Protoje’s new album A Matter of Time premiered at number one on the Billboard reggae charts. Whenever he takes the stage, people beg him for one of the hats that he’s wearing. The reason is that nobody else sports a Rasta crown like he does. He’s certainly not the first to sport the storied headgear. He’s quick to point out: “These are styles that I would see artists from the ’70s and ’80s. “In Jamaica legends like Dennis Brown, wore similar crowns”, the Kingston-based musician says.
The crowns are hard to come by these days. Lots of artists have no qualms with giving away something that they’re wearing onstage to an adoring fan. Protoje is understandably reluctant to part with his collection. “I’ll be onstage singing and people are like, ‘Please, please!,’ but they’re one of a kind, so I can’t just give them away. I gave one away one time. This girl in the crowd was just begging for one, and afterwards I gave my brown one away.”
Protoje has always had an interest in the wide hats. He’s long been fascinated with the sounds and styles of ’80s Jamaica. He only saw older men wearing the crowns. One day he approached an elder with one of the crowns on to ask where he had gotten it. The man directed him to two men who handcraft the hats 50 meters away.
“In the past you probably had a lot more people making them,” Protoje says of his signature accessory. “Jamaican crowns is a dying art. These two guys were probably making them for those artists back in the day.”