5 Questions with HonoRebel
He’s named HonoRebel simply because he is not afraid of rebelling against the status quo, whether it is personal or musical. He explained that the “honour” is aligned to his humility, while the “Rebel” trademarks his fighting, warrior spirit.
Born in Rum Lane, downtown Kingston, but raised in August Town, St Andrew, and now living in the United States, HonoRebel has positioned himself as an artiste of worth, forging synergies with artistes and producers across several genres.
Early in his career Honorable Apache, as he called himself then, caught the ears of producers such as Willie Lindo, Lloyd Campbell, Black Shadow, and Clifton ‘Specialist’ Dillon of Shang Records and showed his mettle with a slew of hits, including Hurricane, Material Girl, Who Dis Mi Crew and Camouflage. By the mid-90s, he collaborated with reggae greats such as Sly and Robbie and hip-hop legend Luther Campbell, otherwise known as Uncle Luke of The Two Live Crew. While recording at Luke Records, he became very close friends with Pitbull.
HonoRebel can still remember clearly the year 2009, when he tasted his first No. 1 with the song Now You See It, a collab with Pitbull and Jumpsmokers and which also peaked at No. 22 on the heavy-hitting Billboard Dance Charts. He signed to Ultra Records/Sony Music and released his first album, Club Scene, featuring Pitbull, Shaggy, Sean Kingston, Trina, and DJ Class. In 2016, he had another significant moment in his career when his hit collab with El Micha and Farina secured him a performance slot on the Latin Music Billboard Awards.
His most recent project is a cover of a Beres Hammond classic, If Only I Knew, a song produced by renowned drummer and producer Paul Kastick. A member of the reggae band, Big Mountain, Kastick had originally produced the song with his band, but then HonoRebel dropped in a verse and sealed it up. The song and video were released recently, and all involved are thrilled at the response.
5 Questions had a long talk with the artiste, and it would seem that If Only I Knew could very well be the door to acceptance in reggae music that HonoRebel longs to walk through.
How did you get involved in this project?
Paul Kastick and I have been friends for over 20 years and have worked together on several projects. When he sent me this record in 2019, I asked him why him siddung pon it. I listened to it, gave him my opinion and then he sent me over the instrumentation. There was a trombone interlude with eight bars, and I took it out and dropped in my verse. Paul didn’t even know that I was going to voice on it, but he loved it, and the rest is history.
Tell us about your new 16-track album.
This is my eighth album, and it is titled Guru. It was released on August 6. If Only I Knew is the first song on the album, and I think that is quite appropriate. I have a few features on it, including Big Mountain, Flo Rida, Prodigy from the group Mobb Deep and JayRex from the Gambia.
How would you describe your music?
I always tell people that I am an international artiste. I don’t want to be boxed into one category labelled reggae. My biggest song to date was a collaboration with Pitbull. That was in 2009. The song went to number one in 68 different countries. It was an EDM song, and soon after, the trend started in Jamaica to do EDM, and I know that my success had a lot to do with it. During my career, I have done 178 collaborations with international artistes. My last album prior to this was released in 2019 and featured Tessanne, Shaggy, Wayne Wonder and Rik Ross. It was titled Above the Noise.
Are you happy with your successes musically?
Well, I can feed my family, and I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have a monster record in the UK with an artiste who is originally from Uganda named Angelina. She says it is the first time that her song is getting so much rotation on so many radio stations in East Africa. And I have another song that is doing extremely well in Italy. But I can never be happy until my own people accept me. I respect my roots. Being abroad and making noise is not the same as being in Jamaica. Shaggy had to come back to Jamaica to get that acceptance.
What do you think is holding back some artistes/producers from international success?
Fear. It is a factor that we in music have that we need to let go of. We need to get that word out of our vocabulary. I’m not afraid to experiment with different genres of music. Reggae music is my foundation, but I feel my creativity transcends beyond that. You can throw me into hip-hop, soca, Latin, dance, classical, whatever, and I’ll deliver.