Yaadcore on New Video, Cannabis in Jamaica, and Psychedelic Inspiration

We talked to rasta legend Yaadcore about his upcoming video, the status of cannabis in Jamaica, and his interest in shrooms.

Today Yaadcore, along with Jah9 and Subatomic Sound System, announced the music video for “Police in Helicopter,” a re-imagining of John Holt’s defiantly political 1982 ganja-themed jam.

The track is on Yaadcore’s recently-released debut album, Reggaeland (12 Yaad/Delicious Vinyl Island), and was originally released in April 2021 as a one-off single on Houston, Texas-based Yard Birdz Records. The video was co-directed by Miguel Hernandez, who helped animate Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” music video as well as a recent animation for Ozzy Osbourne, and Emch of Subatomic Sound System.

Yaadcore’s musical journey began as a selector—Jamaican word for a disc jockey—but is now stepping into new shoes as a vocalist, including on his new album Reggaeland. Born Rory Cha, he quickly developed as an artist. He now hosts Jamaica’s first weed strain review series, “Spliff A Light Spliff,” for Kingston, Jamaica-based dispensary Itopia Life. For Spliff A Light Spliff, Yaadcore examines phenos with magnification to see the trichomes and nugstructure.

Dub has a much bigger emphasis on echo and reverb compared to reggae, and that genre formed alongside reggae—and led to sampling and remixing techniques that permeate most other forms of music nowadays, Yaadcore reminds us. Walking in the footsteps of dub masters like Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Tubby, and Mad Professor—Yaadcore, Subatomic Sound System, Jah9, and others carry the torch.

John Holt wrote “Police in Helicopter” because Jamaicans were tired of U.S.-funded efforts to aggressively burn down crops of cannabis. American officials launched Operation Buccaneer—secretly coordinating with Jamaican police—beginning in 1974, when the song was written.

“The chorus of this song has been a battle cry in my heart since I first heard it,” Jah9 said of the track. “As someone intimately involved with the use of this herb as a symbol of defiance but more importantly as a powerful tool for healing, I’m honored to add my voice to bringing it forward to a new generation.” Jah9 now lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and was tapped for the track with “the perfect” voice for it. 

Thanks to WikiLeaks, the tactics behind Operation Buccaneer in Jamaica, and the pressure from the U.S., have been made public. The goal of Operation Buccaneer was to eradicate all ganja. Operation Buccaneer continued in waves through the 1980s, and was profiled by the Washington Post in 1987. In the 1987 wave alone, 350 acres of small farms were destroyed over several months, and homes were destroyed by the helicopters as well.

The re-imagining of “Police in Helicopter” is dub-heavy and created for a new chapter in the world of ganja. Yaadcore hit up Diamond Supply Co. in Los Angeles recently on April 23 to promote Reggaeland and the new song. High Times also watched Yaadcore perform last February at Cali Vibes festival, with several Marley siblings, Shaggy, Sean Paul, and many others.

High Times caught up with Yaadcore on the phone, and we could hear the flick of a lighter as the conversation kicked off.

Courtesy of Jay Williams

How are you doing today?

Good, thank you.

You’ve been shifting from DJ to vocalist in the lab. How is being a vocalist different creatively compared to working as a selector?

Well, it’s different in that it’s more technical, it is more time consuming. It takes a lot more thought because, you know, you’re actually creating something from nothing. You know, whereas that DJ has some artillery already given to him and then, you know, he uses that to do his job. But as far as the [vocal] artist is concerned, you know, we have to take things out of thin air to make it you know, pleasing to the ear. So, I think that’s the difference with being a DJ artist, you know?

“Police in Helicopter” is an old-school political tune from way back in 1982. Tell us about what the song is about.

Right. So “Police in Helicopter,” as you mentioned, is a political song. In 1974, you know, the U.S. government funded Jamaica’s government in aiding and abetting to burn down marijuana fields. So that was the whole you know, idea. The inspiration came about from John Holt, who did the original “Police in Helicopter” in 1982 or 1981 I believe. And yeah, Emch [of Subatomic Sound] linked me up. He was the one who really wanted to remake this song for his bridging on the Yard Birdz record label and link me, and I knew I wasn’t the one to sing the chorus because that’s not really my style or anything. So you know, I suggested Jah9—perfect collaborator. And you know, I reached out to her and she agreed to do it after hearing me first and everything.

