January 26, 2024
International record labels have shown interest in working with artistes from Jamaica and, to a larger extent, the Caribbean for decades.
The 1990s and early 2000s were periods in where labels came calling, searching for the hottest acts to add to their rosters. That waned for a while until within the last few years a number of Jamaican acts have secured deals with major labels.
St Thomas-born Demonie “Squidell” Wilson, the older brother and former manager of dancehall star Popcaan, is now in a position to help catapult talent from Jamaica to the international stage.
The music industry executive was recently appointed to an A&R (artiste and repertoire) position at Atlantic Records UK.
Founded in 2004, Atlantic Records UK is a British record label used as copyright-holder for UK releases on the US-based Atlantic Records label.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer’s Splash on Wednesday, Wilson explained duties and intentions in this capacity for the label.
“My role and core responsibilities include keeping my ear to the ground in the Caribbean, scouting for talent with a key lens focusing primarily on talent from Jamaica,” said Wilson, who is now residing in the United Kingdom.
Wilson continued: “Since relocating to the UK I’ve aimed to bridge the gap between the UK and the Caribbean. My network in the UK has grown whilst working closely with key music executives in the black music space, such as Sincere, manager of platinum-selling rapper Fredo, head, A&R at Atlantic Records UK, and Portia Clarke, who previously headed up black music for Warner Music… Whilst expanding on my network I have kept the roots of my Jamaican culture in the forefront in everything I do. In doing so I believe that if Jamaican music had the same level of support as other genres, our music and artists could have achieved the same prominence. Since my migration, I’ve worked as an A&R on several projects, many of which have turned out to be hugely successful. As a result of these projects, this position was established, and the deal was signed.”
Wilson is best known as an artiste manager locally, having worked with the likes of Govana and Chi Ching Ching. He spoke about some of the projects that he has worked on to relative success.
“Chi Ching was heavily featured in the Bacardi Sound of Rum documentary, Govana has obtained deals with the likes of Red Bull delivering Jamaica’s first culture clash in the UK. I delivered video commissions for Sony Music UK for British rapper M1illionz, Popcaan, and producers Fanatix,” said Wilson.
Asked whether he had any Jamaican artistes on his radar, Wilson said: “Of course! I don’t want to divulge too many details, but I’ve been in discussions with a few individuals. But, let’s be clear, it’s quality over hype.”
He said the major labels are keeping a close watch on what’s happening in Jamaican music.
“Contrary to popular belief, many labels are closely monitoring the current happenings in Jamaica. I simply encourage the youth to keep making music. Some may argue that the lyrics are explicit and violent, but recently some of the biggest songs in the UK include Talibans and Crocodile Teeth,” said Wilson.
Among the major acts signed to Atlantic Records UK are Clean Bandit, Flo Rida, Missy Elliott, Ed Sheeran, Burna Boy, Bruno Mars, Jack Harlow, Jason Derulo, Kelly Clarkson, Roddy Ricch, Ty Dolla $ign, and YoungBoy Never Broke Again.
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