There is a historic groundswell of youth activism today. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers rallied across the U.S. to end gun violence in the United States. Youth are standing up for what is right, showing adults that they have a lot to learn from them. In Jamaica, one teenager in particular is tearing up dance halls, while sending a message to his peers, his country and the whole world.
By the time this issue comes out, Wayne J will have just celebrated his fifteenth birthday. But don’t let his age fool you. He has a lot to say and he knows how to pack it powerfully into a three-to-four minute song. Through a fierce and passionate delivery of verse, Wayne J takes you on a musical journey that shines light on the underbelly of life in Jamaica, our disregard for our oceans, global warming and malaria, and reminds us how we must treat our universal mother.
Parvati Magazine: You released your first album when you were ten years old. That is quite an accomplishment. How long have you known you wanted to be a musician?
Wayne J: My first project was an EP (extended play) at age ten. I knew, myself, I always wanted to do music after seeing my father who is a musician. I always told him to bring me to [his] studio, until age three when I recorded my first song, “Stay In School”.
PMAG: You paint a vivid picture with your new song “Tom (Story Of A Ghetto Youth)”. Who is Tom, and what does this song mean to you?
WJ: Tom could be any inner city youth that has been influenced by the Don to be involved in a life of crime. And this song means a lot to me because I am an inner city youth myself (Waterhouse, Kingston, Jamaica) and this is some of the ways in which the youths can be.
PMAG: Your song “Murderer” has the dance feel of classic ska and roots reggae. As a teenager, how do you feel these styles influence your sound?
WJ: These are the styles I was born into. Every day I am on the street, in my home, and in my community, roots reggae music has always been played, and it is part of our culture. So that is how my sound was influenced.
PMAG: Many places are seeing a rise in violent crime. “Murderer” touches on Jamaican violence. What is the message you want to share with the world through this song?
WJ: The message I want to share is that crime and violence is wrong, and it is written in the Bible that “Thou shall not kill”. My song “Murderer” speaks about the consequences of violent actions.
PMAG: As well as shining a light on life as a youth in Kingston, you sing about global issues. As a youth ambassador for the Alligator Head Foundation, you were invited to perform at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany in 2017, where you sang your song “Plastic Bottle” for Parley for The Oceans. What role do you see music play in changing the world?
WJ: Everybody listens to music and it is a great influence to everyone. And my role as a musician is to sing positive songs, and leave a good impact and songs people can love and cherish.
PMAG: If you could give each person one gift through your music, what would that be?
WJ: It would be the gift of love. That is what I want to spread in my music and I will continue to do so by making positive and entertaining music.
Wayne J, born Wayne Anthony Smith, is a fifteen-year-old reggae star from Kingston, Jamaica. He started making music at the tender age of three with his first song, “Stay In School”. Before the age of ten, he had already performed over 100 shows gaining him national recognition.