Words by LargeUp Crew
Photos by Colin Williams
Much has happened for Protoje in the two years since his last album. He’s changed producers, partnering with Damian Marley keyboardist (and Rootsman riddim creator) Winta James after two projects and numerous years in-house with his cousin, Donovan “Don Corleon” Bennett. And the “reggae revival” movement he played a major role in spearheading has gone from a local Jamaican phenomenon to the clear-cut center of the reggae world. “Who Knows,” the first single from his third album, Ancient Future, was arguably last year’s most important reggae anthem, a massive collaboration with Chronixx that confirmed what was already becoming evident: the new kids on the block are now the big men running tings.
Where a new album in the past meant a modest-sized show in Kingston, Protoje arrived in New York City last week to launch Ancient Future with a full promo run— listening session at Meridian 23, a meet-and-greet at Miss Lily’s, a full slate of press. (This after a Kingston launch event, at the Jamaica Pegasus–see photos from that event here). All this leading up to the main event: Protoje’s first performance in NYC with his band, Indiggnation. Demand was high: A bright spot in an otherwise frigid month of March, the show, at the famed SOBs, sold out. Guests on hand included soca superstar Machel Montano, as well as a crew of former students from Protoje’s alma mater St. Munro College, who received a warm shoutout during the show from their former classmate.
The Rice and Peas DJs—Max Glazer, DJ Gravy, Orijahnal Vibez and Micro Don—warmed things up first, and Indiggnation took the crowd on an instrumental journey into Ancient Future, ahead of Protoje’s emergence. Opening with an extended, freestyle-laced version of “I&I,” (off 2013’s Eight Year Affair) and “Who Dem a Program,” Protoje then dove into material off the new album included “Bubblin,” “Who Knows,” “Stylin.” The biggest forward of the night might have come for “Rasta Love” (the 2011 Ky-mani Marley collaboration that’s still his biggest hit) but the night was all about entering the Ancient Future–right down to the vocoder sounds on “Stylin.”
Check Colin Williams’ photos below to relive the vibe, or see what you missed.