After delivering a powerful chorus and verse on Kanye’s industrial, Nine-Inch-Nails-influenced dancehall track “I’m In It” off Yeezus, Rap’s favorite reggae deejay Assassin has been in popular demand. The lyrically inclined dancehall artist has since made contributions to Raekwon’s “Soundboy Kill” as well as Kardinal Offishal’s “Island Boy” (which also features Raekwon).
More recently, the in-demand deejay appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry” – although uncredited by most sites that posted the song. Boomshots recently got Assassin, aka Agent Sasco on the phone for an NPR piece. We’ve included a few key pieces from the interview below.
On the difference between working with Kanye’s camp and Kendrick’s
I still haven’t spoken to Boi-1da. The communication was done through Kardinal Offishall. I understand Boi Wonda has been reaching out to him saying he wanted a Jamaican voice for the record. And Kardinal suggested that Sasco definitely killed something like this so you should send it to him.
And so I got the track and they sent a demo pretty much with a feel for what the subject matter would be about. So I was able to write to that. This time I wasn’t flying blind but I didn’t hear Kendrick’s lyrics or anything. I was working with what they gave me.
His first impressions upon hearing “The Black The Berry“
WHOOOO. MAAAAN. To use some hip-hop jargon, “Man he went IN!” [Laughs] Nah, he bodied it. So here’s the thing, what’s powerful about the record—and I keep using the word “Powerful” to describe it—is that you have songs, you have tunes, you have tracks, you have this and that, and you have works of art. And I think this is really one of the pieces that just demonstrate how powerful the art form is. The fusion of all the different perspectives. As somebody said to me, Kendrick is kinda speaking from the African-American perspective and then when the chorus comes in it kinda broadens it. What he did on that record, and the type of discussion he’s having and how timely that is, especially for America what has been happening over the last year to two years. And the way he handles the discussion, in terms of it’s not just a single perspective—just incredibly done. That’s just lyrical mastery.
On why he’s in such high demand
Man, it’s a blessing and I really just—I’m very grateful for these opportunities. And at the same time I realize how important it has been that I stay ready. I stay working on my craft and pursuing continuous improvement and just trying to always get better and review the process, what I can do better to be more acceptable. To get these opportunities and be able to nail them. So far you can call it two of two, so that’s not a bad strike rate. Cause people love what I did with the Kanye record, and the response to this “Blacker the Berry” thing has been incredible.
To me that’s the important thing, to stay ready and make sure that when these opportunities come and when you go in the booth you put something down that people would want to mess with. It’s encouragement of course. It’s the ultimate encouragement to continue to work hard and even work harder.
On the future of dancehall
I realize that dancehall has never had, to me, the kind of lyrical representation. Like in hip-hop they say “boy he’s really dropping bars.” We haven’t had that sort of representation. And I really think it’s an opportunity to pursue that and to represent that. I remember when I was recording one of the verses for the Kanye project and there was two guys from his production team in the studio, in Gee Jam. And I remember like when I said a line, the two of them kinda looked at each other like “whoooo” you know, like rappers do, and that whole kinda thing. I think the line was “Turn badman / Thugs den a move / Come in like benchwarmers / Cause we don’t play.” And they looked at each other like.
Read the rest of the transcribed interview here.