An artist whose music recalls the golden era of roots reggae with its implacable riddims and Rasta-influenced lyrics celebrating wisdom and spirituality, Jesse Royal is a Jamaican vocalist and songwriter who became a champion for old-school reggae after it had all but died out in the wake of dancehall, digital reggae, and hip-hop.
Royal was born in Maroon Town in St. James Parish on April 29, 1989. He was raised in a Rastafarian household, and became a singer at an early age thanks to his mother being the leader of their church's choir. In 1997, Royal and his family moved to Kingston when his father landed a job with a telecommunications firm. He continued to sing in church, and in time developed ambitions of making music his career. He struck up a friendship with Daniel Bambata Marley, whose father, Ziggy Marley, was the son of Jamaica's most iconic musician, Bob. Through Daniel, Royal became friends with several members of the Marley family, and he gained a valuable mentor through another friend whose dad happened to be successful producer Fatis Burrell. Burrell produced Royal's debut single in 2010, and after Fatis died in December 2011, Jesse began working with Burrell's son, Kareem. As he played live shows and released singles like "Gimme Likkle" and "Modern Day Judas," Royal steadily built a following while like-minded artists such as Protoje and Chronixx demonstrated there was still an audience for conscious reggae in Jamaica. Royal dropped his first mixtape, Misheni, in 2012, and a second, In Comes the Small Axe, followed in 2013. In time, Royal's fan base grew big enough to overlap with that mass audience, and in May 2017, he released the single "Always Be Around," which became a massive hit in Jamaica and made him an artist to watch among reggae fans around the world. Royal released his first album, Lily of da Valley, in October 2017; it quickly rose to number one on the American reggae charts. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi