The hyper-competitive nature of dancehall tends to make it a hothouse for suckers with colorful names. But every so often a deejay pseudonym evokes something more profound, and Erup, the stage name of Kevin Nickolas Saunders, is definitely one of those. Both the name and the artist conjure the days when Volcano Soundsystem ruled the set and ’80s pioneers like Volcano’s Nitty Gritty struck the perfect balance between lazy singing and melodic rapping. It also captures the volatility of the genre’s relationship to the mainstream, spilling over into chart success with the unpredictability of an act of God.
“Click Mi Finger” is a case in point. Recorded by Erup while still an unknown artist, the single was one of the first 45s on upstart Truck Back (a label named after its recording studio housed in the back of an actual, factual container truck parked amid the ghetto palms of an empty lot somewhere in New Kingston). The song seemed unlikely to beat out tracks from Mavado and Beenie Man to top the dancehall heap, let alone measure up against Rihanna and Beyonce in Hot 97 rotation and on Billboard charts.
“I had some a the lyrics before I even reach Truck Back,” Erup says, describing the recording by phone from Kingston. “so I just meditate the tune in my head like a freestyle. When they bring the riddim up, it just talk to the tune, so me know it a go mash this song when I put it on it, first time.”
In the wake of “Click Mi Fingers” success, Erup is quickly piling up new 45s for his own Fully Govern label and songs for a Truck Back-backed LP, including “Mek Noise,” another singjay assault on the excellent Dashboard riddim. Although he is not entirely at ease with the linear timelines of a conventional bio (asked about his start in music he replies: “Music is an inborn concept to I and I”) Erup attributes his automatic flow to years of cutting dubs long before the release of his first single. “I’m used to: Sing it one time and fling it pon dub plate,” he says. “Nah even have to stop and say, ‘Yo, bring it back on this again.’ One lick and I hit that.”
Stream: Erup, How We Ride