On account of media bias, dumb misfortune, and prejudice, you may not have heard of a reggae artist called Sizzla. Through great fortune and our contact at VP Records, we are ecstatic to present an interview that we conducted with the reggae legend. It would be a dishonest act to sum up Sizzla’s cultural, spiritual, and musical impact on our times in a mere paragraph. We encourage you to get your Google on, look into Sizzla, and catch up. Here in this article, you will find a plethora of goodies, including some great photos taken on-site in Jamaica and an in-depth conversation with Sizzla, both audio and transcript. You may not agree with all of his “political” and “social” positions, but we encourage you to listen and reflect. Jah! Rastafari!
Sizzla Interview Part 1 – Guidance as a duty, Life in Babylon
Sizzla Interview Part 2 – Effects of being banned due to anti-gay lyrics
Sizzla Interview Part 3 – Keeping a balance between life and career, Judgement Yard, Poverty
Sizzla Interview Part 4 – Advice for artists getting started in the business, Crucial Times Album
ZIF: Anyone listening to your music cannot miss the interconnectedness of your message with the Rastafari religion. Why did you choose to become a part of Bobo Shanti Rastafarianism?
Sizzla: Because it is the teaching of the Most High Father. No matter where you’re from, Emmanuel is the representative of the black nation, the foundation of the nation. His Majesty, is ordained the King of the black nation. So our principles are handed down from the Most High God, who created heaven and earth. It is our culture. It is our way of life. Rastafari embraces all houses of God, all other faiths. When Sizzla deals with the youths and people from other cultures, it is about tolerance. It is about knowing yourself. Knowing myself made me know the Truth. Everything I have to do is connected to the culture of the nation. It’s about reading the Bible, and embracing the teachings of the elders of the nation. It’s about not becoming a part of violence and straying from the right path of the culture. So it’s not just about becoming a part. It’s ordained. It’s compulsory.
What are some of the Principles of Bobo Shanti Rastafarianism?
The keeping of the Sabbath. Psalms reading. Every morning you read the Psalms. There are Seven Psalms in the morning, Seven Psalms midday, Psalms in the evening and at night time. It’s possible, if you got the strength and the company and the reverence, you sing the Ethiopian International Creed, and maintain the Bible upright. Women keep the 21 days Principle, when female menstrual, when you refrain from certain things. Keeping the principle of the Tabernacle, being in charge of the Tabernacle. There are daily principles like roll call. Every morning you rise up, you go and you have a nice bath and you get yourself together and you meet the priest at the front of the Tabernacle. You start with the reverence of Ethiopia International Creed and you start with a chant, and with the reading of the Bible, the Book of Prophecies. And you say the Seven Psalms also every morning. You have the roll call book where all the names are being called out to find out if you are present or absent at the Foundation. Because it’s a black foundation set for the black nation in a world of black people. As with His Majesty’s mission to return the people to Africa. We can’t go on with the people being dumb, confounded and having no knowledge of themselves and how to deal with other nations. So these are the principles we keep in order to deal with people of the world. Your own people, your own nation and other nations.
Your songs have had a great impact in the reggae scene because you give guidance to the youths and food for the soul with your music. What made you want to take on this mission to serve the people?
It was the first mission from my mom and my dad. My mom and my dad took care of me, and I’m a human being and human beings, we have to take care of ourselves. And it’s a mission from Creation, where, our creed as Rastaman is: “Hungry be fed, Naked be clothed, Sick be nourished, Aged be protected, Infants be cared for.” And then bring love and harmony and justice throughout all nations. Every nation needs to be cared for. You see this is what is happening in the world right now. The president has to make sure his people are being cared for in every country. The king, the queen or whosoever is ruling. And I feel good within myself doing good things for the people, and that’s what I think I should be doing. Educating, teaching the people how to love and showing them love, because that is what my teacher a taught me in school. That teacher, even though you gave her or gave him a check, each took years an teach me “Sizzla, learn to read, learn A-B-C, learn 1-2-3!” They got the patience.
So I am just continuing the mission of the Most High Jah: To spread love throughout the world and take care of the people through music. Spread love through food, through education, through clothes, any likkle thing. That is the duty. Love your one another, as Christ the Rastaman said, linage of David. Love your one another as you love yourselves. Love your brother and sister as you love yourselves. It was love that has made us. It was love that brought us here. Doesn’t matter how wicked or brutish we became, it was love what brought us here. Mommy and daddy make love and brought us here, through 9 months, through the powers of the Almighty. That’s it. So I feel good doing all these good things.
