Tag Archives: Crying to the Nation

I-Octane aims for a global journey

I-Octane has over the past years voiced several hard-hitting dancehall productions. But on his new album My Journey he showcases his sometimes velvety, sometimes aggressive, singing style over both pulsating and mellow reggae beats. Reggaemani caught up with this confident singer, a workaholic that aims for the sky.

I-Octane_Press1I-Octane was born Byiome Muir in Clarendon, Jamaica, and started his musical career about five years ago. He is a singer that has managed to stay out of controversy despite being highly successful in dancehall circuits.

I reach him via Skype and initially we small talk about Tarrus Riley and I-Octane’s performance with him in Stockholm a few years back.

“It was a great opportunity touring with Tarrus Riley. He was like a big brother to us,” says I-Octane.

At the time I hadn’t heard much about I-Octane. One thing I remember from the concert though was his energetic voice and big smile.

He sits in a huge brown armchair in Tad’s Record’s office in Jamaica. And smiles. He also talks a lot and answers my questions thoroughly. That was not the case when I interviewed him two years ago as he was about to drop his debut album Crying to the Nation.

Independent artist
I-Octane is doing interviews for his second album My Journey. This effort is released via Tad’s Record and not reggae powerhouse VP.

“I never signed with VP. It was an independent album. My perspective and their perspective were different. I don’t believe in being signed to a label. I’m a free flowing artist and no one can stop me from creating songs, stop me from being a creative person. I like to record. I like to sing. I like to contribute to music,” explains I-Octane in a serious tone, and continues:

“If someone tries to stop me, I have a problem. I need to keep voicing. Be active. VP was doing the album because Robert Livingstone was the executive producer, and I was an independent artist for Robert. It was just the end product.”

More reggae, less dancehall
My Journey is more in the reggae vein compared to its predecessor. And that was the general idea.

“My career has mostly been about dancehall, so I decided that in 2014 I want to do straight reggae. Straight drum and bass songs. And I feel like I’m doing something substantial. I’m contributing to reggae and I have grown between the two albums,” he says, and continues:

“The album is more of me, more I-Octane. From my perspective it has a more worldwide appeal. When I was voicing it I was thinking about the world, not just Jamaica. I pronounce clearer now and it’s more English, more like an album that can cross a lot of borders. It’s a worldwide thing.”

But it’s not just I-Octane singing. It’s also the music and the riddims created by his long-time friend and hit-maker Andre “DJ Frass” Gordon. Together they have created a set jam-packed with memorable hooks and catchy choruses.

“It’s about how the songs are constructed, the riddims and the mood. The mood is different this time. It’s more current. I’m also a more mature vocalist,” he says.

Going global with confidence
The album title explains where I-Octane is coming from and all the obstacles and challenges that he has managed to overcome.

“Experiences have been harsh, but it’s great. I just put it in writing. I have learned a lot and I appreciate life more. I appreciate people more.”

I-Octane says that one of his goals is to go global and to reach a much wider audience. To be heard motivates him and makes him a better artist, he believes.

I-Octane_Press2

And there’s nothing wrong with his confidence. He gives thanks to the Lord for his musical gift and refers to himself as a super talent.

“Music is not hard for me. I just go to the studio and I never write. I hear a beat, I take up a paper and a pen and I record. I voice a lot of songs. I voice 20 and make 5. It’s not about the volume, it’s about substance”, he explains, and continues:

“It’s hard to market the brand properly. And that’s my aim now. Get in to major festivals and major concerts. The world needs to see what I’m capable of doing”.

The next generation
My Journey is a melodic and consistent set. It has an overall pop feeling to it and the upbeat dancehall cuts are few. The man responsible for this is DJ Frass.

“Frass is my brethren and he has produced a lot of hit songs. He’s comfortable to work with and he’s also a workaholic. We help each other,” he says, and continues:

“Frass produced the album, but we got all these great musicians in Jamaica to work on the album. All the great players played them.”

I-Octane’s youthful and energetic style is popular, especially in Jamaica. Over the years he has been nominated and won several music prizes in both Jamaica and abroad. The most recent ones are two top prizes and Jamaica’s Youth View Awards, where he was awarded Favourite Local Music Video and Favourite Music Collaboration.

“I was nominated in ten categories, but it’s not about being the winner. I was a winner in ten different categories,” he says and concludes:

“It’s great in terms of marketing. Kids are the next generation. It makes me a better person. I want to work harder and contribute more. You can be five, six or seven years old. Music is always music.”

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I-Octane’s hit-filled journey

i_octane_my_journeyI-Octane has been on the music scene for about five years. He has been prolific in the singles market, but has been less productive when it comes to albums. My Journey is his second album and follows Crying to the Nation released in early 2012.

While his debut set was overseen by a variety of producers, the catchy My Journey is directed by I-Octane’s long-time friend and hit-maker DJ Frass. Together they have created a contemporary Jamaican pop album, of course highly influenced by both reggae and dancehall. Mainly reggae actually.

The culture and lovers themed My Journey is an entertaining and lively album filled with lots of energy, beautiful hooks and memorable melodies. And the youthful I-Octane is a varied and passionate singer that can be both velvety and aggressive in the same verse. Closing track Burn It is an excellent example of this – at times smooth as a silk, but suddenly shifting to a more rugged approach.

