A report by Nelson King for Caribbean Life.
Jamaican Reggae artist Dre Island has released his debut album, “Now I Rise,” collaborating with the Kingston Hills Entertainment label and the New York-based DubShot Records.
“Themes of equal rights and justice, rebellion, love, faith, change, and comfort in the face of struggle abound in the interconnected songs on the 13-track album,” said CaribbeanNationalWeekly (CNW). “Armed with life’s struggles and successes, tribulations, and victories, Dre Island’s musical journey is ready to be shared and leave its own legacy in the history of reggae music.
Despite heavily embracing the spirit of reggae and Rastafari, CNW said Dre Island, who is also a deejay, songwriter, producer and pianist, “tries to remain genre-agnostic, exploring his creativity and not allowing his art to be contained nor confined.
“Through a steady stream of hit singles, Dre Island has captured the attention of fans from around the world who are drawn to his inescapable authenticity and stone-cherished voice,” it said. “His superb musicianship and strong vocals have been shaking sound system speakers for many years now, and growing anticipation has paved the way for his debut album.”
For the past five years, CNW said Dre Island has built “an organic following amongst reggae fans and his contemporaries.”
Born Andre Johnson on May 2, 1988, Dre Island said he hails from the Red Hills Road section of Kingston, the Jamaican capital, “known to be a rougher part of town where gunshots and crime are in abundance.”
At the tender age of three, Dre Island said his father asked him what he wanted to do when he grows up, according to his biography.
He said his answer was one word “Piano!” His grandmother nurtured his interest in music, and encouraged him by bringing him to church to sing in the choir and take piano lessons.
By 12, Dre Island said he was already adopting a rebellious spirit, sneaking out of the house at night to attend local stage shows.
By the time he attended the elite Calabar High School, he said he started taking his craft more serious.
He said his artist name Dre Island came when a friend, who referred to him in that way.
Once introduced to the studio, a young Dre said he observed keenly the ins and outs of every facet of the recording process, while developing a talent for production using his classical piano training.
His professional journey working as a producer in some of Jamaica’s top recording studios led Dre to successfully complete projects and gain notoriety.
With the experience garnered as a producer, and an unwavering support from family and friends, Dre Island said he made the transition to a recording artist, releasing his first single “Reggae Love,” in 2013.
His first big performance took place around the same time at Rebel Salute, one of Jamaica’s largest music festivals, known for its focus on roots and conscious music.
Dre Island said the local buzz, fueled by live acoustic performances posted on YouTube, garnered an international fan base that demanded more from him.
But it wasn’t until several years later that Dre penned his first bonafide hit song “We Pray”, featuring Popcaan, which has over 27 million views to date on Youtube.
In 2018, he headlined Jamaica Sumfest, the island’s largest international stage show.
Dre Island said the success and notoriety of international stardom have fueled his mission to complete a full album: The result being “Now I Rise,” a comprehensive vision of his career so far.
Through a steady stream of hit singles Dre Island said he has captured the attention of fans from around the world who are drawn to his “inescapable authenticity and stone cherished voice.”
He said his superb musicianship and revolutionary vocals have been “shaking sound system speakers for many years now,” adding that “a growing anticipation” has paved the way for his debut album.
“Now I Rise” was released on May 29.