According to the teachings, we are now living in Babylon. How can we make it easier to get through life in Babylon? Does it have to be combated?
No, you don’t have to combat nothing. Read your Bible and pray every day and do good always. And as I said “Hungry be fed, Naked be clothed, Sick be nourished, Aged be protected, Infants be cared for.” And dispel all the bad stuff. Have a mindset, and think about his Majesty King Selassie and, yeah, think about Rastafari. Think about Africa. Think about your country being beautiful and think about all the other countries of the world.
It’s the mindset. It’s a system set by rich people to rule and dominate. You already knew that! So don’t let it bust your brain … just eat and drink, and try to outlive all these things, because it’s only for a time. Don’t hate no one, just keep out of the bad stuff and continue to do good stuff. And don’t put your cap where you can’t reach it. And know the company you are falling into. And read your Bible and pray every day. When you pray every day, while you’re praying, you’re not going to fight, if you’re praying. If you’re going to be reading your Bible, you’re not going to be hitting on someone. So read your Bible and pray every day and chant Rastafari. And do good stuff and you can overcome Babylon. Do good, always and show love always and you overcome Babylon. Once you love something, you won’t destroy. Rastafari.
Rastafarianism stresses very positive principles to live your life by. Do you think it has potential of becoming a mass religion and what do you think the effect would be on the world?
The effect on the world would be that we would come to the right way, and come seek Rastafari, because it’s all about love. As I said “Hungry be fed, Naked be clothed, Sick be nourished, Aged be protected, Infants be cared for,” it’s not just a religion. I think religion is personal. This is Rastafari. It’s a way of life not just a religion. Because people took religion personally and they go to war. But this is a way of life, the way of Jah. It’s a natural way of life, heaven to earth.
And the effect on the people, is for the people to be more united and be living in love. Letting them see the Righteous way, becoming more conscious in themselves, that is the effect it will have on the people. It’s only Righteousness. It is coming from love and it must be giving love. Whatsoever I think is based upon my meditation, after being taught about Rastafari and the culture of life and how we’re supposed to be living. Knowing all these things, being taught to me by the elders of the community, the elder Rastafarians. Even young boys and girls out there in the world, sit me down and talk to me and told me how they feel and what is happening in the world. After knowing all these things, that’s the best. As it is. The principles of Jah is not just a religion. The Ten Commandments is not just a religion, it’s a way of life, the way you should live.
Even though you transmit such a positive message, there has been a lot of controversy regarding some of your lyrics. They are perceived to be aggressive and militant against gays. Now, gay rights groups have lobbied governments and cities to prevent you from performing – to considerable success, unfortunately, as you were previously banned from performing in England and Canada. How has this affected your message?
No way it affect my message. People say, you know, it’s because it’s the Truth. People know Sizzla don’t do anything bad, and don’t get caught in the system. They know we’re not going to do anything bad to get caught up with the laws or stuff like that. But, it is the way of life, the way we live from day one.
And the Most High spoke it in the Bible: we must not be sleeping with the same sex. You can’t create life. It’s a way of life and life should create life. It took the male and the female to come together to create life. So I think that if you should go the other way, you are disrespecting your parents and the Most High God, and every human being in the world. Because all human beings comes through the power of the Most High, which is male and female coming together. And in the Bible we live that way male and female. And we have Prophecies and we have the Bible bear witness when the Most High burn Soddom and Gommora because of the corruption. So I couldn’t be coming singing to the youths of the world and not telling them the Truth. And it’s in the Bible.
So if it meant that you’re gonna took away the visa, and you took away whatsoever, the authorities, it’s not a problem because the word will still go out, and it’s the righteous word. So it doesn’t affect me in no sense, and it doesn’t affect the nation in no other sense. It only makes them wiser. And I’m good, you know what I mean. And I just spread the love same way, I have no bad vibes about it. Just continue to live and be happy, man, read your Bible and pray every day. Rastafari.
How do you keep a balance between having a complete message in your convictions and your career and getting access to more audiences?
