Born Clifton George Bailey III on April 13, 1967, in the village of Islington in St. Mary, Jamaica. Addresses: Record company--VP Records, 89-05 138th St., Jamaica, NY 11435, website: http://www.vprecords.com.
Capleton, also known as Capleton the Prophet, made it his mission to buck the bawdy side of dancehall reggae music, using his lyrics instead to address social issues and educate his youthful audience in Rastafarian spirituality. With such hits as "Stay Far from Trouble," "More Prophet," "Who Dem," "Ready When U Ready," and "Look Good in Her Clothes," Capleton has spread the Rastafari message while establishing himself as a leading dancehall reggae vocalist. Dancehall, also known as "ragamuffin," is an offshoot of reggae music that originated in Jamaica in the 1980s. It features a deejay, also called a "sing-jay," who both sings and raps often off-color or "slack" lyrics. The rhythms, played by drum machines, are somewhat faster than those of reggae. Dancehall and its rapid-fire lyrical style found its way into the 1990's gangsta rap.
Capleton was born Clifton George Bailey III on April 13, 1967, in the rural village of Islington in St. Mary, Jamaica. As a child he was nicknamed Capleton--St. Mary's most esteemed attorney--for his sharp thinking skills. As a teen he snuck out of the house at night to catch musical acts. He left sleepy St. Mary at age 18 for bustling Kingston, Jamaica's capital city and a hotbed for dancehall reggae. Capleton immersed himself in the middle of it, refining his deejay skills while working odd jobs. He became a popular local deejay, and soon got his international break. He won an audition for a place in the Toronto-based production of Stewart Brown's African Star. There, he performed alongside the dancehall reggae artists Ninjaman and Flourgon. Ironically, it was while he was performing in Canada that he first became well known in Jamaica.
Upon his return to the island, Capleton signed a recording deal with Jamaican reggae producer Philip "Fattis" Burrell. His first hit single, "Bumbo Red" was too bawdy for radio play, but was wildly popular in the dancehalls, and his reputation exploded. He became a dancehall headliner and two more hits followed, the top-ten singles "Number One on the Look Good Chart" and "Woman Me Lotion." He was a "phenomenon" at the 1990 Reggae Sunsplash concert, according to the All Music Guide online. In 1991 he released the album Gold,which was rereleased in 2000. It featured the single "Dem No Like Me" and its remix, called "Girls Shock Out," but was "[s]trictly for the most diehard of Capleton's fans," according to a reviewer for Reggae Reviews online. Double Trouble was released in 1992.
Capleton's outlook and lyrics changed when he discovered Rastafarianism, a religion whose adherents believe that former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie is divine, that Ethiopia is Eden, and that one day all blacks will return to Africa. His 1994 single "Don't Dis the Trinity" and 2002's "Hail King Selassie" are just two of many songs he wrote in tribute to Selassie. Capleton also discovered the teachings and writings of Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican Black Nationalist leader in the United States. Reflecting these changes, Capleton's music began to address social issues and Rastafarian teachings. The 1993 album Alms House was a start, but it was 1994's Good So in which the artist really declared his newfound spirituality.
Capleton's music also began to change, reflecting a hip-hop influence. A hip-hop remix of his song "Tour," about the murders of Panhead and Dirtsman, two fellow dancehall artists, made its way onto the Billboard charts. This led to a record deal with the hip-hop label Def Jam, and the 1995 release Prophecy, which featured both the original and remixed versions of "Tour." The album featured a cameo by hip-hop super group the Wu Tang Clan's Method Man. A critic for Reggae Reviews online wrote the album was "solid, but not spectacular," and that the music may have been too heavily dancehall- and roots-influenced to become popular with a mainstream audience.
