Jamaican Reggae Artist Protoje Creates an Energetic Feedback Loop Through Music

Oje Ken Ollivierre—the Jamaican artist known professionally as Protoje—is a thoughtful, contemplative individual—a thinker, if you will, who is consciously aware of his role as a creator and his responsibility as a creator to share what’s most authentic to him with the rest of the world.

Born into a family of music-minded parents, music started as a hobby for Protoje and eventually took form as a career once he made the conscious decision to go all-in and dedicate himself to his craft. His latest album Third Time’s A Charm acts as a culminating expression of his life experiences and feelings that have brought him through to the present moment.

When we connect over Zoom, Protoje is in a happy, expressive mood—having just taken a quick puff—and from a free and open mindset begins to share his journey through music, his relationship with cannabis, how he channels a higher power for his music’s creation, and how that higher power gives life to further music creation, performance, and sustenance.

High Times: Growing up in a musical family with both parents being musicians, was music always the path for you growing up in that environment?

Protoje: I really wanted to be an athlete first. I wanted to be a long distance runner and was obsessed with basketball in my teens. I always loved music and was involved in it, but it was like a hobby to me.

A little bit before I left high school I started to realize that the idea of getting a job or working somewhere was not sitting well. Not realizing the work it would take to be an artist, I thought maybe I could become one. Everyone was telling me how good I was and I could see how they were reacting [to my music]. So I declared that I was going to be an artist and that was what I was going to do [for “work”].

What was it about the artistic lifestyle that you realized was different from running, different from having a nine-to-five—what was it that really captivated your spirit?

To be honest, it was people’s reactions to hearing me DJ or doing other stuff. I just thought it would be a good way for me to express myself. I think where I felt most natural and felt most happy and content was writing music and singing it to my friends. I would get very excited and it’s what brought me joy.

So there’s a fulfillment element then that being on stage and expressing yourself provides, perhaps in a way that other occupations may not.

I think so. As simple as it is, I just didn’t want to have to report to anyone. I grew up with parents who always helped me feel very free. They had such busy schedules that they just kind of let me set my schedule, so it was very hard for me to adjust to operating on someone else’s clock. Doing so takes away my joy, so I knew that while I wanted to pursue music, I’d also have to do it under my own label. I just really didn’t want to have to report to someone, so I built my entire creative process around that.

When expressing yourself through music, is there a mission that you’re trying to fulfill or is it just an expression of yourself and music happens to be the tool to do that through?

I’ve found that the most honest way to approach music is to speak about experiences and the meaning that I derive from the way that I see things. That to me is me being my most honest self, and doing that is the most important thing for me musically.

So I may feel some way about something and I think the feeling is valid. After sitting with that feeling, I express it. A year later, I may be going through something else, but once it is valid and honest in me, I express it.

The overarching theme is to appreciate—to live in the moment of gratitude—to make use of the time that you have as best as you can. That’s really what I try to do as an individual. Because of that, that’s what my music tends to focus on.

When I listen to my music—look, I have to sing these songs everyday. I’m the only person who has to sing these songs one thousand times. I’m hearing myself sing this stuff all the time. So [the songs] need to be something that resonates with me and that I one hundred percent believe in. That they’re authentic from me. Otherwise, I’m going to hear it and I’m going to cringe.

The other day I had a show that was really hard to get up for energy-wise. I was tired, everyone was tired. I started the show singing “Deliverance” and said “Choosing how I spend my time is completely by design / They don’t even see the trying / All they see is dollar sign / All I make is sacrifice.” I was listening to those lyrics and I got an energy [that woke me up]. And this is why I [create] this way because it helps power the whole thing. Lyrics help power the whole thing of me being an artist.

So it’s almost like a really cool feedback loop. You’re channeling from a higher power, that channeling then leads to the creation of the music, and then the music gives you the energy you need to perform the music.

It’s like if you plant some lettuce yourself and you grow it and it comes up. You take it, and you wash it off, then you cook it, and you bring it out to the table for dinner. You break off a leaf of it and you taste the lettuce. You’re reminded of when you planted it and you get to experience it one more time and it’s a loop. It’s just like that, that’s [how making music] feels to me.

Photo by Yannick Reid

Was there a moment after deciding to focus on music where you realized the path could be both the vehicle to express yourself and provide you with sustenance?

I committed to music very early but it was very hard to get traction. I think when my first single “Arguments” came out and it came out and did well, I was like, “Wow, I’m an artist.” People were starting to recognize that I made music. I knew I had the skills and I knew I had the talent but my main problem was that I thought it was owed to me because I was so talented. I was like, “I’m talented, so why isn’t this person recording me? Why am I not getting the respect?”

