Watch Kabaka Pyramid's Politically Charged Video for Damian Marley-Produced 'Well Done': Exclusive Premiere
The unintentional gap between the February release of Rastafarian sing-jay Kabaka Pyramid’s hit single “Well Done” (Ghetto Youths/Bebble Rock Music) and the mid-August completion of the song’s video is largely due to the Jamaican artist’s steadily ascending career.
Over the past six months Kabaka, 30, performed four shows at SXSW, completed his 24-date "Young Lions" U.S. tour with his band The Bebble Rockers, (co-headlined by fellow sing-jay Iba Mahr) in July, then returned home to deliver a critically acclaimed debut set at Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica’s largest reggae festival. He’s also done spot dates in Canada, Costa Rica, and the Northwestern U.S., all of which has expanded the audience for “Well Done” (produced by Damian “Junior Gong” Marley), a scathing commentary on the decisions made by Jamaica’s politicians at the expense of the island’s citizens. Watch the video for "Well Done," which Billboard is premiering exclusively below.
“It’s been a bit frustrating but good things take time,” Kabaka, born Keron Salmon, told Billboard on the phone from Bebble Rock Music Studios in Kingston (Kabaka co-owns Bebble Rock Music with his managers Duane McDonald and Abishai Hoilett). “I was busy with my tour and we had to coordinate with the hectic schedules of Damian Marley and Ghetto Youths, who made the initial investment in the video. Once we had the funding it took time to line up the people we wanted in the video. Director Benjamin Lidsky shot it in May and came up with the brave concept; then we brought in Ikem Smith for the editing/special effects and it took time to get the right edit to enhance the song’s concept.”
The “Well Done” visuals are as impactful as Kabaka’s lyrical complexities, unfolding as the hidden pages of a book, the murky counterpart to the typically pastel-tinted sun and sand portrayal of the island. Jamaican farmers, lawyers, teachers and media personalities appear in the video sarcastically applauding their government’s success in "selling out the country with their business plan." That plan, as cited by Kabaka, includes dubious deals with the Chinese government and the International Monetary Fund.
"It really wasn't any one thing that inspired 'Well Done'; watching the nightly news, you get material for many songs, but with the government considering selling the Goat Islands (two small islands located approximately one mile off Jamaica’s south coast) to the Chinese (for a proposed transshipment port) and the Jamaican dollar’s exchange rate now at JA$115 to US$1, I had to ask what is going on?” explains Kabaka, whose first name is a Ugandan designation for king, while Pyramid, he says, signifies an ancient African representation of New Age thinking.
The video also features numerous reggae artists contributing derisive thumbs-ups to the authorities' actions; among them are dancehall’s Poor People’s Governor Bounty Killer, veteran sing-jay Tony Rebel and several of Kabaka’s contemporaries, the current incarnation of Rastafarian-imbued reggae, including Bugle, Dre Island, Iba Mahr, Kelissa, and the movement’s marquee act, Chronixx.
Some of Kabaka’s other consciousness-raising reggae hits include “Free From Chains,” urging a good read over burning weed, and “Never Gonna Be a Slave”, a defiant resistance of exploitation, nominated as song of the year (2014) by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. “Well Done”, his biggest single to date, is a likely contender for a 2015 nomination.
Despite his expanding popularity, which includes nearly 744,000 new followers on SoundCloud, Kabaka says his music would have an even broader appeal if his sentiments were less provocative. “My messages have a militant Peter Tosh kind of vibe and not everybody wants to align with that; I can see people in boardrooms saying, 'Yeah, his music is getting out there but someone with easy listening lyrics would be more marketable.' But I want to go deeper; regardless of how fast or slow my career is progressing, I know there is a purpose to what I am doing.”