Toppa Top 20: LargeUp’s Artists to Watch For 2016

Dre Island (Jamaica)

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Photo: Varun Baker

Since bursting onto the music scene a couple of years ago, Dre Island has carved a solid reputation as a formidable and gifted artist, one charged with the responsibility of mass empowerment and social narration through lyric and song. After coming to international attention in 2014 with his mixtape Rastafari Way, 2015 brought several leaps forward for the Kingston-raised singjay, as he showcased his diversity with a variety of quality tunes in different styles. There was the dancehall hit “Way Up,” the classic reggae vibes on “On Time,” a future-leaning take on the genre in “M16,” and a collaboration with U.K. crooner Tom Prior on charity track “Apple Tree” on which he also plays piano. All, however, was gearing towards the release of his upcoming album Project Now I Rise, due out in May on E5 Records. Everything seems to be falling into place for Dre, making him one of our top Artists to Watch for 2016.—Nadine White

How would you describe your sound?
Reggae, for sure! My roots is reggae. I mean, I travel all around and have fans from different cultures so it’s important that everyone feels that theirs is being respected which I always try my best to do.

Tell us a little bit about the place you come from…
I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica in a community called Common Sense located on
Red Hills Road. It’s a garrison area; I grew up hearing music and seeing different entertainers such as Daddy Lizard, Flourgon and Red Dragon, who all come from the area.

Tell us about the moment where you knew you had broken through as an artist
I don’t really know about a ‘breakthrough’ or ‘buss’ because, for me, it’s always about growth. But since I released my first mixtape Rastafari Way in 2014, everything changed.

What were your highlights in 2015?
I would have to say the UK tour with Chronixx and the Zinc Fence Redemption Band; the Somerset House [show on December 7th], in particular, was a great experience.

What should we expect to see and hear from you in 2016?
Well, I’ll be taking place later on in the year with my band – Jah Kingdom so we’re really excited about that and my first EP, Project Now I Rise ,will also be released.

What artists are you watching in 2016?

There’s an artist by the name of Versatile who I am listening to at the moment – I have his EP at the moment and think fans will love it. When I was in the U.K., I came across a London-based artist by the name of Steph London – what I witnessed her put down in the studio, I’ve never seen a woman do. She’s really good! And Tom Prior, I like his sound too. You done know, Chronixx, Popcaan and Vershon are two very talented artists. And Dexta Daps is another gifted artist I’m looking forward to seeing do great things this year. He’s a real, real songwriter too.

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