While many dancehall artists get only one chance to make it on a major label before shuffling back to a smaller, genre-specific imprint, Capleton released I-Testament, his second Def Jam album, in 1997. In a departure from the hard-core dancehall appeal of Prophecy, I Testament had a strong pop-music influence, much to its detriment, according to a reviewer for Reggae Reviews online. The album was clearly more hip-hop influenced than his previous releases. Capleton used female background singers on "Original Man," and borrowed music from Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side." He also included a cover of the Stephen Stills's 1970 hit, "Love the One You're With," which the reviewer considered just one of a series of serious missteps. While both Def Jam releases heightened Capleton's international appeal, the artist felt he had to return to his roots. "I have to be myself, right? And I can only be me," he is quoted as saying on the Reggae Movement website.
Capleton released One Mission in 1999 on the small J&D reggae label. It produced the hit songs "Good in Her Clothes" and "Who I Am." The album is a "fun, classic jam whose festivity doesn't detract from the seriousness of Capleton's message," one reviewer wrote online at the Reggae Reviews website. His 2000 release, More Fire, on the VP record label, was a 17-song "battle cry" according to the label's website. It was a quasi-"best of" album featuring many Capleton favorites, including the anti-violence anthem "Jah Jah City" and the female empowerment songs "Hunt You" and "Good in Her Clothes." Capleton's lyrics warned of the temptations and wickedness that abound in the modern world. The album was intended to be not just a record, VP declared, but a "movement led by the Prophet to draw light to the plight and upliftment [sic] of black people."
Fire is a central theme for Capleton. It "is not really a physical fire. Is really a spiritual fire, and a wordical [sic] fire, and a musical fire," he is quoted online at the Reggae Movement website. "Fire is for the purification of earth, anyhow you check it." He elaborated in an interview with the Germaican Observer online: "Fire is all about being yourself, knowing who you are and knowing where you're coming from in order to know where you're going ... fire is all about stay [sic] focused and know what your goals are and reach out fi dem ... fire is all about Rastafari coming through the nyabinghi, meaning patience, faithfulness, self esteem, self reliance, self control, self employment." Still Blazin', Capleton's 2002 release on VP Records, featured some of the artist's previously released singles, including "Woah," "Gimme the Woman," and "Hail King Selassie." It also included Capleton singing on an R&B love song, "In Your Eyes."
by Brenna Sanchez
Moved to Kingston, Jamaica, and began singing, mid-1980s; performed in Toronto in African Star, late 1980s; performed in Reggae Sunsplash, 1990; released Gold, 1990; released Double Trouble, 1992; released Alms House, 1993; embraced Rastafarianism on Good So, 1994; signed a record deal with major label Def Jam, released Prophecy, 1995, and I-Testament, 1997; signed to the independent J&D label for One Mission, 1999; released More Fire on VP Records, 2000; released Still Blazin', 2002.
Carribean Music Awards, Single of the Year for "Taxi," 1996.
- Selected discography
- Gold , self-released, 1990; reissued, Jet Star, 2000.
- Lotion Man , VP, 1991.
- Double Trouble , VP, 1992.
- Alms House , Ras, 1993.
- Good So , VP, 1994.
- Prophecy , Def Jam, 1995.
- I-Testament , Def Jam, 1997.
- One Mission , J&D, 1999.
- More Fire , VP, 2000.
- Still Blazin' , VP, 2002.
- Billboard, August 5, 1995.
- "Biography: Capleton," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/capleton (September 11, 2002).
- "Capleton," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 28, 2002).
- "Capleton," Reggae Movement Online, http://www.reggaemovement.com/artists/capleton.htm (September 11, 2002).
- "Capleton," Reggae Reviews Online, http://www.reggae-reviews.com/capleton.html (September 11, 2002).
- "Capleton," VP Records, http://www.vprecords.com/artists/proph/vp_capleton.html (September 11, 2002).
- "Capleton: 'Fire is the Ultimate,'" Germaican Observer Online, http://www.germaica.net/observer/eng/interview_capleton.html (September 11, 2002).
- "Capleton: Still Blazin'," DotMusic.com, http://www.dotmusic.com/reviews/albums/april2002/reviews24632.asp (September 11, 2002).