Jamaica's youngest star has ambitions way beyond a viral one hit wonder – you can stream his latest track here
The voice that crackles through the Skype connection is reserved, meek and has all the politeness of a boy with his hand up in the classroom, answering every one of my questions with a quick “Yes, miss.” It’s the kind of manner you’d expect from a 12 year old class pupil; not so much from a breakthrough dancehall artist who can effortlessly command crowds of thousands. But the boy I’m speaking to, Kingston’s Wayne J, is both.
Jamaica’s youngest break-out star has been making music, or at the very least been around it, since the age of two. His dad Wayne Sr, a DJ and singer, would bring him along to the studio, he tells me, “because me want to sing and DJ like him.” When Wayne was barely 10 years old, they wrote his first song together, the hard-hitting “Stay Ina School.” After winning a local talent competition, the younger Wayne released his first major smash “Slacky Mouth” online (watch it below); its viral spread brought him attention from all over the world.
“When I’m walking the streets, everybody says: ‘Wayne J, Wayne J!’” the dancehall prodigy tells me, his voice as chill as it is on record, though with the hint of a humble giggle. A star in his hometown, Wayne has performed live at some of Jamaica’s biggest festivals; he picks out his favourite as 2014’s Rebel Salute, where he shared a stage with reggae star Queen Ifrica. Watching the video of his performance on Youtube, he moves like a man twice his own age; his delivery deadpan, his stride long, his forearms held high with total authority despite the fact that they’re the same size as the mic he’s clutching.
Following on from the success of “Slacky Mouth,” where the 12-year-old faced off against a parody of shock-mongering bashment star Alkaline while decrying him for his “slack” – i.e., sex-centric – lyrical content (“dem mouth want jails and Listerine”), Wayne’s latest missive “Any Day Now” is in the same vein. Over the phone, he declares his love for Bob Marley, as well as contemporary roots reggae artists like Chronixx and Proteje. Wayne is pretty clear-cut on what the aim of his music is: he wants to be a role model to younger kids, making dancehall tracks about “positive stuff. Like, staying in school. No underage smoking and drinking.”
If the music thing doesn’t pan out, Wayne says he’d like to be either a movie star or a pilot; but for now, he’s got his sights set on making the “One Love” of his generation. Hence, “Any Day Now,” a stupidly catchy joint envisioning an era of dancehall without “gunplay.” Stream it below; you’ve probably never heard rhymes about Ben 10 and Scooby Doo over bass like this.