Does that reflect your own views about cannabis?

The song really you know, depicts my views of marijuana in that you know, the lyrical content states you know, watch out for the “chopper dem a chop,” which is reference to the helicopters that fly by our field and dem want to take our crops you know, so and then in the second verse, I’ll go on to say, you know, “Non-stop burn the fire pon the system, when you turn the marijuana farmer in a victim.” You know, so this song is really advocating for the farmers you know, and you know, their herb on a whole is coming far away but we still have a far more way to go, because marijuana is not legal in every country in the world. And you know, we all are equal and want the same rights to partake in this herb so you know, that’s why we still find it necessary to sing these kinds of lyrics.

Your debut album Reggaeland came out recently. There is a heavy dub element to it. Which track are you most proud of?

What was I most proud of? Honestly—there are a few tracks and I’m proud of it. Frank reasons being Lee “Scratch” Perry “Play God” that was one very mystical track, you know, seeing that he’s also being the legend that he is and how it really came about was really me … You know, after I wrote the song, I was listening to one of his interviews, and I realized he said the same thing that I was saying in the song, which was, you know, the devil is trying to play God because that’s really what “Play God” is all about, you know, like as bigger heads trying to be the gods of man, and you know, want to tell man, what they should do what they should not do. So, that’s a very special track.

And what else?

You know, “Nyquill (Remix),” is also especially with the legendary Richie Spice, you know, the highest one or the one that has, you know, some of the most marijuana on them. So it was definitely a pleasure to collaborate with him as well. And then you know, “Shrooms” also, so the whole album is very special.

Courtesy of Jay Williams

It sounds pretty psychedelic.

I like shrooms now. And you know, we’re on High Times so [that’s] a nice topic to touch on, you know. It’s gonna be one of the first—alright the first-ever—reggae song that is singing in support of shrooms as a religious and natural mystical tool. It happened you know, on my first experience with the psychedelic; That was the manifestation.

What about the songs with Lee “Scratch” Perry?

All right, so I have two songs with Lee “Scratch” Perry. Oh, no, with Lee “Scratch” Perry: The one that I did before was not on the album. That was also set to release before his passing was even a ‘ting. You know, yeah, so unfortunately, he passed before that song actually came out. So no, I don’t really have any [more] of Lee Scratch Perry’s tracks that I, you know, worked with … that’s coming out. Though we have a Lee Scratch Perry [track] featuring and a bunch of younger artists also on that as well, but is not necessarily from these Lee “Scratch” Perry’s production, but more of him being an artist on that track.

The dub master?

And he’s the founder of dub—a type of music that almost every other genre uses now was originated by him. And you know he influenced Bob Marley. I agree. You know he has produced with Bob Marley as well. That very bizarre icon in music—not only in reggae music but you know, in music.

Do you find shrooms to be spiritual like cannabis is?

Of course, even on a higher level, I don’t even I don’t want to say high because everything serves this purpose, but how I like to describe it like marijuana is for like the earthly, spiritual realization and shrooms no can take you unlike a spiritual spiritual connection. Yeah, no. Yes. Is definitely way more intense. And you know, it has medicinal values … Also, you know, it’s not all about the psychedelic aspect and everything. Just like marijuana. […]

What kind of live performances do you have coming up?

Well, you know, actually, I have only one confirmed date right now in Sacramento. We’re actually working under a regular tour right now. So not any confirmed dates as yet. But I’m sure there will be some in a few weeks or so.

Do you have any other announcements?

I mean, you know, I definitely have singles going to be released before the end of the year, that are not going to be on the album, or that wasn’t on the album. And yeah, we just have this mixtape that we’re gonna do with WholesomeCo Cannabis. That’s a dispensary in Utah.

I did two for them before. So this is like the final final leg of this series. You can check that out as well. But yeah, that’s about it. I did a merge collab with Diamond Supply Co. for the song “Nyquill.” So there’s merch for the “Nyquill” remix on the Diamond Supply Co. website. So that’s a big deal. I think, you know, yeah. There’s no other artist that has ever done anything with our streetwear brand officially, you know?

Are you aware that High Times threw many events in the past near the cliffs in Jamaica?

They should let us do some content stuff in Jamaica. Yeah, we should look into that, man. I should, we should definitely look into that. Yeah, no problem, man. Thanks for your time as well.


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