Once I realized that nobody owed me anything and that talent alone had nothing to do with it—sure, I’m talented, but many people are talented—I began to realize I needed determination and discipline, and after that, everything started to happen fast.

Once you realized you weren’t owed anything, what was the shift in your actions that led to success?

The shift was immediate. I was at a friend’s playing video games and I went outside and started to smoke. Anxiety came over me like I’d never felt before. I didn’t understand. I knew I wanted to be an artist, I had a song that I was recording, but I was hanging out playing video games with friends during the day. I could tell you how many points Kobe had in the game the night before. But what was I doing every single day [to achieve my goals] apart from writing some songs at night? What else am I doing?

So I stopped everything that day. I got rid of my PlayStation, I stopped watching TV, I stopped everything else I was doing and I just started doing music all of the time. I started to bring my song to every radio station and go to every live event that they had where it was possible for me to get in front of people. Every day, everything I started doing was centered around “how is this helping me get closer to my goals?” I did that for a little and then everything started to happen when I stopped doing everything else. It was wild.

You went all-in and took the action of consistently showing up for yourself. And it sounds like, from that place, good things happened.

G, I’m telling you. In life, I’ve never seen it not work to really just narrow in on exactly what you’re trying to do and work towards it every day. I don’t see how that’s possible to not get closer to your goal if you work towards it every day. Once I realized that, everything changed.

That’s why I tell artists that I work with, “You want this and you want that, but have you done today to get there?”

From that day [of my realization] to now, no matter what it is that I’m doing, every day I do something that is helping me get towards where I am trying to go.

And you’ve had the positive feedback from the universe to validate that way of living.

I know that if I stay up another hour and send out another hundred emails today instead of tomorrow, I’m twenty-four hours closer to getting where I’m trying to go. That’s how I operate.

How do you protect your energy from getting burnt out?

The people around me will joke that I have an obsession or that I need to get hobbies, but I think it’s a balance. I have my family and my daughter, who give me a lot of relief. My family knows that I work really hard because I’m trying to do as much as I can do in as short a time as I can because I don’t want to be out here doing this forever.

I can spend five hours working feverishly on my craft today and then I have ten hours extra that I can use to go to the beach, I can hangout with my daughter, the whole family can chill and watch a movie or whatever—but the thing is, when I’m doing these things, the way my mind works is that these are all life experiences that are going into the process of me thinking. In turn, this leads to my music. You understand? It’s not focusing on being in the studio all of the time or recording all of the time, because that will burn you out. It’s living, experiencing, feeling.

Movies are a big thing for me and my writing because movies really make me feel. To someone else, watching a movie is time off—which it is for me, too—but at the same time, my mind is working and I’m getting ideas. So I’ve found a way to use it all as creativity.

Photo by Yannick Reid

In terms of creativity, what’s the inspiration behind your new album Third Time’s The Charm and what do you hope people take from it?

The album is an extension from [the album] In Search of Lost Time. It picks up right where it left off. Everything was coming from things that I was going through and experiencing. As I said, I communicate best with the world by talking about the things I’m going through and people can relate to it in some way and get something from it for their lives, as opposed to being preachy. That’s something I’m not interested in—being preachy and telling people what’s right, how you should live your life. I’m about sharing my experiences as you would when you meet someone and you’re talking to them.

Think about it: If you meet someone and you’re speaking to them and they say, “Hey look, you should live like this, this is wrong, this is the way,” or whatever, you’re not going to be receptive to the ideas and concepts I’m coming with, right? It’s the same thing musically. I’m just making music and communicating and sharing my thoughts and ideas. Maybe you connect with it, maybe it makes you come up with your own great idea.

I love this album, I really connect with it on a personal level. I love the words that are being said, I love the sounds that are playing behind the words. I love the way the album is mixed, I love the art. The visuals are possibly my most favorite that I’ve ever done. Everything is precisely how I want it to be and that’s what matters to me the most, knowing I’ve done exactly what I’ve wanted to do. However that’s perceived is up to people, and whatever that is, I’ll definitely be able to accept it.

It sounds like you’re consciously making art for yourself which enriches your life, and there’s an awareness of the power it has to also potentially enrich the lives of many others.

I like to think about van Gogh back in the day with an open canvas and him listening to his mind saying “Make this stroke with the brush here, use this color there.” I’d like to think he wasn’t there thinking “I wonder if someone is going to like this color here,” or “I wonder if people are going to like the way I do the grass here.” I don’t think that’s what people are doing when they’re making art. You have a picture in your head and you’re trying to put it as good as you can on the canvas. I feel like I’m hearing the songs in my head and all I’m trying to do is get it as close to how it sounds and looks in my head. When I really break it down to that, it takes away all of the pressure from making art. It helps you as an artist to not be anxious and feel like a hostage.