I just live natural way. I make them all a part of my life. Because I’m sailing on the planet earth, on it’s axis, around the orbit, in the galaxy. I’m so happy right now, even to talk to you, someone this far, because this is planet earth and everything is love baby. So when I go out there, I say “Allright, my name is Sizzla.” and the people say they need some beautiful songs, so I’m gonna make them a lot of songs. So when I’m in the studio I make a whole heap of songs for them. And when I go home, I say “Listen to me now now, you know that I’m coming from the studio, I got to check up on my family, what is it you need?” I give them whatsoever they need: food, clothes, send them to school. I come back to the stage to sing and make a little money, I come back in the studio and buy more equipment, and the nation rock it with me. And I just rock it and I make it a part of my life. And I live it like that! I bring all these activities to be a part of my daily life. And that’s how I create a balance, make it a part of me. I love it. I nourish it. I nurture it. Same as how, you know, you got to drive your car and put gas in your car… I’ve got to make these songs for the people! I got to take care of my family! Make it a part of your life!
Through your musical success you were able to shed the life of poverty but you use your success to elevate the people. Tell us a little bit about “Judgement Yard” and your involvement in the community.
As a youth, Sizzla, me do anything that’s good for the community. Of course, sometimes you got a little vibes up and down, but it’s for you to reason it out and quell the ignorance and bring the love and the joy in the place.
So you know, I’m involved in a lot of sporting activities. Running. I sponsor them. I might not be there because I might be somewhere else doing something musical but running, ball, football, I sponsor them, help to pay the bill, the athlete’s salary, stuff like those. I built a sound system so it is much easier for them to get music. Cause sometimes they don’t have the money to pay the sound system like that, and everybody need a little money to do their stuff. Even the selectas, the engineers, the technicians, because they need money, so I help on the salary.
The school, whatever bill I can pay. I pay the water bill, the light bill for the school whenever time the Principal contact me through letters, with written information. Those are stuff I do. I keep a part of it. Like back to school. Every year I keep a back to school party where I buy books and pencils and tea party and cook for them and all this happiness. That’s how I create the balance and that’s how I keep with the community. I live there.
So you say I might be able to shed the poverty, intelligently, we have been blessed with the talent to bounce around and help myself. Yes, but I still live in the poverty. I live in the community and poverty is still with I. Cause I’m still in slavery. But I just make a likkle money through the music, where I can help to buy a piece of bread and help my family because I have to share also. And being there, seeing, and have to be sharing with them, and caring for them is still in poverty.
So poverty don’t even mean you can’t have a lot of money, and you don’t become in any situation in which you cannot afford to buy your family stuff to eat. I don’t see poverty as with money. Poverty is when you lack a soul. You lack the direction, the consciousness of yourself. You lack love. You lack the positivity. That’s poverty. And a lot of youths in the ghetto don’t have that, based on how the system of government set it. So even if I get a million dollar, twenty zillion, gazillion whatsoever, billion, trillion dollar… I go in the ghetto same way, I still see people. Poverty is always there with me. And the people are suffering, so that is why I do all this stuff. So whatever I can do for the community, I do it because it’s doing good to the people. That’s your blessing: keep doing good to the people. Because you’ve got to be singing for the people. Where did you get your money from? The people! They love your message and they spend the money at the stage show to the promoter, and you charge the promoter, it’s still the people’s money. So you have to be doing good to the people.
So anything good… getting uniforms for the kids, giving them lunch money in the morning. It’s very intricate stuff. You have to be there in the morning, seeing them, telling them “Your shoes need to be changed.” I see the parents send them to school sometimes when I stand on the roadside, but I inspect them myself! And say, “You need new shoes! How much money you get today?” “I get 200 dollar da da.” I say, “All right, here’s 200 dollars more, you are close to 1000 dollars. Don’t eat it off all today, and let me see your (homework) book. Whoa, you have a lot of tickies (stickers denoting good performance on the homework)!” I call it tickies. When I see their tickies in their book, I say, “Whoa, you have so many tickies! Lightening! You get two lightning, lightning flash, lightning!” That is how I play with them, read them books, help them with them homework and see what they have. And say “Tomorrow, see you in the morning, I’m going to Europe on a tour.” “Da da, bring something for me.” That’s how I deal with them. There is nothing to hide.
