more than a decade of achievement behind him, young deejay Capleton continues to blaze to
success with fire and passion. The longevity and consistency of Capletons music,
with its powerful lyrics and inimitable delivery, has made him undefeatable as
dancehalls ruling voice into the new century.
Born in 1967 in the rural parish of
St. Mary (real name Clifton Bailey), Capleton surprised local residents with reasoning
abilities that far surpassed his years. With a love of sound system culture, he craved the
challenges of the city and moved to Kingston when he turned 18.
As an unknown, singing with various smaller sound systems, he pursued Stewart Brown of
the Toronto-based African Star sound, and was duly rewarded. In 1987, after only a few
performances with African Star in Jamaica, he was whisked overseas to Canada, where he
performed with the top deejay at the time, Ninjaman, among others. Capletons nimble
chatting and hardcore vocal style, coupled with his explosive stage presence left
audiences screaming for more, and his career was away.
In keeping with the times, Capletons early hits were bombastic tirades,
characterized by "slackness" and rude bwoy philosophy. His first big song
"Bumbo Red," produced by "Faddis" Burrell, was banned from radio play
for suggestive lyrics, but became a huge underground hit. The series of dancehall
successes that followed included the singles "Lotion Man" and "Number One
on the Look-Good Chart."
Somewhere between the end of the eighties and the release of "Alms House" in
1992, Capleton came into his spirituality, and this album, with its solid title track,
came to represent a new movement, championed by Capleton, which discouraged clashes and
petty rivalries in the dancehall community. In singing: "United we stand and divided
we fall," he called his colleagues to attention.
Capletons trek toward Prophethood led him through a life-changing conversion to
Rastafari, which has grown and borne fruits throughout all of his subsequent musical
manifestations. "Good So," (1994) with its conscious lyrics and murderous
riddims and "Prophesy," dropped in 1995, established him as a major new
conscious voice in Reggae. The latter began expanding his appeal to new audiences, mixing
his dancehall sound with the grit of hip-hop. This trend continued on "I
Testament,"(distributed by Def Jam) and "One Mission." Slick R&B
production techniques and collaborations with artists like Method Man, coupled with
Capletons irrepressible righteousness and wicked lyrical themes were able to
penetrate the US hip-hop market. A remix of the song "Wings of the Morning,"
made the Billboard charts.
Needing to return to his raw dancehall roots, Capleton slammed back with
"Gold" and soon thereafter "More Fire." Trading polished production
for classic bass lines, Capleton raised the temperature, and earned himself a new name --
the Fire Man. He also began to be known as King Shango (the Yoruba god of Fire). "Is
not really a physical fire," Capleton explains, "Is really a spiritual fire, and
a wordical fire, and a musical fire. You see the fire is all about a livity. But is people
get it on the wrong term. People get confused. So when a man say more fire him
think that mean say you fi go light the cane field or go light the church." His fire
is a righteous one, a catalyst for change and true revolution. "More Fire"
included hits like "Jah Jah City," a collaboration with Morgan Heritage and
"Boost No War." Capletons most recent full length album "Still
Blazin" is a masterpiece, a gamut of clear-cut to complex riddims, live
instrumentation (including kettle drums and Nyahbinghi chants), superior songwriting and
haunting melodies. It is hailed by critics as his best album to date.
Capleton keeps with strict Bobo Rastafarian beliefs and bearing. His prophetic aura was
forever cast in stone when, in a Jamaican performance he began improvising, chatting about
the world situation, doing a song he called "Big Bombs fi Drop inna Manhattan"
and then one about "Bin Laden," not insignificantly predicting the destruction
of the Pentagon. That was the 26th of August, 2001, two weeks before 9/11.
Capleton is an artist that steps easily between the bashment and conscious crowds, his
overpowering energy taking no prisoners. The hottest deejay in dancehall continues to
blaze his own path toward the upliftment of his people.
- Mara Weiss