How does cannabis help you with this kind of creative process?

I have a very interesting relationship with marijuana. Sometimes, it gives me feelings that I’m not too comfortable with. Sometimes it makes me very anxious. Sometimes it makes me doubt myself. Sometimes it makes me question a lot of things. There’s lots of different reactions that I get from it depending on what I’m going through and how I’m feeling within myself.

When I smoke it causes me to overthink a lot and overanalyze. When I’m going through it, I feel anxious, but when I come out of it, I usually find something positive from the experience that I was having. So I’ve even learned to even accept the anxiety at times when it comes.

When I’m creating music—especially when I’m producing or recording another artist—and I’m smoking, it makes me able to spend as much time as needed without losing my focus. When I’m writing, marijuana will help me to be locked in and not be as easily distracted with outside elements. So creatively, I do think it helps me a lot, but I try to make sure that I’m not high all the time either because my conscious brain without being on marijuana is also such an effective thing and it brings its own qualities. It’s about finding the balance as with everything.

Follow @protoje and check out http://www.protoje.com for tickets, tour dates, and his latest album Third Time’s The Charm.

The post Jamaican Reggae Artist Protoje Creates an Energetic Feedback Loop Through Music appeared first on High Times.

Kevin Smith: The Art of Productive Stoning

Kevin Smith. Such an ordinary name for such an extraordinary man. For almost 30 years we’ve looked to him for comedy, podcasts, and comic books, while also admiring his acting and filmmaking in movies like Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and the movie that started it all, Clerks.

Kevin may have become a stoner later in life, but the wisdom he carries regarding it reads like a positive affirmation we should all ingest. Turned on to using cannabis for a higher good by his pal Seth Rogan, Kevin’s take on living a stoner lifestyle gives us one more reason to admire this multi-talented, ordinary name having man.

Coming off the heels of Comic-Con, and before Clerks 3 makes it’s anticipated debut on September 13th, we attempted to get some spoilers (Spoiler: we didn’t), discussed the sweetest currency, his strains with Caviar Gold, and cannabis being a running theme in his life, even when it was just for show. 

Do you ever sit there at Comic-Con and revel in your head like, oh my god I did this?

Kevin Smith: Like, literally. Revel is the right fucking word. I’ve been going to Comic-Con since 95’ and when I first got there the dream was like, this is where I wanna be accepted. I wanna be as integral to this institution as Stan. This is worth all the effort. Some people got lucky early, like I did with my career, and all they wanted to do was party, do drugs, and get fucked. All I wanted to do was become the King of Comic-Con. It took decades, and I don’t know if I’m the king, but I’m definitely Comic-Con royalty. So, I do revel in it because I think back to the conscious effort I put into getting here. The kids today would call it, “thirsty.” I’m sure the kids would also say that was cringe, but whatever. I do revel in it. It’s so gross to admit!

Come on, you put in the work in. You deserve the love. 

I think it helps that it’s never been obscene amounts. Ben Affleck is worldwide famous. I’ve seen that shit up close and it’s nuts. He goes to a mall and he gets fucking swamped. I go to Comic-Con and can be with the general public. It really comes down to a series of knowing smiles. I encounter people who maybe don’t come over like, I wanna take a picture or can you sign this? Instead, they give you eye contact and then a smile crosses their face. That feels fantastic. That means they’re associating me with some pleasant fucking memory enough to give me the grin. I love that shit. That’s the sweetest currency that spends the absolute most in my world.

You started smoking weed pretty late in life. What kept you away from it? Nancy Regan?

Yes! That was it! I was raised in the era of “Just Say No” when drugs were stigmatized. And that’s fine when you’re talking about cocaine or heroin, but they stigmatized weed pretty hard. I had an internal bias from childhood that went along with becoming a stoner. I was like, oh my god you’re going to become one of those lazy people who eats food and watches TV. I made this commitment like, hey, obviously you like this stoning thing and obviously at age 38, it’s doing something for you. If you’re going to do this, it always has to be tied to productivity. So you can smoke, but you always have to be creating. Smoke and record a podcast, smoke and shoot a movie, smoke and write—never just smoke and watch things unless you’re watching a thing you’re editing. Sure, sometimes you need a little inhale to invite joy. But kids, it’s not just for parties. It’s for progress, for productivity, and it clears away the inhibitions and allows you to think about dreams in a very real way.

Where did you adapt this “productivity only” mindset from?

