Linking With Kartel
As a youth in Portmore, Popcaan used to hear the music of Adidja Palmer, then known as Adi Banton, who hailed from the nearby housing scheme of Waterford. Adi eventually took on the name Vybz Kartel (a.k.a. Di Teacha a.k.a. Di Werlboss) and his scheme came to be known as Gaza.
“Vybz Kartel was our idol growing up throughout school days,” Popcaan explains. “He has always been our artist. Even before Vybz Kartel get so big in Jamaica and the world, the whole Portmore know him and rate him. So that is the link between Vybz Kartel and we.”
Vybz Kartel was our idol growing up throughout school days. Even before Vybz Kartel get so big in Jamaica and the world, the whole Portmore know him and rate him.
As Popcaan details in his song “Dream,” he had to overcome a lot of naysayers as he pursued his musical ambitions. His life was once “bitter like vinegar” and people used to tell him he wouldn’t live to see the age of 17. But everything turned around when—at the age of 17—Popcaan was flexing at a local party and caught Kartel’s eye.
“Instantly me rise start swell/From me go link up Vybz Kartel/Him carry me go Sting last year and him carry me Sumfest as well/Anytime me a roll in the streets de music ah ring like bell/Me mother bills alright and me daughter can tell.”
Like Biggie said in “Juicy,” for Popcaan “it was all a dream.” Ever since Kartel recruited the aspiring artist to his Portmore Empire—becoming not just a producer and a mentor, but even at times a father figure—Popcaan’s dreams have become a reality. “Ya dun know, Addi ah me daddy,” Popcaan says.
Besides showing him the ropes of the music game, Kartel brought him onstage at major shows like Sting and Reggae Sumfest. In 2009 he voiced his first big songs like the x-rated “Wine” on the Gal Farm riddim and the thug’s anthem “My War,” making it clear he would be an artist to watch.
As other artists moved away from the Gaza camp, Papi proved his dedication time and again, solidifying his position as Kartel’s right hand man. “It’s a family thing,” he explains. “Me nah too like the friend thing, cause friends will sell you out. Big up Vybz Kartel. Loyalty over royalty.”