Definitely a solid album, and particularly enjoyable are album opener Time Will Tell, the warm and easy Stepping in the Name of Love and Babylon, a track where rock guitars make an appearance. Not always welcome, but this time it works quite well.

I-Octane has already proven himself being a fresh and talented singer, and with this second album he keeps the reggae flame burning bright.

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A cohesive reggae and dancehall debut by I-Octane

One of the most hyped albums in the last six months has just reached the record stores. I’m talking about I-Octane and his debut full-length set Crying to the Nation where he has partnered with Shaggy’s former manager Robert Livingston of Scikron productions.

I-Octane has been in the music business for about five years and has dropped several popular tunes in Jamaica and abroad over the last two years. Three of these are included on the new set – Lose a Friend, Nuh Love inna Dem and Puff It. Most of the other songs are actually new.

During the years I’ve followed I-Octane he has managed to voice both roots riddims as well as up-tempo dancehall scorchers. Crying to the Nation follows the same path.

But this album is more than just 16 dancehall and one drop tunes. I-Octane has successfully incorporated a certain dancehall edge to most of the tunes, both lyrically and musically. It might be his energetic and rough vocal style, clever song writing or focused production.

Ballads such as The Master’s Plan and the modern classic Lose a Friend will most certainly have a lighter or two in the air when performed live.

The faster paced System A Beat Them, with its tight drum and bass groove, and the sing-a-long friendly Tarrus Riley combination All We Need is Love, are among the highlights.

Crying to the Nation is a surprisingly cohesive debut and showcases an interesting and versatile talent with the ability to reach a wide audience.

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I-Octane is the fuse between reggae and dancehall

Jamaican singjay I-Octane has put out a veritable hit cavalcade for the last two years. Now he has signed with reggae giant VP Records and his debut album Crying to the Nation is scheduled for release in February. Reggaemani got a chat with him about his upcoming album.

The reggae industry is still largely based on singles rather than albums, and I-Octane is a proof that you don’t need an album to score huge success around the globe. Singles such as Nuh Ramp Wid We, False Pretenders, Puff It, Lose a Friend and Mama You Alone have made I-Octane a household name in both reggae and dancehall circuits.

Considered becoming an architect
Byiome Muir, better known as I-Octane, grew up in Sandy Bay in the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica. Just like many other Jamaican artists his passion for music started at an early age and he often sang at home or in school, where he could be found beating out a rhythm on the school desk. No schoolyard clash or concert was complete without an appearance from the aspiring singjay.

“It was an energetic thing,” says I-Octane on the phone from Jamaica.

Even though a career in music was an appealing choice for I-Octane, he didn’t neglect his studies and waited to venture into singing full-time.

“Mama said education comes first,” he explains on the poor and crackling phone line.

Initially he considered becoming an architect, partly because he had an affinity for sciences, but had no money to finish a degree.

“Instead of sitting at home and be a non-progressive element, I got into music,” he says, and adds that he might get into architecture later on to have something to do outside the music business.

Working with Donovan Germain
I-Octane started performing under the name of Richie Rich, and just like Buju Banton he started singing hardcore dancehall lyrics, but later switched to a more cultural approach.

“I grew with the music and I grew as an artist and found out the best side of me,” he explains, and adds:

“It’s my own flavor.”

I-Octane was picked up early by veteran producer Donovan Germain, and while working with the Penthouse label he decided to change his name to something more representative.

He chose his name because of the high energy level in high octane gas, and personalized it by substituting the “high” for “I”. And a star was born.

After three years he left Penthouse and signed with Arrows Recording, a label for which he had his first hit single – Stab Vampire. The single served as a catalyst for his career, and he was suddenly approached by several notable and established producers, something that broadened his repertoire.

“It’s very important to work with established producers. They pave the way,” he explains, and lines up a veritable who’s who in the contemporary Jamaican music scene for whom he has worked with:

Don Corleon, Jukeboxx, Cashflow, Russian and Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor.”

Signing with VP
Today I-Octane is independent. He has started his own label, moderately named Conquer the Globe Productions.

But he has also signed a joint venture deal with VP and Scikron. The latter is a label owned and operated by Robert Livingston, a name that might not ring a bell for the broader public, but he is the man behind multi-platinum artist Shaggy and hits such as Oh Carolina, It Wasn’t Me and Boombastic. He has also worked with artists such as Super Cat and Tiger.

Blends reggae and dancehall
On Crying to the Nation I-Octane smoothly blends roots reggae with dancehall energy. And this is where he wants to be.

“I’m a fuse between reggae and dancehall. I’m a new version of reggae and dancehall in one,” he says, and describes the album’s theme:

“It’s about what’s happening in the streets and what’s going on in the world. It’s about keeping the Almighty close, keeping Jah close.”

“The music speaks for itself”
I-Octane has become known for his haunting crackling voice, frank lyrics with cultural topics and simple sing-a-long hooks. On Crying to the Nation he is set to continue in the same vein, which is communicated in the title.

“It’s a global topic, and a global title. It’s not only Jamaican. People across the globe can relate to it and feel the struggle. Crying to the Nation is the whole entire globe – America, Japan, Canada,” he says, and praises the musicians he has worked with:

“It’s a great album, and you can hear each and every person in there. You can hear the time and effort they put in. It’s one of the best albums I know of in this age, and the music speaks for itself. Any individual that comes in contact with it will like one song. It’s a great work, and I have great expectations on it.”

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