You drive past Sizzla, right there at Judgement Yard and you see everything. Well, Judgement Yard is based out of the Bible. Let me explain how I get Judgement Yard now. The youth say, you need to recognize Sizzla, and where he lives. And I said, I don’t want to give my place any name, some stupid name when the world hear the name to say “What kind of stupid name that? Sizzla not serious.” So I say I go call it Judgement Yard, because there are Thrones of Judgement, thrones of the house of David. And Psalm 9 tell you about the judgement. So I say you something, this yard is God’s yard and this is the Judgement Yard where God gives his judgement. Judgement don’t mean nothing bad. Judgement is love, same way, goodness, justice. You understand? Just if you do something bad you’re getting the judgement of punishment. If you do something good you get the judgement of blessing. Based upon the level of my education and how me know things, I just said this Yard is Judgement Yard, you know. So when one hears the name of this yard, no man ramp with this yard. One will know it’s Judgement Yard, you must always be doing righteous things, loving and kindness.
So it’s not about being judged, it’s about achieving justice.
Justice, righteousness, making sure the people get all their goodness, equality. It’s out of the Bible, Psalm 9. So read it.
And I got my father’s garage where I learned trade. So not the whole area of August Town is Judgement Yard, only a part of it is. It was owned by a brethren called Mr. Martin, who had a bakery there. They used to bake buns and bread there until my dad took it over and turned into a garage and worked there as a mechanic, and I learned the trade. And I come in the music, and I say, everybody following me, sometime they need to chill with me, when I am not in the city, I’m not at nobody’s place, and the best place is the same place there in the community. So I fenced it up, paint it up and build it up and call it Judgement Yard. Any likkle party, I keep it there that’s where people come and chill sometime and we string up the sound system there. Cars with sound systems drive in the garage. It’s like the hub of the community. Everything happens there, so I don’t even have to leave my community. And anybody in the community can pass by and stop there.
I do a lot of cooking there, till my mom took over the kitchen with my brethren and they cook every day for everybody, everywhere. So that’s just love that’s flowing and flows. And if you come and do something bad there, everybody a watch you until one day you get a judgement. Naturally. And everybody say “Yeah, you come inna di yard and you do nothing good. And you’re fighting and you’re saying discord until you bruk it all.” That’s how the judgement come upon you. They watch you and leave you to do what you want to do, until something out of a natural cause just happen.
That’s how it is, free. Freedom. Free speech. Anybody can come in the Judgement Yard and if Sizzla not moving right, anybody could come and push the gate open and say “Sizzla, I don’t love how you’re moving, you’re not moving right, start to move straight.” No way Sizzla gonna hide from nobody. It’s love. It don’t make no sense going out to Europe and England and all these people, singing for them, and when I come in the community I’m hiding in the bush. It’s not like that. I’m the front. I stay in the front. And everyone just come and they look at you. “Come little kids, party, go to school, wash your car, what?, sing a song, make your likkle money, buy your little car, burn some of your money, go to school, pay for a little evening class and go back to evening class and all those stuff. That’s how we work in the community. And it’s always like that.
You are one of the busiest artists in the industry, you put out hundreds of tracks and over 43 albums. You have your own Record Label, Kalonji Records, but you also worked with established production companies like Def Jam for your album “The Overstanding”. How does putting out an album on a major label compare to putting one out under your own independent label?
Nyce man, that is NYCE! I wouldn’t mind if they could put out 100 albums for me, if that means I could get the message out to the children of the world! Because they are professional. And they got the links, they got the business, they got the machine, they got the people educated, being taught how to do all those stuff. So if I get the chance to go to that big label, I got a lot of messages to go out and I love that! Because they can market it. Marketing strategies, and they are instructed in their stuff, they have a lot of people that wanna work and they know how to get the stuff out there in the world. That is nyce!
Just that sometimes, based on my culture as a Rastaman, I can’t do certain things. And some people love to do certain things, and me can’t work more time. So it’s best for me to just read my Bible and pray, and make music every day and chant Rastafari. And whatsoever goes out, I give thanks. And whatsoever doesn’t, I try to work on it and push it out more.
You have done a few collaborations with hip-hop artists, Foxy Brown comes to mind (Come fly with me). How has that been received with your reggae fans?
One of the quickest, biggest songs me ever sing. I never knew when I do that song that it’s Foxy, that it would be so big so quick, in such a short time. I’m telling you, WHAT? Foxy Brown tune! I tell you, make it man! Some likkle things should be done with that song, to get it out more. But you done know, it was a joy and I really respect the time and honor the person doing it with me. Big respect Foxy Brown, love that same way. Yeah?
As one of the most successful artists in the business, do you have any advice for artists on the come up right now and are just getting started?
