Assassin: Keeping it Real Image

by Janelle Brown

Jeffrey Campbell, better known as Assassin and Agent Sasco, has been a quiet storm on the Jamaican music scene for the past 10 years. The 28-year-old deliberately and methodically uses his lyrics to penetrate the minds and hearts of dancehall fans the world over.

Known for his raw, passionate delivery, Assassin has earned a reputation for distilling Jamaica's truth, infusing his rasping melodies with pensive dancehall rhythms in songs such as 'Eediat Ting', 'Same Ting Again' and 'Gully Sittn'. Though he has largely avoided lyrical confrontations with other artistes, Assassin continually confronts the grim realities of life in Jamaica, attacking controversial topics with cutting wit and accessible intelligence. Whether using unapologetic irreverent humour in early songs such as 'Anywhere We Go' or direct verbal attack in such songs as his most recent hit 'Talk How Mi Feel' Assassin has managed to maintain both his musical integrity and his  reputation as a hardcore dancehall act, earning respect across socio-economic barriers.

Keeping It Real
"Any form of sensationalism can add to your response you know, but that is not the only way. A great talent is a sensation within itself. Somebody might just come through and just wow you with dem talent. Like, think of Michael Jackson before all the strangeness, like the premier of the Moonwalk. He wasn't involved in any craziness at the time and just the moonwalk by itself was enough to generate the sensation at the time," he said. "I just don't really subscribe to that view that the drama is necessary or there is no way around it. Once you're doing your work the right way you wouldn't need all that, you just have to be patient enough to appreciate that. I feel it should be my talent and my work that ultimately define my career."

Assassin's career officially began 10 years ago, but his passion for dancehall was evident from as early as five years old, when he would sneak out of the yard to attend the dances in his community. He made an instant connection with many of the lyrics he heard and learned the value of making of making music others can feel as well. "A song like 'Gully Sittn', where anybody who eva haffi go shop and order a half stick of butter and di big jill of oil, can take ownership of that, you know?" he explained. "You have frivolous things that you can talk bout: how big your car is, how big your watch is and people can relate to it but not in the same way. They relate because we all want to live a fantastic life and tings like dat, but when you speak of reality that a man in his present situation can relate to, it's different from aspirational lyrics."

Going Global
This commitment to keeping it real has given Assassin the opportunity to perform in several places around the globe, including the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Japan. It is especially gratifying to take his music to places where Jamaicans wouldn't even imagine dancehall has a fan base. "You could go as far as Japan and know say di audience good, but being on the road with Buju, you really get to go out into like the Midwest of America which, for a dancehall artist. is not the usual audience. Me a talk 'bout Indianapolis and all these places. To go and represent the music in these places it gives a sense of satisfaction and motivation that from stepping into a recording booth in Kingston, the whole world can witness our talent and have access to it," Assassin said.

At this point in his career, Assassin is focused on building his empire and staying relevant in the industry, creating good music that doesn't compromise who Jeffrey Campbell is at his the core. "I have to retain my musical integrity. I have to uphold my level of respect and my family's respect. [My daughter] must be able to grow up and say 'I'm not ashamed of anything my father has said'," he stated. He made it clear: "I woulda never denounce God, no time at all. I would not get behind a microphone and say anything that my mother would be ashamed to hear. That's part of my keeping it real. I am representing my values."

Words of wisdom
Assassin also dropped some words of wisdom for upcoming artistes who want to make it in the music business: "If you focus on the music, you get the respect for that. So if it means that you're singing off key like I used to do when I was trying in the studio at sixteen, you correct that. If it means you are unfit like I was, you go run pon di beach and get yourself fit. If it means that you need to go find yourself better melodies, you do that. Challenge yourself; you haffi grow in the music and you will get the respect. Love the music sincerely." The DJ, who is well known for his pragmatism, has also branched out into producing, launching Boardhouse Records in 2007. 

His company has produced hits such as Elephant man's 'Nuh Linga' and his own 'Talk How Mi Feel' and 'Run Di Place'."Being around other musicians; it's just a good thing to have that vibe and act that out, me and my brother and my cousin we grew up together we work together and we have other artistes we support. That whole experience is like a different type of fulfillment in itself."
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