Seth Rogen turned me on to being a middle-aged stoner. I worked with him on Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Seth is one of the most stoned individuals I have ever met. I may have him beat now though. He was always productive and even though he was smoking weed, he wasn’t “the stereotype.” He was shooting my movie, adlibbing three funnier versions of my movie in-betweens takes, and working with his buddy Evan Goldberg on a script that he was working on for after Zack and Miri. That dude was empire building and introduced me to the notion of “the productive stoner.” There are a bunch of us in Hollywood that smoke weed and get shit done. Seth shattered the stereotype so I decided to move forward with it even though I had a built-in bias like, if you do this, you are fucked! I had to make peace with it and slowly came out as being a stoner. Which is so weird because I made all the Jay and Silent Bob movies that had so much weed in them. It wasn’t until I became a stoner and watched all my movies again that I was like, now I understand why stoners like these movies!

Photo by Allan Amato

Welcome! Let’s talk Caviar Gold. Word around town is it’s pretty potent.

These joints will knock you the fuck out but I rail it into my heart and lungs, multiple per day. The brands I make with Caviar Gold are packed full of distillate so periodically, I’ll give somebody a joint and three days later they’ll be like, did you fucking drug me? Like, oh I should’ve warned you they’re pretty high in THC. I was just a massive fan and when we were making Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, that’s what I was exclusively smoking. They did this “Caviar challenge” where it was something like, smoke a Caviar joint in 15 minutes we’ll give you 1k in product. I’m not too rich to be like, no way! I took the challenge and failed, but I then met Caviar Mike through a friend and he’s a genius. I sat down and said something like, in the movie Jay and Silent Bob we make three strains of weed: Snoogans, Berzerker, and Snootchie Boochies. I love your product, would you make weed for me? And he did. We’ve been in business since 2019, the product is sensational, and it’s allowed us to travel around to weed legal states to do exhibits and stuff. It’s great for me because I never run out of weed. It’s also great because when people come over I can be like, hey, have a joint with my face on it!

Staying with joints, in the trailer for Clerks 3, you and Jay are hitting a giant ass joint and I’m trying to imagine, how much weed?!

Raw makes those papers and props to Raw because they’re not just a great stoner company, they’re one of the greatest American companies in existence right now. The guy who runs it is a perfectionist and artist. So, they made those giant ass cones. Did they work? Hands down they fucking work. Is it a wise use of weed? If you’re one of those people that grows and has access to copious amounts of weed, I would say it’s a once in a lifetime party experience. Great visual for social media, and it was phenomenal for our fucking flick. It looked ridiculous like you’re in Willy Wonka’s factory for heaven sake. If you’re going to try it, I say save it for a special occasion. A birthday or a shindig where you’re going to have 30 people around you trust. Talk about a communal smoke!

Becoming a stoner kind of rewrote it all for you.

It really flipped the perspective for me. It allowed me to wear my heart on my sleeve. I would do the work but I felt like I had to be the “Kevin Smith” they thought they knew, or suspected I was based on the movies. When I go back to old interviews, I just want to punch the shit out of that kid. The whole world is a burden and he’s projecting this insouciance to try to match the vibe of the first movie he made. But that first movie he made phased him because it made all of his fucking dreams come true. How do you sit around and still maintain that the world is a shitty place when it’s not? Because you and your friends took a step towards art, all of that changed. That storyteller is incredibly self-conscious and worried about what he’s put together. This storyteller is a stoner and realizes that “worry is interest paid in advance on a debt that never comes due.” I stole that from David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, but it’s absolutely true. I was really happy that becoming a stoner allowed me to be, me. In person, in public, when I’m working or not.

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COVID-19 Productivity Anxiety: What Potheads Teach Us About Self-Care

“The past two years have pretty much been a write-off,” a friend said over Zoom, defeated and bored. Followed by: “I’ve been so unproductive.” It feels like the two staples of 2020 and 2021 are Covid-19-related productivity anxiety and Zoom. Everywhere, research about unproductivity has been cropping up as employers languish over the prospect of allowing their […]

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Starting A Collective As A Musician – Strength In Numbers

Take a look at how teaming up with other creatives as an indie musician can be beneficial. Learn some quick tips about positive networking from an independent artist and how starting a collective as a musician means strength in numbers. Having An In-House Producer Teaming up with an audio engineer as an artist offers so […]

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The Importance Of Taking A Tolerance Break For Your Health

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How To Alter Your Perception Of Time Through Simple Meditation

In the struggle for time, here are some exercises that will help you to alter your perception of time through meditation. These simple tricks are designed to help you gain a sense of peace during your day and to help alleviate stress from your daily grind. Morning Meditation Wake up early and set time aside […]

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7 Cannabis Strains for Daytime Productivity During Quarantine

These quarantine days are getting hard to keep track of!  While some of us have finally got around to developing a routine that fits, others may be losing their steam. Whichever boat you’re on, check out our picks of cannabis strains for daytime productivity, that might just keep you afloat.   Durban Poison Cannabis Strain A […]

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