A whole heap of advices. First, learn to respect and love yourself, and learn to respect and love your fans who are supporting you. Be a very kind person, because you are getting from the people. You can’t be getting from people and you’re not giving back. Be kind to everyone. Have respect. Read a lot. Watch the television. Study the news. Watch the people of the world. Guide them. Be a custodian for the people of the world. And watch every news in every country and say why are they doing that? Everybody is like my son and my daughter. And be kind, and know the Most High. Read your Bible and pray every day and chant Rastafari. Think about Africa. Rastafari. And spread the love.
What is in store for you in 2010? We heard about a new album, due in January 2010 called “Crucial Times.”
I don’t know yet baby. I’m not a fortune teller, I don’t know what’s in the future for me. But I know it’s goodness, because I just chant and pray for goodness and keep doing good. And if something bad come up, I work on it and move it out the way and just go along.
To continue with the young artists coming up, they must do a lot of recording. Never stop recording. Never stop! I record 10 – 20 song a day if I can. I nah stop record! I record every minute, any likkle thing a hear. Find a likkle topic and sing about it. That’s why I say, watch the news, make the topics and speak on topics concerning the present-day situation with the people of your country and of the world. See what’s happening. Be the CNN for yourself. Be the Fox News for yourself. Be the marshall for yourself. Be the fireman for yourself. Be the accountant for yourself. Be the president for yourself. Be everything that good for yourself. Then you can see how to lead the people. And be the level the people should be on. Be the president and know that you are president. If you should see someone in the gutter say “Nooo, you can’t be in the gutter, come on man, you should be up here with me.” Lift them out the dirt. Free up the bondage. Free up the captive. Get rid of slavery. Get rid of corruption. Righteousness all the way. Earthquake, lightning, thunder, love! Free up the borders. Free up all nations. Everyone was born free and equal. No crime, no violence. Go to earth and spread the message. One love. Rastafari.
So can we expect the same vibes from your album “Crucial Times?”
Yes… What do you mean if you can still expect the same vibes. Sizzla a said, what? More vibes and more song coming your way mama! More song coming your way. Me have a whole heap of song! I got album don’t even release yet! I got albums don’t even mix yet! I got albums I sing only about Africa. I got whole heap of songs. More vibes, man. This album, you’re going to love this album.
“Crucial Times” is a telling title. What do your think is the most crucial issue of our times?
The crime and violence, the miseducation and no one spreading love and catering for the young kids of today and their future and catering for the elder people, who have been our teachers from the past. Hunger and sickness, it’s easy. That’s the main issue.
2009 seemed to be the year of Change. We started off with a lot of hope and got the first black president in the White House, you even wrote a song to celebrate that (“Black man in the White House”). What is your assessment of his impact so far?
Well we’re speaking on the cellular phone and sometimes people might be listening to us so me speak the truth and talk straight. The world love Obama cause they know he has heart. But then again, he is still following protocols. So not everything is going to go according to Obama, you know what I mean? But it’s good to see the black man up there trying best. And if there is no fighting and more love, we love that, because what the president says goes. And we want the president then to see the Most High and His Majesty the Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and see the love of the people of the earth. And what the Almighty says, the president says, then it goes. We don’t want the president to just come in and be conceited in his own thoughts and thoughts of some other people because they are millionaire, billionaires and they own the city. We want him to meditate on the Most High Jah Rastafari as a president and leader. And then lead I and I in the right way of Moses and Abraham and Christ and Selassie. Rastafari, seen.
So we expect goodness from the president. Even though he follow protocols at times, so sometimes, the rich who have the money and they own the skyscrapers or something, he might go on to save it and do a little. Sometime you can’t say much, you know. But, be strong and encourage them, more love, spread the love man. Pull up the people and let the people live happy. When they reach 80 and 90 years of age they get weak and can’t even help themselves. So why you stifle the people when them a 30 and 40 and 50? Let them live. Because when them get reach 50 and 70 and 80, oh gosh, they become old. Free up earth, free up earth and heaven same.
Many were hoping he would be able to do more. But he is fighting against the system and he is just one man. We have to step in and demand things and support him in his mission as well. It’s not just one man.
Because it’s not just one man, right. Everybody there in the Senate, everybody needs good in the world. That’s why we have a president like Obama. They need good. Even Jah push and need good from everyone. We keep wanting good. We want love. A better way of life for our family and our kids and our friends. So everyone can and come the right way. Accept good, so just pray for them you know. Jah guidance.