Hoodcelebrityy‘s Jamaican heritage combined with her New York upbringing is what gives the artist her unique musical flair. Although she spent her teenage years in the States, she never lost her connection to her home country and continues to share her pride through her music.
The 30-year-old “Bum Pon It” artist grew up in the Bronx after moving there with family at the age of 12, but spent her childhood leading up to then in the town of Portmore, located in St. Catherine. Although she admits there was a bit of culture shock when she first moved to the city, she quickly acclimated to her new location by allowing what made her different help her to make money.
The dancehall singer spoke with Atlanta Black Star, to offer up some tips about where tourists should visit to get a more authentic experience when they visit, to reflect on her transition from the islands to the States, and to dish on the unexpected way she used her accent to make a little extra cash during school.
So let’s talk a little bit about Jamaica because that is where you were born before you moved to the Bronx. So if you had to kind of take someone with you on a one-day trip to Jamaica…what are some spots that you would take them to?
First, I would take them to the ‘hood. I feel like everything starts in the ‘hood. I’m from Portmore. So, I know you’re probably like, “Where’s Portmore?” But that’s in St. Catherine. I would take them to Forum Beach. That’s where I’m from. I would take them to Hellshire. That’s also where I’m from. When you go to Hellshire Beach, it’s different from going to the beach here. Down there, they have festival on the beach, you have bammy, you have fish, you got everything. It’s just a whole different vibe.
You got to go to the ‘hood…If you go to Jamaica and you never went to Kingston or you never went to Portmore, you not really … If you just go to Montego Bay, it’s cute, but you not really seeing Jamaica, you know?
Whenever I do make my way to Jamaica, what is one dish that I have to make sure that I try when I go?
You got to eat ackee and saltfish. I love it with white rice; some people like it with dumpling and banana. But if you eat ackee and saltfish, it’s like a must. You cannot go without eating ackee and saltfish, white rice or dumpling and banana, some yam on the side, some chocho. You got to, it’s like a no-brainer. Or if you want, you could eat it with breadfruit because it’s a breakfast. But I eat it every time.
You moved to the Bronx when you were 12. Was there any sort of culture shock when you first got there? Do you remember taking time to adjust?
Yeah. When I was living in Jamaica, a lot of my family was already living in New York and was already traveling back and forth. So, they was coming down there, ‘twanging’ and stuff. We ‘twanging’ like speaking American, how y’all speak here, like proper English. When they would come down there twanging, I used to always try to mimic it, like “What’s up, my n***a? What’s good, bro?” It used to sound weird, but I wanted to just speak it so bad. So, I feel like when I came here it was still a culture shock, but it wasn’t really too crazy.
What was really crazy for me was, one, the dress code. So I left from a country that’s hot. And I think I got here in the wintertime. When I came here, I remember my mom picking me up from the airport and they put a big jacket on me. I had a big scarf. They met me at the airport with a scarf and I’m like, ‘What is this?’ I remember seeing the snow for the first time, and I used to get real cold because I’m anemic. So, coming from Jamaica and then coming here, that was for me the biggest thing, like the change in the weather; that was really big.
And I remember my first day at school, I would listen to how everybody talk. Because my family then was coming down there ‘twanging,’ but Jamaicans have an accent. So, you could tell no matter how long we’ve been here, you still going to hear the accent when we say certain things. Going to school and actually listening to some of the kids that speak in Spanish, I’m like, ‘What is this? This is different.’
So I used to be scared to talk at first, so I wouldn’t say nothing. I’d act like I was quiet. Teachers would tell my mom that, ‘She’s so quiet.’ My mother’s like, ‘She is not quiet,’ but that’s ’cause I didn’t really want nobody to make fun of me. When I started speaking up, kids used to be like, ‘Oh my God, what are you saying? What is that? Oh my god, I’ll give you a dollar. Say that again!’ They used to really pay me a dollar for me to speak my language.
How long were you making money off saying words?
I swear, man, for a long time. Because even when I got to high school, it was still people that’d be like, ‘Oh my God.’ I think my friends used to really just try to get me mad, because when I get mad, my accent will come out and I’ll start cursing up a storm. Especially in high school, I was crazy. They used to purposely get me mad just to be like, Oh my god, say that s–t again.’ I’m like, ‘Y’all weird. This is some weird shit.?’ But I used to get paid for it. I was getting paid for a long time.
People really don’t understand — the world loves our culture. They love that. Even the accent, people love Jamaican culture. They really do. It’s like a thing … I got my friends and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, I want to date a Jamaican guy. I want to date a Jamaican girl. That s–t is so dope. The way y’all be talking, that s–t just sound fire.’ … To you, it’s just regular. People admire the culture. They admire the culture, they admire the music, and that makes me feel good.
Are there any projects coming up that you want to tease? I know you just had the [“Champions”] video drop. Anything else that you want to promote?
“Champion” is out right now, and they can go get it on all platforms. After “Champion” I’m dropping my album. My album been done, but I’m really into album mode now. I don’t think I’m going to drop another single. I think I’m going to just go straight to the album. Let people really hear what I got.
Are you aiming to get that done before the end of the year, hopefully?
Yeah, definitely before the end of the year. Yeah.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.