Sizzla Kalonji is one of the most prolific leaders of the conscious dancehall movement. He is also one of the most commercially, critically successful contemporary Reggae artist and well known for his unique productivity. Emerging in the latter half of the 90s he helped lead dancehall back to the musical and spiritual influence of roots reggae with heavily Rastafarian subject matter. He was born Miguel Collins on April 17, 1976 in St Mary, Jamaica and was raised in the community of August Town in Kingston, by devout Rastafarian parents. Collins mother, Mama Lou urged her son to focus on his education and school which contributed to his musical legacy and love of writing.
The 1980s witnessed a dancehall explosion and with the music came the lifestyle: drugs, guns and slackness. Sizzla watched carefully, collecting his lyrical ammunition. He began his career in the music industry in his early teenage years. Groomed by Mr. Homer Harris at a young age, he began to learn the skills and techniques necessary to be an excellent artist. He called himself Little One at that time but because of his burning appetite for hot soup, Harris named him Sizzla because of the way he drank his sizzling soup like cold water. It also reflected his lyrical style and delivery. At the same time he began to train to develop a career as a mechanical engineer at Dunoon High School , his father Aston Collins operated an automobile garage in their community. The career as a mechanic would soon take a back seat to the music and eventually fade allowing the formal adoption of Rastafari to procede.
Sizzla Kalonji spent several years balancing his music career and studying the principals of Rastafari at the official Bobo Ashanti Camp at Bobo Hill in St Thomas, Jamaica. This is where he embraced the philosophies of Rastafari, panAfricanism, repatriation and reparations to Africa, and the use of the spiritual sacrament of cannibas. After honing his skills, he landed a gig with the Caveman Hi-Fi sound system, where he first made a name for himself as a performer. He cut his first single for the small Zagalou label in 1995, then Mr. Harris introduced him to Bobby "Digital" Dixon and Luciano. This eventually led to extensive touring with fellow roots and culture artist Luciano, later earning Sizzla critical acclaim. However, he didn't manage a breakout success until saxophonist Dean Fraser recommended him to producer Philip "Fatis" Burrell.
Working with Fatis marked an important turning point for Sizzla. From the outset their relationship was one of mutual respect and inspiration. A run of successful singles led to the release of Sizzla's debut album, 'Burning Up' (RAS). The alliance again proved fruitful a year later with the follow-up, 'Praise Ye Jah' (JetStar). Securing his position as a top conscious reggae artist, he set about cultivating his role as a spiritual messenger. Sizzla's combination of Rasta principles and up-to-the-minute dancehall rhythms made his hard line approach more palatable. A brilliant and passionate performer, Sizzla broke boundaries, appealing to those looking for something new, music with depth.
His major breakthrough came with the release in 1997 of the now classic album, 'Black Woman and Child' (Greensleeves). Bearing all the hallmarks of Bobby 'Digital' Dixon's dancehall-influenced production, the impact on both the reggae and mainstream markets was phenomenal. The evocative title track, issued as a single, rapidly achieved anthemic status. Along with universal praise came Sizzla's first nomination for Best International Reggae Artist of the Year at the 1998 MOBO Awards and a place in various magazines' top 100 albums of the year.
Sizzla scored several more hits during 1997, including ‘Like Mountain’, ‘Babylon Cowboy,’ ‘Kings of the Earth,’ and the Luciano duet ‘Build a Better World.’ This hot streak kicked off an enormously productive recording binge that has lasted for years. He has an ability to fuse passionate lyrical styling with deceptively simple rhythms that take in a range of genres from staccato dancehall and gentle roots reggae to surprisingly commercial R&B and soul arrangements.
Somewhat controversial, Kalonji has maintained the views of the Bobo Ashanti, particularly promoting the African Family and the end to all oppression. Kalonji began to garner more negative attention in the late 90's due to the release of slack tunes, which were sexually graphic in nature such as ‘Pump Up Her Pum Pum’ and others. He began Kalonji Muzik in 2002; this set the mark of his growth not only as a great reggae artist but also a record label owner. In response to all the criticism from his former fans that longed for the classic "Black Woman & Child" days, Sizzla released what is arguably one of his best albums to date, 'Da Real Thing' in 2003. The album consisted of strictly roots and lovers rock material with every single tune eventually becoming a bonafide hit.
Overall his music is generally positive, advocating faith, compassion for poor black youth, and respect for women. He remaines somewhat of an enigma to the public at large, rarely granting interviews and keeping his concert appearances to a minimum. Nonetheless, he still ranks as arguably the most popular conscious reggae artist of his time. A versatile singjay-style vocalist with a gruff, gravelly tone, he is capable of both rapid-fire chatting, powerful, melodic singing, and his best backing riddims are among the strongest in contemporary dancehall. Sizzla has a strong dedication to uplifting his community and has organized many events and programs through Judgement Yard which is geared to promoting the local youth in his neighborhood.
Sizzla Kalonji has impressively released over 50 solo albums and over fifteen combination albums, crossing different genres of Reggae. In 2006, Kalonji Muzik in conjuction with Damon Dash Music Group, and Koch Records released The Overstanding. It was prolific and melodic as the previous albums, however it penetrated a more commercial market building a different fan base than he had before. He also released Black History and Life under his own label Kalonji Muzik.
Following the heals of Addicted in 2008, an album full of heavy beats, passionate love songs and electro riddims came Ghetto Youth Ology in 2009. The album produced by Sizzla’s Band Firehouse Crew, was a more conventional and traditional reggae album which brought out his original sound. In December 2009, Sizzla performed in Africa for the first time as a solo artist with Rebel T Music, receiving the most magnanimous and exciting welcome of his career. The whole nation of The Gambia shook as Sizzla went through the country. He received an official invitation from the President to visit him at his farm then performed for him at the annual New Year’s celebration in Banjul.
In January of 2010, Sizzla’s spiritual father and mentor, Homer Harris produced and released a new album entitled Crucial Times. The single Crucial Times was a big hit in Europe between 2008 and 2009. Crucial Times is a very joyful and playful album, pulling from Sizzla’s organic roots with R&B-infected love songs, sexy club anthems, raucously delivered late 90’s revival, hard dancehall, and even drum & bass. It showcases the many moods of Sizzla but maintains a constant theme of positive, instructional lyrics with an emphasis on making the most of life on earth. Crucial Times ask the youth to attend school and “no prostitute yourself” but at the same time “learn to live in love, be kind, and don’t waste your time.”
Sizzla Kalonji has 21 albums that have made it onto the Billboards Top Reggae Albums music charts. He has also placed on numerous top ten and top 100 album of the year charts. He has received awards from IRAWMA, EME, MOBO, Vibe Magazine, Rolling Stone, Irie Fm, People Choice Awards, Digital Music Award Winner, Reggae Academy Awards, and has been nominated for the Grammys several times. Sizzla Kalonji continues to release music through his career showcasing the level of talent that exudes through his creativity.