Words by Jesse Serwer/Photos by Martei Korley
It’s not often you get to relax on a boat with Bounty Killer. As dancehall’s self-professed Five-Star General told us backstage after his performance on last month’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, he prefers to avoid the sea altogether.
“This is the most unusual place I’ve ever performed,” Bounty said, coming clean about his fear of sailing. “It’s not as bad as I was thinking. You grow up watching this Titanic foolishness [and get] a stigma in your head— you’re kind of scared of ships. It’s alright, so long as I’m not looking outside and seeing the sea.”
Bounty has the distinction of being one of dancehall’s most elusive and private personalities. The deejay alternately known as the Warlord, the Poor People’s Governor and GrungGaadzilla has never been one to grant many interviews (This is a man who made “Nuh Interview” a mantra, though his tune by that name addresses police, not the media). And, in recent years, his international appearances have been rare. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, when he was signed to TVT Records and collaborating with artists such as The Fugees, Busta Rhymes and No Doubt, you could count on the Five-Star General invading the U.S. and Europe every few months. But, as Bounty explained to us, with his visa situation in the U.S. in flux, he’s stepped back from international collaborations—specifically with the hip-hop world that once embraced him so fervently—out of practicality.
“I wouldn’t want to get a big hip-hop collaboration right now and I can’t make no appearance to go and promote it, or gain no success or any leverage from it,” Bounty told us in a rec room aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship. “It’s not like I stopped doing or won’t do any more hip-hop…I don’t want to make a local Jamaican dancehall producer make hip-hop for me. I want real hip-hop people who know the dos and the dont’s, and the whole protocol. Because I don’t do fabricated, knockoff stuff.”
All of which is to say that his appearance aboard the Jamrock Cruise was a much-anticipated treat for the “farin” dancehall fans aboard the Norwegian Pearl. Bounty didn’t disappoint, tearing up the stage in cross hangry miserable style with the Ruff Kut Band. He brought out Baby Cham (for a performance of their ’99 combination “Another Level”), chatted up his one-time mentor King Jammy’s (whose live dub set immediately followed Bounty’s performance on Night 3 of the cruise) and sat down with LargeUp moments after his performance.
Read on for some illuminating quotes from our conversation, and keep it locked for more Bounty Killer on LargeUp.