Fyah Roiall (pronounced “royal”) is one of Jamaica’s most exciting rappers at the forefront of the emerging “grimehall” sound (also sometimes referred to as “traphall”), a new forward-facing subgenre of Jamaican music that combines American trap, UK grime, and dancehall. His debut album UNDERRATED is out now alongside the music video for “Nobody”. You can stream UNDERRATED on all digital platforms via Easy Star Records.
Roiall, born Brandon Wedderburn, has always been out of step with the mainstream both musically and personally. While Jamaica plays a key role in the foundation of American hip hop, it is lesser known how much of an impact American hip hop has had in return on Jamaica. Roiall has been a keen listener as this music filtered back to the island – both directly in the form of hip hop and trap, as well as in a less direct way via UK grime, all of which put their own twists on the genre – and draws inspiration from the creative lyricism and complex wordplay found there. He was always drawn to the more political voices in early hip hop and conscious black American pop culture, when rap was a powerful voice for disenfranchised black youth. Roiall is also very much a product of Jamaica’s rich musical heritage. Rapping in his native patois, using his flow to paint pictures of real life situations embedded in a complex understanding of his cultural and historical place in the world, Roiall’s lyrics bring the past, present and future to life. Normally incredibly private, Roiall’s songs provide a window into his thoughts, to a place where his observations can be said openly and shared with other “free minds” around the world. Being considered outside of what’s expected in his home country is no easy task.
“The place traditional AS FUCK,” says Roiall. “They stick to their tradition. You’re not supposed to be this way or look like that. FUCK THAT. I’m gonna do what I fucking want.”
Roiall’s dreadlocks, nose rings, and stretched earlobes may be a common look for baristas and punk bands from the States, but his body modifications stand out in Jamaica – and not necessarily in a positive way. This is why Roiall would have a hard time breaking through in the Dancehall market – he doesn’t follow the rules. His look, sound, and creative openness are completely unacceptable in today’s Jamaican music climate, at least until he proves his concept abroad.
These are just some of the diverse inspirations and life experiences that have poured into UNDERRATED. “Making music is my way of curating my museum,” Says Roiall. Involved in every level of his music, from producer and engineer to creative director and even videographer, Roiall throws himself in from vision to execution. Though he is heavily involved in every aspect of what he puts out, he also gets assistance from producers Covsnsel!, SOSDynamikz (Koffee), Space Age Rasta on these tracks.
The album’s title is meant to showcase genuine talent over contrived creativity. Roiall explains, “’Underrated’ is usually an ugly word; no one wants to be considered that, but being overrated isn’t good at all, either. Being ‘underrated’ is the real deal. My aim is to pull the focus in the direction of the underrated, because I think that is where the real talent is; everything else is over saturated.”
Fyah Roiall is thrilled to release his full length album and hopes his listeners understand that “Myself and my music are all one in the same. I am my music, my music is me. If you truly know one, then you know the other, it’s that deep.”
Roiall is in a unique position to bring the legacy of Hip Hop and Bass Music back to the tiny island where it all began decades ago. He is more in touch with the current global market than his Dancehall-centric Jamaican contemporaries, and he is more authentic than the foreign producers and artists that capitalize from the trendiness of Jamaican-derived genres. Jamaica may not be comfortable with his look or creative freedom yet, but, with this new project, UNDERRATED, it won’t be long before the entire world realizes how underrated Fyah Roiall is. It also might be the last time you associate that word negatively.