“None of these so-called young artists or new artists are younger than I am, really,” Assassin says, leaning conspiratorially across a poolside hotel bar in New Kingston. “Probably a couple months, but it’s not like I’m over the mountain or something.” The clarification is necessary because at twenty-six, Assassin is already a veteran by the dog years standard of dancehall. “Age wise it’s a good thing, being in the industry for seven plus years,” he says. “It has to be where the proof is in the pudding, rather than a buzz thing.”
Not that he’s a stranger to hype. If anything, the deejay has been a victim of his own precociousness, recording with stars like Spragga Benz while still a teen. When his 45, “The Roughest,” helped make the Diwali riddim the soundtrack of 2002, he was already being touted as the next big thing. Though he never tasted the crossover success that Diwali brought Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder, Assassin ignited the speculation all over again when the retro feel of “As a Man” set off a flood of ’90s throwback tunes in 2005. That too passed. But by the end of 2008 he was fully into his third distinct wave of next big thing momentum. The odd piano vamp of the Daseca-produced “Surveillance” provided the perfect counterpoint to his ragged vocals, but it was “Money” on Stephen McGregor’s Work Out riddim that truly caught fire. With its relentless mantra, Everybody want some money/ Or need some money/ Or get some money from somewhere, Assassin scrambles over the track like he is scoring a montage of stock market crashes playing out on a hundred TV screens.
By this point, another artist might be sick of the ride, but Assassin seems almost eerily zen for someone about to crest yet another hill on this bashment roller coaster. He talks a lot about how maximizing his potential is his only goal, and lest you think it’s all talk consider this: in the midst of the “As a Man” hype he won a scholarship to a UK university and has been using distance learning technology to fit coursework for a business degree into his soundclash schedule. “Now I have a capacity to deal with whatever opportunities come along. Before it would have been too soon,” he says. “When you’re at that point, you feel like you want it to happen now. But when you realize how the thing work out, you count your blessings. I’m happy that it’s a more gradual process than starting at the top. I’m not trying to race the machine.”