Jamaican born I-Octane is a reggae artist on the verge of global success. Ever the evolving singer, I-Octane can transition from dancehall to reggae without losing the core sense of what makes his music different and entertaining. Since his debut, this man has maintained humility and perseverance that has sustained his focus throughout the years. Now, he holds a name that is in high demand across the border, living up to expectations and bringing forth nothing but high energy and high performance in everything he does.
I-Octane is preparing for the release of his album “Crying to the Nation” in October, but fans can indulge themselves with his current mixtape “Focus”, which is getting tons of positive reviews by Billboard and the New York Times. Check out his music video for “No Love Inna Dem” and read the interview below for lots more on this amazing artist:
EY: Tell us about your life growing up in Jamaica.
Well, growing up in Jamaica was a humbling experience for me. My mother didn’t have a lot of money so we had to make do with what we had. While other children were playing with toys and watching TV, my siblings and I had to find other ways to enjoy fun. Also, a lot of our time was spent helping around the house, helping out mother sell, or studying because she always stressed how important education was.
EY: I read that you were quite good in the sciences and architecture in school. So when did you realize that music was what you truly wanted to do?
I always knew that I enjoyed music and people used to tell me I was talented, but it was not until I was in high school that I really began to consider it as a career choice. It was not until someone approached me and took me to the studio that I realized that music was truly my calling.
EY: What was your family’s reaction to you going into music instead?
My family was very supportive. My mother knew that I was always singing and making a lot of noise, so when she saw me begin to take it seriously, she encouraged me to just do my best. As for my brothers and sister, they always looked up to me so they also supported me.
EY: Can you tell us the story behind your stage name?
Previously, I used to go by the name Richie Rich, but producer Donovan Germaine recommended that I change it, so my friend Bonez and I started thinking of other ones. We came across the gasoline ‘high octane’ which is known for it’s high energy and high performance. I realized that those terms really described my personality in terms of music. However, I didn’t want to use the name of the gas so I adjusted the ‘high’ to ‘I’ and became ‘I-Octane’.
EY: How did you get your start in the industry?
Officially, I got my start in the industry at Penthouse Records with Donovan Germaine. I was there for a bit where I learned and tried to hone my craft before signing with Arrows Recording. I was with them for a few years before branching out on my own and forming my own team.
EY: What made you decide to transition from Dancehall to a more cultural sound?
A lot of that decision was based on where I was mentally and what was happening with my voice. Because I was learning different ways to use my voice and the type of content that I wanted in my songs, it naturally led me to the more cultural side of things. My type of content wasn’t easily done on the traditional dancehall rhythms. However, as I’ve matured as an artist, I’ve become more versatile and now I can sing across the board. Now I can easily transition from culture to dancehall or vice versa and still maintain who I am as an artist.
EY: Describe what makes your style stand out from other artists in the reggae genre?
I suppose it has something to do with the fact that I try and look at things from different perspectives. As a result, even though the topic might be common, my perspective sheds a different light on it that people appreciate. Also, I listen to a lot of different styles of music and so I try and incorporate that when I am creating my melodies and even how I put my lyrics together.
EY: Who are some of your influences and how have they impacted your life as an artist?
So many people influence me from Marcus Garvey to King Selassie to Jesus Christ. Even people that I meet on a daily basis influence me. I believe that you can learn something from every person and I use those lessons to help me make decisions, help my outlook in life and many of those things even help shape some of my music.
EY: Your songs touch on love, injustice, friendship, family, etc. There’s always meaningful substance within your words. What inspires you to write in such an intense way?
Again just people and the experiences they have and things that I see happening every day. I feel that the Almighty gave me a gift and it would be irresponsible of me to see life occurring on all these different levels and not address it. I have been blessed with the power to put into words and melodies what people are feeling and can’t express themselves, so I just put my all into it.
EY: I’d like to congratulate you on your success so far. Your music has gained so much exposure both locally and internationally. And your mixtape “Focus” is receiving good reviews. How do you feel about your accomplishments and what keeps you focus on that hunger to continue working hard?
I feel great about the accomplishments so far. For me it is proof that hard work will pay off. The biggest thing that keeps me focused is the fact that Jah has given me a gift and I don’t want to disappoint Him. Also, knowing that I am able to give back to my family who sacrificed so much for me keeps me motivated. Focus was a project that both Dev Kutta and I worked hard on while on the road and to know that it is so well received is a great accomplishment for both of us as well.
EY: Is there an album coming soon and if so, what can fans expect?
My first album “Crying to the Nation” is due out in October. Fans can expect to hear the I-Octane that they are familiar with but with a few surprises. I’ve grown as an artiste and on the album you can really hear that growth. There are also some great collabs and just excellent music overall.
EY: You’ve performed in several places but where would you say is your favorite outside of Jamaica?
Wow, everywhere that I’ve performed has been a great experience for me but I guess a show I had in Philly stands out in my mind. The fans really connected with the music in a deep way.
EY: What do you want listeners to take from your music and where are you going next?
I want them to realize that life is precious and that they have to work to be the best person that they can me. I want them to be true to themselves and know that love is the greatest thing so they really have to love people, even their enemies. At the end of the day we all have to answer to the Almighty, so make sure you live clean. That’s why I’m “Crying to the nation”. LOL, get it? Just buy the album. Lol.
EY: We’ve come to the end of the interview. Thank you for taking the time. Please leave a message for your fans.
Put the Almighty first always and everything else will fall into place. Support the music and love each other.
Find more information on I-Octane by visiting the following links:
(Images courtesy of IOctanemusic.com)