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Unless you live under a rock – on another planet – then you’ve already heard the name Usain Bolt. The attention-grabbing, history-making government belongs to a man who’s largely considered to be the fastest sprinter of all time and now he’s on a mission to get you running to the dance floor in this next chapter of his life.
The-35-year-young Olympic titan broke records years ago when he competed in the international sporting event. Starting off as a cricket and football (soccer as us Americans call it) player during his youth, his cricket coach noticed Bolt’s lightning speed while playing and encouraged him to give track and field a try. Years later, Bolt would make history and his country of Jamaica proud by winning eight Olympics medals in total and becoming the only athlete in the world to win Olympic 100-meter and 200-meter titles at three Olympics in a row in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 games. He’s also won two Olympic gold medals in two 4 × 100 relay games.
On top of these major achievements, the sprinter has 11 World Champion titles to his name and is the most successful male athlete at the sporting competition with two 100-meter, 200-meter and 4 × 100 relay gold medals. He’s also the very first athlete to win four titles at the World Championship in the 200-meter race. There are many more W’s under Bolt’s belt that we can mention, but we would be here all day…
With all of these accomplishments, the star athlete has a large supply of trophies, medals, and supporters in his corner. Since retiring from track and field in 2017, his fans are taking priority in his mind now because of his next move: music.
The decorated Olympian recently released his debut dancehall album, Country Yutes, on Friday, Sept. 3 and it’s been receiving rave reviews ever since. You might wonder what made Bolt want to venture into this new lane. But, if there is anything that he’s taught us with his wins all these years it’s that he’s never been afraid of a challenge.
Check out our interview with the gold medalist as we chop it up about the new album, dancehall music, the Olympics, Sha’Carri Richardson, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer’s epic Verzuz and much more below!
What made you want to come out with the dancehall album?
Music is something that I love. You follow my career to track and field, I’m always dancing and I’m always just listening to music. It’s something that I wanted to do for a long time. So, in the pandemic, I had a chance because I was just in Jamaica — couldn’t do much. So, I was like, “You know what? Let me start this music.” That’s how I really got into it. And then the more I do it, the more I loved it. I was like, “You know what? We should definitely put out an album.’”
How long did the recording process take?
From the start, we did a few different tracks and NJ, which is my best friend — he’s always home – so, he had more time to just write the songs and then we’ll just give him the steel. He understood the work. So, it wasn’t a crazy long time because we were kind of used to getting things done easily and quickly because we’re the business types. So, it was probably over four or five months.
Did you write your music and produce it yourself or did you have a team?
NJ wrote most of the music, but we sat down and we kind of shared notes. And then, my cousin made most of my beats. Pretty much all of them.
Were you afraid of the critics who might wonder why you’re going into music now since you’re so known in the sports world, in the Olympics world?
Yeah. At the start, people were talking, but just like in track and field, at the start, people are also talking. So, for me, it doesn’t bother me. I expect it. But, it’s something that I love. And I always tell people, if you enjoy something, you should always just put your all into it. It doesn’t matter what anybody else says. Something you love, just push through and just work hard. So, that’s what I did, and then that’s what we’re doing here. I’m just working to try and get a foot in. I think more and more people are actually taking me a little more serious now because they see it’s not just a joke. And they see that I’m very serious about actually producing music.
I think you already answered my next question. I was going to ask, why was it so important for you to jump out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in music?
Yeah. As I said, everybody should, if you want something. It’s something that I love. And it’s a new chapter of my life. Yes, track and field will always be a part of my life, but that chapter’s ended and now music is just my new venture, and something that I enjoy doing.
So, who are some of your favorite dancehall artists that you’ve been inspired by?
I’m a massive fan of Vybz Kartel. Definitely the great Bob Marley, Baby Cham. I’m more of an old school type of guy and Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, and all these guys.
We had an interview with Spice a little while ago, and she said that she doesn’t feel like dancehall music gets the respect it deserves in mainstream. Do you agree?
I think dancehall has changed a bit from the art of core dancehall that people love and know. And that’s something that I’ve sat down and talked [about] to a few artists, and even NJ. We kind of need to get back to that real hardcore dancehall that people really enjoy and love because that’s why people love Beenie Man and Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel and Mavado because, back then, it was proper hardcore. But now, it’s kind of more trap, we’re kind of going into trap music, kind of, dancehall vibes. So, it’s not the same thing like it used to be. So, personally, that’s why I feel like it doesn’t get the respect like it normally gets [like] back in the days.
Did you watch Bounty Killer and Beenie Man’s Verzuz? What did you think?
Everybody watched that. For me, it just brought back so much memories. As I said, I grew up on the music, so it was just a vibe and I really enjoy, and the world enjoyed it because it’s still one of the biggest ones that has ever been done.
