Jillionaire hails from Trinidad, the Carnival capital of the Caribbean, and his work as a solo artist, producer, label owner and member of Major Lazer has been instrumental in bringing island sounds to a global audience. The DJ/producer and Feel Up Records founder channels this island energy on "Sunrise," an upbeat anthem by Jillionaire, Fuse ODG & Fatman Scoop. "Sunrise" playfully associates romance and partying all night long in a track that became a hit at the Carnival celebrations last February. PRØHBTD spoke with Jillionaire to discuss the new song, his favorite cannabis anthems and partying like a local at Carnival.
Tell me about "Sunrise" and how the song came together.
I was in a session with Scoop, and we were going over some other songs that we had been working on. The instrumental was just a rought, but when Fuse heard it, he immediately knew that was the one. Seldom do you get to have all the parts of the puzzle in the room at once—usually it's all about corresponding via email and sending bits back and forth on Dropbox or WeTransfer—so it was good to have an "old school" session with everyone in the same place.
Does "Sunrise" encapsulate a particular memory you have?
In Trinidad, we have a thing called J'Ouvert that starts the Carnival every year. It takes place from 2 a.m. on Carnival Monday and goes until the sunrise, just like the song!
What symbolism do you see inherent in a sunrise that came through in the song?
Sunrise has always been my favorite time of day, watching the sun wash over us and make everything new again, giving us another chance to get things right.
How would you compare the Carnival celebration in Port of Spain, Trinidad compared to those in Rio or Salvador, Brazil?
In Brazil, the regular person doesn't participate in carnival—it's solely for the samba schools. In Trinidad, anyone can get a costume and join the parade, and that's the beauty of Trinidad Carnival.
How often do you participate in Carnival?
I try to go every year, even if it's for a few days leading up to the festival. Last year I missed the actual parade, and this year I'll be leaving on Carnival Tuesday afternoon. My favorite part of Carnival is going to the panyards and watching the steel bands practice their songs.
The Major Lazer remix of Bunji Garlin's "Differentology" helped bring soca music to a much wider audience. When remixing the song, what elements of soca did you want to ensure remained in the song?
Soca music and Caribbean music are all about catchy hooks, heavy kicks and pounding bass, and I think we were able to maintain those elements in our remix.
You also collaborated with Bunji last year with "Television." As a producer, what was the best way to take advantage of Bunji's strong vocal style?
Bunji is one of the most fascinating lyricists I've ever worked with. We just finished another track, and it's more vocal like "Differentology" as opposed to rapping like "Television." He's super versatile and really knows what style is gonna work well with what type of track. In the mix, we tend to let the music sit back and let his voice fill the room because he has so much presence.
Early in your work with Diplo, he apparently asked you to go deep in the forest to record a crazy Rastaman. Who was the man you were recording, and what were you hoping to capture?
I wouldn't say he was crazy, but he definitely lived in the woods on top of a mountain! We had recorded a bunch of scratch vocals for the first project that ultimately didn't make the final cut. I actually recorded a number of different Trinidad artists at that time, including Jah Bami and Versital, among others.
Reggae has an association with ganja, but does soca music or Trini culture in general have a similar association with cannabis?
If soca music has any cultural association, it would be with rum. We sing about it in the soca songs like Machel Montano's "Bottle of Rum" and in the East Indian chutney songs like "Rum Til I Die," and it's a big part of our liming—or hanging out—tradition.
What is your favorite cannabis-themed track that you produced, and what is your favorite cannabis-themed track that someone else made?
In striving to contribute something new to the music scene, what are your goals with Feel Up Records?
Our goal is to help facilitate new and interesting talent, primarily—but not limited to—people who are attempting to bridge the gap between Caribbean music and "mainstream" pop music. We work with artists like Jus Now, Weird Together, Dom Dias, Noisecans, Fire Alarm and others.
Can you tell me three records on Feel Up from other artists that best epitomize the label's vision?
David Jenison (email@example.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. Photo courtesy of Feel Up Records.