It’ll only take a few listens to his discography (especially the most recent album, Views) to realize Drake has been influenced by Jamaican music and its culture for years, and one source of inspiration that he consistently returns to is Popcaan. From big-ups on Instagram to the borrowing of a handful of his slang, it’s become clear that Popcaan has made his mark with the Drake co-sign.
Yet he is so much more than being a part of Drake’s ever-growing affiliates, as he solidified his international status beyond Jamaica way before OVO Unruly came about. So we present to you a playlist of all the essential Popcaan tracks from his early, rough-and-tough days through the present.
Before the Toronto guy was embedding phrases like “Way up” on his “Blessings” collaboration with Big Sean and “Yiy Change” on Views cut “Controlla,” Popcaan was already establishing a credible name for himself in a difficult genre with an ever-revolving door for artists—dancehall.
Popcaan, born Andre Jay Sutherland, first captured his country’s attention with his debut on Vybz Kartel’s 2010 cut “Clarks.” But the stateside acclaim didn’t occur until a year later, when he shed his Kartel protégé image and came into his own artistry with “Ravin,” “Party Shot” and “Only Man She Want.” The latter song became Popcaan’s Billboard debut, hitting its peak at No. 82 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.
During this time, Drake was showing his budding love for Jamaica with the island-tinged “Find Your Love” single in 2010 and making a surprise performance in the country (his first one) the following year. Once Popcaan’s “Only Man She Want” single took flight, Drake showed his appreciation in a few ways: a lyrical shoutout on Twitter, an invitation to the third annual OVO Fest and officially festering the OVO Unruly joint crew with OVO Niko directing 2013’s “Unruly Rave” video.
Fast forward to the present day, and Popcaan has ruled the stages of Europe and the Caribbean (he cannot get a U.S. Visa at the moment), was the opener on Pusha T's "Blocka" track in 2013 and appeared on the outro of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late cut “Know Yourself."
Last year, he stole the show with his feature on "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" alongside Jamie xx and Young Thug. Most recently, Popcaan teamed up with AlunaGeorge for "I'm In Control" and had his “Love Yuh Bad” track sampled on Views’ “Too Good” (despite not being on the official version on the LP’s dancehall cruiser, “Controlla").
But for everyone not familiar with Popcaan's music outside of the OVO Unruly camp, take some notes as you listen to our essential playlist!
"Dream" is the single that started it all. Released in 2010, it was the solo moment that helped Popcaan stand out from his "Clarks" feature with Vybz Kartel. The introspective track finds him giving thanks for his new career and being able to afford to take care of his family. Listening to it six years later, it is a heartwarming parallel when compared to Popcaan's current international stardom.
"Road Haffi Tek On" was yet another summer scorcher in Popcaan's growing musical arsenal. While it didn't provide the immediate punch of his previous songs, its mellow vibes served as a great cool-down when you needed a break from partying. It soon caught the attention of Canadian singer Lucas Dipasquale, whose YouTube cover of the song got a co-sign from Popcaan himself. Dipasquale went on to guest-perform in Jamaica, make his own music and even collaborated with the dancehall artist on last year's "No Talking."
"Fall In Love" is a slow burner that finds Poppy displaying a more romantic and suave side. The song, which is dedicated to the ladies, yearns for a love that can only be found in the sweltering summer months. The memorable line "Bend ovah like Serena ah Wimbledon" also gave rise to this meme that took over social media.
"Di party nuh tun up, it tun ovah" was the sole line that littered Instagram captions and tweets in the Caribbean community for months on end, all thanks to the grooving "Unruly Rave." Like many of Popcaan's party songs, it is flirty, easy to dance to and makes you feel damn good once the liquor kicks in.
The title track to Popcaan's debut studio album, 2014's Where We Come From, helped solidify the artist's place as the key dancehall act the mainstream world needed to be watching. "Where We Come From" highlights his melodic vocals, effortless storytelling capabilities and how he is able to relate to the youths of Jamaica still trying to make it.
Despite being called "Everything Nice," this subdued track finds Popcaan fusing happier moments with pain and grief. "R.I.P. to a loved one/ Put your cups dem high," he sings over the melancholic, Dubbel Dutch-produced melody. Instead of being completely mournful, Poppy decides to celebrate both life and the loved ones who have passed.
"Love Yuh Bad," which appears on Popcaan's Where We Come From album, maintains Popcaan's thematic versatility as a pure sex ode dedicated to the artist's love. The track's breezy production is infectious and quintessentially Caribbean, so it's no wonder Drake interpolated and sampled it on his "Too Good" collaboration with Rihanna.
"Unruly Prayer," released last spring, finds Poppy counting his blessings and tributing all his friends who have either died or are in jail. The somber, hymnal shout-out is one of his most heartfelt moments, as he celebrates all the friends in his crew, fellow dancehall artists and OVO members like Niko, Noah "40" Shebib and (of course) Drake. They all appear in the video too, solidifying their ongoing friendship with Popcaan.
Leave it to Popcaan to transform one of the more jovial productions to come out of Jamaica in recent years into a bad mon, Shottas-worthy threat! The artist doesn't dive into gangster themes often, but he masters it when he does. The video's YouTube view count (which are well over five million) makes that clear! When Poppy nonchalantly says "Unruly ah di baddest gang," you no have no choice but to believe him.
Just one listen of Popcaan's "wayyYYYYyyyYY up!" yelp on this intro and you'll realize how much influence he has over Drake's current music. The simple but formidable phrase is a direct reflection of just how transcendent the year 2015 was for Popcaan.
"Weed Is My Best Friend," Poppy's ode to the magical herb, is for all the 420 lovers out there! He discussed the jubilant track with Complex back in March,
“There’s so much people who you would take out your heart and give them, and those are the same people who will turn ’pon you. So that just make me see say, nuff human being make me can’t trust them. And certain of my problems, ah just me and me weed go through them. Me just smoke weed and overcome obstacles.”
For your Unruly Gang listening pleasure, listen to all of Popcaan's essential tracks in our Spotify playlist below: