Right now, Caribbean music, and the myriad sounds and genres the islands have influenced over the decades, is expanding its influence across the globe in ways we've never seen before. Here in London City, Caribbean music and Notting Hill Carnival has always dominated summer, and that appears to increasingly be the case all over the world. In the States, there aren't many who've done as much for Caribbean music as Major Lazer. Ever since their first album, 2009's Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do, they've been blending dancehall, soca, calypso and reggae with grime, hip-hop and house music.
As things reach fever pitch, Major Lazer have teamed up with BACARDÍ for a series of projects centred around their famed rum. For starters, they recorded a track — which will be announced very soon — and Jillionaire has been named Minister of Rum (more on that later). This is all being supported with a load of parties, festival dates and pop-ups across Europe and North America (check out our round-up of the Miami party).
As summer begins and the project gathers pace, we caught up with Jillionaire for a quick chat about the BACARDÍ collabs, as well as trying to tease out some info on their latest collabs and the new album, Music Is The Weapon.
First things first, you're the Minister of Rum for BACARDÍ. What is that? What does it involve?
It's going to involve a lot of education and awareness. It'll form part of a larger campaign as well. It's about getting people excited about rum again as a summer drink and something that's fun and easy to get into. I feel like for a long time we've had a lot of common misconceptions about rum. We really just want to work to dispense with those misconceptions and let people know it's summer time and rum is a summer drink.
You're releasing a new track as part of this project. What sort of sound have you guys gone for?
Well it's a cross-platform collaboration, so we're going to be doing a lot of stuff with the product launch, we're doing events, and then we're doing on-site activations at events as well. Then obviously there's going to be a big online component, a big social component. As part of that we have done a song with two Caribbean artists — Konshuns from Jamaica and Machel Montano from Trinidad — and the song is the anthem, the Sound of Rum. We're going to use that to kick off the campaign online and we're going to have a big Spotify campaign that will support that. One of the major things about building this thing on Spotify is to highlight young, up-and-coming artists and talents from the Caribbean that we've been taking a look at. We're gonna be attacking it from all angles. The song that we've done is going to be a big part of it. We'll hopefully be announcing that very soon.
What exactly is the 'Sound Of Rum'?
The Sound of Rum, we identify it as regional influences from across the globe. So, Caribbean influences of reggae and dancehall, soca, calypso, and then Indian influences, Chinese influences, hip-hop, UK grime music, that sort of thing. Anything that is on the cusp. Anything that's been bubbling up for a while but is just starting to get into the mainstream is what we consider to be a part of the whole Sound of Rum. The track that we've come up with embodies that.
I hear you've been working with Swizz Beatz as well.
Yeah, Swizz is also a BACARDÍ ambassador and he's a personal friend of mine as well. I did a studio session with him two weeks ago. We don't have an official Major Lazer collaboration, though. We've been talking about it with him so maybe the next musical project will be something like that, but it's been really fun working with Swizz and getting his perspective as somebody who's been in the industry for a long time.
Major Lazer are known for their summer raves and parties. Besides this BACARDÍ project, what have you got lined up for the summer in terms of festivals?
We're doing Glastonbury, we're doing Reading and Leeds, we're doing Notting Hill Carnival. We're doing a handful of other big ones across Europe that I can't think of off hand. But in terms of UK festivals, those are the big ones. We're really excited to come over there. We just have a fairly busy summer. We'll be focusing on big festival shows and also this project with BACARDÍ and all the launch parties and activations across Europe as well. We'll do some live events, we'll do some small parties, some pop-ups. We're talking about doing some after parties for some of the festivals that we're headlining. Stuff like that.
Are there any surprises you've got in store for the festivals?
If I tell you then it's not a surprise [laughs].
Has Major Lazer been working on any new music we should know about?
We have an EP that we're finalising. We're hoping to have it with you guys before the end of the summer. We're working on a new album as well, so we should have some new music with you in the next few months.
Any collaborations you can tell us about?
Top secret, bro. If I tell you, then... you know [laughs].
Ok, let's talk hypothetically, is there anyone in the UK you've got your eye on for a collab?
Yeah, personally, I just did a collaboration with Anne-Marie and some original stuff for her as well. We've done stuff with Dua Lipa. Our last single with Wale, we did with Dua Lipa and we'd love to do something else with her. We'd also love to work with upcoming talent, unknown talent. We worked with MØ on a few tracks. We're just trying to work with as many people as possible.