gon kick it.  You mean this man come and do something we never seen?  My word!

KM: Also  you've been pretty outspoken about politics and political figures and how they influence things. You’ve also seen how it is here – How do you think that the gun control and all that stuff – you know, it’s an issue everywhere, here, Jamaica, and you’ve been here for several months touring now – so how do you, as an outsider, view it here as opposed to Jamaica?

Jesse Royal​A very wise society in a sense – because when spirituality missing everything haywire. That means they have people, walk around, don’t even know, , say “You are my brother, or you are my sister, or you are flesh and blood like I and I” Go on and kill people.  Because if it was 2000 years ago what you tell me? “Too much slingshot man, why you go and throw so much stone man?” Right – no. Guns don't kill people. Now I and I not the big - really and truly the one thing alone – not gon do, destroy, say, it's not like we fart – definitely, people have to protect themselves.  Very true.  But, at the same time, there has to be some sort of regulation because not everybody really fit, you know what I mean fuh really understand (whispers) - life and death –like it’s serious thing.

KM: and understand it's permanent

Jesse Royal (whispers) that’s what I’m saying.

Jesse Royal ​You know? It’s a very serious thing. So me no me can tell you know you know if you do it.  And you must know if you do it trust.  But the reality is, spirituality.  See, very key.  Like if, the love not get restored – no laws, no nuttin, no one to regulate – trust me, people go strangle people bro. Yeah, mon. Man will start - look at them when them get drunk. Look at them.  Yeah - So as them say, it’s a different issue that man have to address, it’s like – you can’t – you know what I mean? You can't just put band aid pon things all the time and say ‘Here’s the problem – that, no, that, no that!’ No – can’t be that, it must be minds of the people must be – the amount of love that you are sewing in your nation because, where love is missing, you can’t expect, um anything else except chaos and hatred and rubbish. You know?  But at the same time, with that said – yo, you know how much loving, caring people they have in America? You have so much cautious, conscious, caring as me I say – loving, mindful, herb smoking people.  See what I’m saying?  So, I mean yeah as me I say – dem have to restore the reality. And it start with the people and dem believing them care make them forget nunna that not worth nothing. It’s that consciousness – see what I say? Know how even when you asleep your heart still beats? How that happen? Who’s doing that?  Why are you – how can my body be so intelligent? That even when I am the closest that I can be to death, every single other my organs are working?  They are doing their job.  You stupid? That can’t be a doctor or no man. There must be something divine about this. There must be something divine why the orange, has every nutrient that I need. You know what I mean?  Everything that I get that will grow, has everything that you need, you know?  I mean like, you can go get this from the pomegranate, you can go get this from the cranberry, you can go get this from the orange.  You can get this from human beings.

KM: I enjoy that, you were talking about that positivity on stage, how we're all in this together, I really like that.

Jesse RoyalYeah, mon. That’s the beauty of life and when we start realize that – different thing

KM: So you've been in the U.S – you’re heading to Japan next, are you excited?

Jesse Royal Yeah, mon Japan nice, Japan very nice place you know.  Warm.

KM: Have you ever toured in Japan?

Jesse RoyalYeah, dis the second time in Japan. Lovely, warm place as me say.  Very friendly and nice people – they love the music, you know?  Yeah so we check for them.

​​KM:  Awesome, well I appreciate it – I think we’re out of time – nice show

Jesse RoyalYeah, mon and I appreciate your time and fuh comin out and thank you for taking the time.

KM: Yeah, thank you for having us and taking the time – I know y’all are busy

Jesse RoyalYeah mon but we all in dis ting together so thank you for your time also.



You can learn more about Jesse Royal on his Facebook page or website.

About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.