From Italy to Jamaica and all around the world at various festivals, Alborosie has established himself as the anti-hero and accidental superstar of the international reggae scene. The release of his latest album, “Destiny,” is a testament to his status as one of reggae’s most prolific creators. The album, which Alborosie composed, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered himself, delves into controversial themes that many artists avoid, including social media, the true essence of reggae, and the compromise of artistic integrity. In an interview with High Times, the GRAMMY-nominated artist discusses “Destiny,” cannabis, and everything in between.
The Art of Not Giving a Care
Alborosie has successfully bridged the gap between traditional Jamaican reggae and the modern Americanized version of the genre, all while staying true to his roots and personal philosophy of going against the grain. It’s a bold move in an industry where popularity and views often dictate success, but Alborosie refuses to conform to those standards.
“We live in a time where social media reigns supreme. It’s a time when appearance matters more than substance, and I just don’t fit into that. I don’t like to constantly post or showcase myself like that. It’s challenging for someone like me to fit into social media culture, including Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. I don’t want to be pressured by views, likes, or followers. There’s just too much pressure, and I say, ‘You know what? Forget about it.'”
His lead single “Viral” embodies this sentiment, criticizing the superficiality and image-driven nature of current culture. Becoming an internationally recognized artist was never Alborosie’s main goal. When he moved to Jamaica in 1999, he sought spiritual growth after experiencing marijuana and the principles of Rastafari in Italy while touring with his first band, Reggae National Tickets. It was during his time in Jamaica that his love for cannabis deepened, and he truly understood the meaning of “one love, one heart, one destiny.”
He explains, “I didn’t move to Jamaica with the intention of becoming an artist. In fact, when I arrived in Jamaica, I didn’t want to pursue music anymore. I was done with it. I said to myself, ‘I’m moving to Jamaica to find spiritual enlightenment, to find my place on this Earth, to find where I truly belong.’ I never aspired to be a major figure in the music world. I just wanted to follow my own path, my own destiny.”
The Spiritual Connection to Marijuana
The divine calling that led Alborosie to Jamaica also deepened his relationship with God, music, and cannabis. Nevertheless, there’s one thing you should know about Alborosie: don’t ask him to share his weed.
“I consider myself a ganja politician because my songs often revolve around the promotion of marijuana, particularly its spiritual aspects. However, I don’t like sharing. I am against the idea of sharing marijuana. Smoking weed is a personal experience for me. I take a few puffs, leave it there, and then create music. Maybe have a little orange juice, take a couple more puffs, and that’s it. Simple and enjoyable.”
He is equally particular about the source of his cannabis. It’s not a personal offense, he assures.
“I like to consume what I know. That’s my rule. I need to feel your energy. I need to know you in order to smoke your ganja. I need to know you in order to eat your food. I need to know your background, your spirit, and how you’re connected.”
“I’m a bit cautious about American weed,” he jokes, “In Jamaica, I know where it comes from. I have a friend named Little John who provides me with weed from his backyard, and I appreciate that kind of vibe… I don’t even know which strain it is; he just hands me a package, and I smoke it.”
Recording for the Future, Writing for the Present
For the past twenty years, Alborosie has built a peaceful and content life in Jamaica. His weed supplier is just down the block, and his studio is conveniently located in his home. So when COVID-19 hit, his approach to weathering the storm was surprisingly similar to that of ordinary people: he stayed home and recorded music.
Although his album prior to “Destiny,” called “For The Culture,” was partially recorded during quarantine, Alborosie doesn’t adhere to strict timelines or record songs in chronological order simply because he doesn’t have to. He even has song fragments for his next album stored away for later use and records melodies or jots down ideas as inspiration strikes.
“Since the studio is in my house, recording feels natural to me. I start on the computer, play the guitar, drums, bass, and write the lyrics. My approach to recording is different compared to other artists because I’m a recording engineer, mixing engineer, and mastering engineer. Essentially, I can do everything on my own.
“For me, it’s not like planning to record an album. I just record every night. Then, when it’s time to deliver the album, I go to the ‘song refrigerator,’ choose the ingredients, put them together, and voila! A finished record.”
However, while Alborosie’s recording process is flexible, his lyrics reflect the present moment.
“How can I write for today when my album is releasing a year from now? Musically, we have the freedom to do whatever we want, but when it comes to lyrics, we need to reflect the current times we’re living in… We must be relevant to the present, not yesterday or tomorrow.”
Deliberate, conscious, and always addressing real-world issues, Alborosie’s lyrics often tackle current events and social injustices. He stays true to the essence of roots reggae and paints a picture of reality, even if it’s not always pleasant. While he shares the stage with many American reggae artists and frequently performs in the same cities as them, he believes that the lack of substance in their lyrics disqualifies them from being labeled as “reggae.”
“Personally, ‘Cali Reggae’ isn’t really reggae to me. My idea of reggae comes from Jamaica, encompassing the rub-a-dub rawness, one-drop beats, and the Rasta cultural movement. When I think of reggae, I envision Rasta. This isn’t a rule or a law; it’s just my belief. As a reggae artist and a Rasta in Jamaica, there is only this type of reggae for me because of its roots, culture, and foundation.”
He continues, “Everything else is merely a fusion of genres, which is what the Californian version of reggae represents. Musically, it adheres to the same principles as reggae, but it’s not reggae. I respect everyone’s creative expression, and individuals are entitled to do what they want, but I stay true to being a Rasta artist, rooted in revolution, and representing Kingston reggae.”
1. What is Alborosie’s latest album?
Alborosie’s latest album is titled “Destiny.” He composed, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered the album himself.
2. What themes does “Destiny” explore?
“Destiny” delves into themes such as the impact of social media, the essence of true reggae music, and the compromises artists make for commercial success.
3. What is Alborosie’s perspective on social media?
Alborosie believes that social media places too much importance on appearances rather than substance. He resists conforming to the pressures of social media culture.
4. How did Alborosie’s move to Jamaica influence his music career?
Alborosie’s move to Jamaica was primarily driven by a spiritual desire to find himself. He didn’t intend to pursue music but found a profound connection to cannabis and the principles of Rastafari, ultimately shaping his music career.
5. How does Alborosie approach recording music?
With a studio in his home, recording feels natural to Alborosie. He plays various instruments, writes lyrics, and handles the recording, mixing, and mastering process himself. He records whenever inspiration strikes, without adhering to strict timelines.
6. What distinguishes Alborosie’s reggae from other artists’ music?
To Alborosie, authentic reggae is rooted in Jamaica, encompassing the rawness of rub-a-dub and the cultural movement of Rastafari. He believes that reggae from other regions, particularly “Cali Reggae,” blends genres and lacks the essential elements that define reggae for him.