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Before They Were Stars with Sizzla

By Marc Parc Writer


Internationally-acclaimed Dancehall/Reggae singjay, Sizzla Kalonji has proved himself in two separate decades to be one of the most versatile and influential artistes of his time. One of conscious Dancehall music's most intuitive architects, Sizzla's lived up to the values and structure, prior towards becoming an elite artiste, that helped shape his musical image.

Born Miguel Orlando Collins on April 17, 1976, Sizzla was embedded within his family's devour Rastafarian culture and principles. A member of the Bobo Ashanti sect, Sizzla was adamant to promote music that would not only showcase positivity, but denounce the slack and deviant behaviors displayed on Dancehall's stage during its explosion in the 80s and early 90s.

While attending Dunoon High School, the August Town born singjay studied mechanical engineering prior to serving a musical apprenticeship with the Caveman Hi-Fi sound system. He recorded his first single for the Zagalou label in 1995 before teaming up with Bobby "Digital" Dixon's Digital B label for a series of singles.

However, it was an introduction to prominent producer, Philip "Fatis" Burrell. Burrell's Xterminator label would provide Kalonji with a firm musical outlet to showcase his abilities. With Xterminator Records, Sizzla released singles such as, Judgement Morning, Life's Road, Blaspheme, We Nuh Fear and I'm Not Sure. Later, Sizzla released his debut album via the Xterminator label entitled Burning Up; earning his notable clout within the Dancehall/Reggae industry. As a result, Sizzla began touring with established Reggae singer, Luciano and Mikey General; helping Kalonji to establish a strong fan base.

Sizzla's big break came in 1997 with the release of his second album, Praise Ye Jah; unveiling classic singles such as Give Thanks, No Other Like Jah and the album's title track, Praise Ye Jah. Later that year, Sizzla score a major hit with the black consciousness anthem, Black Woman & Child. The single remains one of the most highly-regarded conscious songs of all-time and, paired with his collaboration alongside Luciano entitled, Build a Better World, Sizzla became one of Jamaica's hottest musical prospects.

Over the next four years, Sizzla Kalonji released a staggering 11 studio albums including Freedom Cry, Good Ways, Words of Truth and Bobo Ashanti. Words of Truth remains Sizzla's biggest accomplishment in terms of the U.S Billboard Charts; earning the #5 spot on the Billboard's Top Reggae Albums chart. Additionally, he was nominated for two MOBO Awards.

In 2002 and 2003 respectively, Sizzla focused his attention towards creating softer melodies for fans to enjoy. With that in mind, Kalonji released well-received singles such as Simplicity, Solid as a Rock, Just One of Those Days, and She's Loving; all featured on Sizzla's internationally acclaimed album, Da Real Thing, released in the U.S in November 2002. However, Sizzla's aura as a musician elevated to great heights that year as he released, Thank You Mama; a single dedicated to mothers and the struggles they went through raising their children. The accompanying video for Thank You Mama was Sizzla's first music video; charting well locally and internationally while introducing the world to an artiste who was somewhat an unknown quantity in the public eye.

In 2003, Sizzla unveiled another high-ranking album, Rise to the Occasion that produced the well-rated, self-titled track along with hits such as Give Me a Try, Know Yourself and All I Need.

Over the next three years, Sizzla released albums such as Soul Deep, Waterhouse Redemption and Ain't Gonna See Us Fall that produced another well-received, self-titled track. It was at the end of that three year period when Sizzla would land his first international recording contract as he signed with former Roc-A-Fella CEO, Damon Dash's record label in 2006. Sizzla's label, Kalonji Records, in collaboration with Damon Dash Records and Koch Records, introduced The Overstanding in November of 2006. A year prior, Kalonji shot the video medley for his singles, Just One of Those Days and Ultimate Hustler, the feature song for Damon Dash's reality show with the same name.

Despite Sizzla's reputable resume' as a musician, the Judgement Yard singjay was embroiled in his share of controversies. Sizzla had long been accused of anti-gay lyrics since his introduction to the Dancehall scene; losing millions of dollars in potential revenue as a result of boycott campaigns from gay rights activists in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 2007, he along with fellow Dancehall/Reggae giants, Capleton and Beenie Man signed the Reggae Compassionate Act; a document denouncing homophobia and lyrics advocating violence against homosexuals.

Furthermore, Sizzla and his Judgement Yard camp were involved in an on-stage altercation with Reggae artiste, Norris Man who dissed Sizzla while performing at Capleton's St. Mary Mi Come From stage show in August 2007.

Nevertheless, Sizzla continued to assert his presence within the Jamaican Music Industry; releasing another studio album, Ghetto Youth-ology in 2009 featuring singles such as Black Man in the White House and Ghetto Utes Dem a Suffer. Singles such as Future is Yours and Big Respect for the Girls continued to spread Sizzla's messages of self-respect and appreciation for black culture.

In 2010, Sizzla performed in Zimbabwe at the birthday celebration of the African nation's President, Robert Mugabe. Despite crowd trouble during the performance, Sizzla was adored by the Zimbabwean populace; awarded a space of land by fans as a show of appreciation for his performance. Kalonji also signaled his intentions to one day make Zimbabwe his permanent residence.

In 2011, Sizzla Kalonji stirred more controversy with the release of hit tracks such as Big 50 Calibah and How Dem So Brite; both perceived as diss tracks aimed at Dancehall superstar, Vybz Kartel in light of his continued bleaching and decision to wear hair extensions. However, Sizzla maintained that both singles were made to criticize the slack and demonizing practices that infiltrated Jamaican culture in recent times.

This past June, Sizzla released his 65th studio album, The Scriptures; an acoustic CD that introduced singles such as Cleanse My Soul, God Bless You Mama and World Cry.
However, Sizzla's career was put on hold just over two month later as he was involved in a serious motor cycle accident in Runaway Bay, St. Ann. The crash sent shockwaves throughout the Jamaican music industry as countless prayers and well-wishes were sent Sizzla's way in hope that he would recover from such a terrible ordeal. Sizzla spent 11 days in a Kingston hospital; receiving treatment for several broken bones and a ruptured liver suffered during the accident. He has since been released and is currently recuperating at home as he prepares to make his return to the music scene. According to Sizzla, he will return to the stage in 2012, but will soon release new music videos for single from The Scriptures.

Sizzla Kalonji is one of Reggae music's most accomplished icons; promoting music of societal importance that allowed Jamaicans and persons across the world to embrace their cultural differences. Once this Reggae star makes his return to the Dancehall/Reggae stage, fans can expect his messages of positivity to continue being spread for years to come.