What message do you want people to get from your album? What’s your goal?
For me, I’m not trying to show my versatility because it’s not just strictly regular. We kind of just mix it up dancehall, a little bit of a chop vibe, some inspirational music. We kind of mix it up just to show the range and show people that I’m really serious about making music, and there’s a lot more to come. We’re just letting people know what it’s all about and just believe in us, and give us a chance to show what we’re capable of.
Were there any songs on the album that were hard to make or difficult to finish?
No, I think because we have a fresh mind, I think it was really easy. We knew exactly what we wanted before we actually did it because we were like, “You know what? We need an inspirational beat” or we would say, “Listen, this is what we want.” We already had in our mind with every track, this is a way we want to go. We kind of understood that from the start. I think we didn’t have a lot of issues, but it’s always up and down with certain songs, but there was a lot of vibes just doing this album. I really enjoyed it. And it’s something that I looked forward to doing again with even different artists.
This means you’re going to most likely come out with more albums. This is just the first one, right?
Yeah, this is definitely the first one. As I said, for me, it’s just to show the people the ability that we have and what we’re going for. Showing that we’re serious about music and we’re just trying to make moves. Give us a chance and just listen to the music and see what’s all about. We’re looking forward to getting feedback and seeing the energy or see how people feel about it.
Now, let’s talk Olympics! Did you watch it this year? What did you think?
Definitely, I watched the Olympics. It’s still a part of me as the first Olympics of me not being there. So, it’s something big and I really enjoyed it.
Do you miss competing?
Yeah, definitely. Especially watching the Olympics. I really, definitely, missed it. I was like, “Wow.” I never knew how much I would’ve missed it especially watching the guys that didn’t do so well this trip. It was kind of worse to me just watching it and wishing I was there to represent my country.
How do you feel about the Jamaican women basically sweeping the Olympics?
We kind of knew — from the start — that they were going to show up just by what they were doing during the season. They were really just doing big things. Yeah, we weren’t surprised. I’m not surprised. They’ve done it before. They did it at the first Olympics where they did basically the same thing when I was there in ‘08.
Do you know any of them personally?
I know Shelly-Ann very well. I know her personally, we talked and stuff.
So, people want to know, what makes Jamaica so fast? What is it in the Jamaican water?
(Laughs) I really don’t know… We have a boys and girls system in Jamaica that we do at schools. And I think it really helped finding the talent because we go all around the country. And then, we have great coaches, which really helped to develop those talents.
One of the big topics of the Olympics was Sha’Carri Richardson and the whole weed situation. Do you have any thoughts on that and the backlash she’s faced?
For me, I’ve always said one thing: rules are rules. They’re in place for a reason. That’s how I’ve always looked at track and field. Because as soon as you get your agent or your coach, or the person they have around you, [he/she] has to explain to you that, listen, these are the rules of the sports that you’re in. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You can’t take this, you can’t do that. That’s how I always live my life...
I know it must be tough on her. And I’ve always said, you should have people around you now to explain it, to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen again. I like her energy because I think she’s good for the sport because her energy is different. It’s spicy, it’s a vibe…
You will have failures throughout your career, it’s just one of those things. In my first Olympics in Athens, I didn’t make it outside the first round. So, it’s just about being determined and pushing yourself, and just believing that you can do it, and just go and do your best.
I like how you said that you liked her energy because a lot of people say she’s not humble enough, but is it a bad thing to not be humble? Because you feel yourself, everyone should feel themselves, right?
Everybody is different. But, I think she brings a different spice to track and field. And sometimes sports need somebody like that to give the energy, to get people talking about it. And she does get people talking about track and field. So, for me, that’s something that I personally feel is good for the sport. Because track and field is not the biggest sport in the world that people actually go, “You know what? Let’s go watch track and field.” So, for me, if they’re talking about it because she’s high energy and vibes, then for me, I’m okay with it.
Do you think there is potentially another country that can beat Jamaica in the Olympics one day?
I don’t know. The possibility’s there. There’s a lot of talent around the world. But, it’s just to find that at times. Because, as I said, in a lot of countries, track and field is not the biggest sport. There may be talent out there, but it’s to find it. I hope not though. That’s all I have to say, I really hope not (laughs).”
Does Jamaica have big parties or ceremonies when Olympians win and come home?
Definitely, if it wasn’t the pandemic. Right now, it’s just probably like the officials that will go and greet them at the airport and stuff like that. But, back in the days when I was around, they would throw big parades and stuff for us. So, I know the guys are going to miss out on that one.
Is there anything else you want to tell your fans about your music, about anything?
Just to go listen to the album. Go get the album. Just be ready for some good music.