It’s not often that an aspiring deejay on his very first attempt at making a career out of dancehall actually does. But living up to his epithet, Assassin only needed one shot.
In the summer of 1999, just one year shy of his graduation from Kingston, Jamaica’s Camperdown High School, the Assassin—so named by schoolmates who during cafeteria clashes witnessed, time and again, his lyrical dexterity cause his contender’s demise—was welcomed into the fold of the dancehall fraternity. On what he calls a “recognizance mission,” the self-assured deejay/songwriter seeking to explore the possibilities his creativity could spawn gave the lyrics for “Big Up All Di Shotta Dem,” a song he’d written for his friend Briggy. Briggy passed the words to his uncle Spragga Benz who actually voiced them on Steelie & Clevie’s Street Sweeper riddim.
“I was trying to see if I could just end up writing,” says Assassin, who had plans to go to the University of the West Indies after graduation to study mass communications with a focus on journalism. “I said I would try this for the summer and see if I could do this. You hear a lot of horror stories about the industry so I was seeing if I could tolerate it.”
Armed with the support of his family and friends who always believed in the skills of the boy who says he’s been deejaying since he could talk, Assassin (born Jeffrey Campbell on December 22, 1982) found that this “summer job” was better than any internship. “I was listening to the radio and the disk jockey was saying this song from Spragga is wicked,” Assassin proudly says. “If I could put something together for a disk jock to find it interesting then chances are I could continue to do it.” And he did. After a meeting with the Benz, who advised him that the path of a deejay would be more lucrative than ghostwriting (“He said it’s nothing that will keep my lights on.”), Assassin went on the road whenever he had a study break. Since graduating his plans for tertiary school have been paused though he does plan to go when the game grants him some spare time.
Hailing from the Papine, Kintyre, community where he holds court with his crew and family to which he’s the middle child in the succession of three brothers and five sisters, Assassin has released a number of hits on the most popular riddims alongside veteran artists Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Spragga Benz, and Penthouse Label mate Buju Banton whose own story Assassin reminds us of. Like Buju Banton, Assassin’s major start happened at the ripe age of 17. He’s one of the youngest riddim riders—he’s 22—and his pre-album/pre-record deal singles boast number one status and more than a few top five slots on the reggae charts. Plus, he’s part of the Penthouse Records roster, the label that manages the careers of Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder, and Tony Rebel. Assassin’s definitely competing for the favor of his contemporaries, all of whom are, minus a noted one or two, about ten years his senior.
So far Assassin has released enough songs to complete two albums. “Ruffest & Tuffest,” on the much applauded Diwali riddim by producer Steven “Lenky” Marsden, exposed him to an audience outside of Jamaica. But the INFLITRATION, his first album and Part One of a multi-album deal he signed with VP/Penthouse Records slated for release in the fall of 2005, combines his hits from late 2004 and early 2005 with 12 exclusive tracks. His material is well-balanced. There’s “Idiot Ting” on the Renaissance Crew’s Stepz riddim which chronicles the life and times of irresponsible people.
“Growing up in my economic situation and my social condition you find people come to school with the name brand bag and name brand shoes, but the teacher is sending them home because the school fee situation is not together so that makes you wonder”, he says of the inspiration for the song.”You can’t see the logic.” “Step Pon Dem,” “Girls Gone Wild” and “As A Man” his latest chart topper on Steelie & Clevie’s Sleepy Dog riddim is reminiscent of the days when the seductive Penthouse Records riddims, multi-layered freeze curls, sequins and tick-tocking ruled. Moving away from his practical mantras Assassin proves he does have fun when he chants: “Bang bang di bang bang bang/di girls dem cry fi di John John John.” Other highlights of Infiltration are songs about male-female attraction (“In Da Club”), the struggles of oppressed people (“Free At Last”), a homage to veterans Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Dennis Brown on “Respect Due” and production by Tony Kelly, Christopher Birch, Lenky, Donovan Germain, Snowcone, and Steelie & Clevie. Running the gamut of sorts Infiltration is provocative, serious, analytical, introspective, positive, and impressively mature for someone who hasn’t yet turned a quarter century. Instead of preying on fame and stardom Assassin seeks something greater: relevance.
“I would like to ensure that my family can have some social mobility so the next generation can be better off,” says Assassin who actually pays for three of his sibling’s tuition fees, two of whom attend University. “I would also like to significantly contribute to the growth of dancehall.”
Recently Assassin rejected the rivalry-roused rise to fame á la Beenie Man and Bounty Killer by hanging up his crosshairs. “I’m not getting pulled down into the mire,” he says. “My goal is to lift the profile of not only dancehall but the entire music industry in Jamaica. I would like if a mother says her children listen to my music and has no problem with it. At least the stigma and the stereotype that all deejays have nothing to say but derogatory lyrics about females would be changed.”
With his well-rounded and certainly well-crafted album, Assassin’s Infiltration is a certain step into a new realm of authentic dancehall music. Plus it’s the proper introduction of a proper deejay. Visit his myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/assassinagent006