Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview: Jah Sun

I had the pleasure of sitting down last week and catching up with California-based reggae artist, Jah Sun. Originally born Jason McCommas, Jah Sun grew up in Austin, Texas, where he was raised by his teen mother, never really having a true father figure for the first ten years of his life. Childhood was rough for Jason; it was quite the poor upbringing he says. It was at the age of ten that Jah Sun recalls his love and appreciation for music first set sail – when his mother married a black American by the name of Jack Bailey. Bailey was an Emcee and B-Boy in the Austin area during this time. It was he who Jah Sun says inspired him, and introduced him to music, through the black-American culture. “I was exposed to a lot of Soul, Gospel, Jazz and Hip-Hop through him. We had a big black-American family, a lot of aunties and cousins and such. I was exposed to a lot of dancing, expression and music this way.”
Jah Sun began his music career following in the footsteps of his stepfather, as a Hip-Hop Emcee, establishing a name for himself in the local Austin Hip-Hop scene. This was in the early ‘90s, a time when he was winning a lot of freestyle battles, which in turn opened up a lot of opportunity for him to perform with all the big Hip-Hop acts that came through the area during this time. It’s important to note here, however, that up until this time, Jah Sun wasn’t into reggae music at all. He didn’t even know who Bob Marley was – had never even heard the name before! It wasn’t until he was 22/23 years old, as he was passing a record store one afternoon, that Jah Sun heard his first taste of Bob and reggae music. He recalls passing the store as a Bob Marley video was playing. The unique sound caught his attention (and perhaps the ganja leaves dancing across the screen as well, he admits) and enticed him to enter the record shop. Within no time, Jah Sun was leaving the store with the Bob Marley video purchased and in his hand.
At this stage in his life Jason admits he was a wild youngster, out of touch with himself and with his environment, and surrounded by a lot of negativity. The decision to purchase that Bob Marley tape, though, changed the course of his life forever. The second he got home from the record shop, he popped his new tape into the VHS player. It was “instant captivation,” he says. The music, Bob’s persona, the message behind the music, etc., it was a watershed moment in his life. It was instant ideological transformation. From that moment on, he began growing his dreads and eating healthier, he started to study and learn about Africa, His majesty, The Livity and Rasta culture.  It was at this point in his career that his musical endeavors and love transcended from Hip-Hop to Reggae.

“It was at this point that I started hanging out in the more broad musical scene in Austin, learning about different styles and kinds of music, different instruments and sounds,” etc. Shortly after this revelation, Jah Sun decided he needed to leave Austin and go see different parts of the country, and different parts of the world, to find himself and his sound.
In 2006, Jah Sun released his debut album, “Height of Light,” which for him was a blessing and a healing, he describes. This album was not only a defining moment in his career –acting as an introduction into the reggae world – but it was a defining moment for him as a man, a father and an artist as well, he says. Height of Light for Jah Sun, signified a letting go for him – a new day – of overcoming and finding peace, acceptance and understanding in his upbringing, and of all the trials and tribulations he endured to get to where he is today. For Jah Sun, this album symbolized him stepping into power, stepping into his light and reaching new heights – a sort of rebirth into a world of spirituality, understanding, righteousness and love.
Fast-forward to 2012, and Jah Sun is back at it again, with a remarkable new album, “Battle the Dragon,” released only a few weeks ago. This 15-track collection consists entirely (with the exception of one song) of solid, culture and modern roots production, with great, conscious lyrics. Battle the Dragon has a handful of very notable collaborations as well. Artists like Peetah Morgan, Gentleman, Alborosie, J Boog, Perfect and Stevie Culture help to strengthen the album. “To work along side these great, great artists was a blessing,” says Jah Sun. The album was two years in the making, during which time he carefully planned out and selected artists to collaborate with. “Working with artists like Gentleman [and Peetah] is a dream come true,” he eagerly admits. “Gentleman is a huge inspiration. I’m a huge fan and have so much respect for [these guys].”It’s not often a full-length reggae album comes out with quality music and lyrics the whole way through as Jah Sun’s Battle the Dragon does. “I went really hard in the paint for this one,” he says. “That’s probably why it came out as good as it did.”

It takes no time at all to recognize that Jah Sun is a very spiritual and upfull man, with a lot of love and light to share in his music. In an industry that unfortunately has seen a lot of artists in recent years take such a positive genre and use it to bring bad vibes and negativity, it’s encouraging to see what Jah Sun is bringing to reggae music. In the hour we sat down and reasoned together, I got the chance to ask him to explain in his own words what his mission was, what message and understanding he wanted his audience to take home. This is what he had to say:
We’re all beautiful divine souls, divine children of the Most High, with great potential. Because of the lack of love, because of the way things are on earth, a lot of us get disconnected from that. We go through life beating up ourselves, not loving ourselves. It’s amazing how music can really help someone make his or her life better. I spent years drinking, drugging, lying to myself, lying to others, in complete misery. A lot of the years of my life were dark. And now, I feel like I’m a great father, great member of my community – I want to share that with other people. I want to inspire other people to live to their potential. I want to help them break the negativity that’s in the schools, the churches, in the food, in everywhere you turn in society. I’m hoping to just shine a little light and remind people that they are divine.
If you’d like to connect with Jah Sun personally, you can find him on Facebook and Twitter. Definitely be sure to also pick up his new album, Battle the Dragon on iTunes and in stores now. Jah Sun is organizing a West Coast tour for April, so keep an ear out for that as well if you’re out on the Blessed Coast.

*Big thanks to Jah Sun for taking the time to sit down for this interview.
*For any and all Jah Sun bookings or inquiries, please contact Elliot Blair: