There is an endearing mystique that surrounds Assassin a.k.a. Agent Sasco. It comes as a surprise whenever his iconic voice transcends boundaries in music, even though his resumé is already decorated with achievements. In Sasco’s island country of Jamaica, he is one of the most recognizable musicians who planted a stake in dancehall music 18 years ago. Outside of Jamaica, his songs with Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Raekwon the Chef have earned Sasco the status of being in-demand by hip-hop’s elite. In 2016, Sasco was featured on “Mutant Brain,” an original song created for the launch of KENZO World; the song’s accompanying video was directed by Academy Award winner Spike Jonze. To Sasco, he is modest about those accolades that have earned him worldwide fanfare. They are highlights in his career that he views simply as footnotes in his story.
Under the Assassin moniker, he adopted the persona of a mysterious figure that destroys his target in one shot. His weapon is a storm of punchlines. He is wordsmith that takes full advantage of the English language hollering multi-syllabic rhymes in Jamaican patois, stretching the listener’s imagination with rewind-worthy tongue-in-cheek references. In the early ‘00s Assassin left his mark by dissecting Jamaican slang terms on dancehall classics like “Idiot Thing That” and “Pre Dis.” “Ayo Jamaica ah we island. Jamrock! What kind of rock? Trust me it’s a diamond,” said a prideful Assassin on “Pre Dis.” At this point, his sound was already palpable for a general audience, yet he took a bold step to rebrand his identity, and changed it to Sasco. The new name trimmed the violent undercurrent of Assassin, and pushed a more polished brand. Sasco’s competitive nature remained the same, still raising the bar for quality songwriting.
In 2013, Kanye West recruited Sasco to record verses for an unknown project at the time. A year later, Sasco’s vocals were featured on “I’m In It,” the provocative track from West’s Yeezus album. His guest appearances snowballed into a collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon (“Soundboy Kill It”), a verse on an all-star dancehall remix by Jamie XX (“There’s Gonna Be Good Times”), and a groundbreaking spot on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-nominated To Pimp A Butterfly. To this day, the sound of Kendrick Lamar’s performance of “The Blacker the Berry” will be remembered by Sasco’s chorus ripping through primetime television during the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Each year since he made a breakthrough in hip-hop, Sasco landed features on dancehall remixes for R. City, Gorillaz, Sting & Shaggy; he delivered monstrous verses alongside Cadenza, Star.One, and Royce da 5’9’s posse cut with Black Thought and Eminem; Sasco had two songs on the original score for the film adaptation of Baywatch; plus he is one-third of the supergroup Suit of Black with members Kardinal Offishall and Bunji Garlin.
Sasco’s venture into uncharted territory continued on The Theory of Reggaetivity, his pivotal third album released in 2016. He transitioned to reggae, a new sound, but a familiar one that influenced him to initially pursue music. Sasco recalled figures and milestones that guided his career towards reggae and dancehall: mentorship from Buju Banton and Spragga Benz, to recording with Penthouse Records, to the influence of Bounty KIller and Professor Nuts. The Theory of Reggaetivity stands out in Sasco’s discography because of its live music texture and conscious lyrics. Majestic trumpets, and dub-styled one-drop basslines were the perfect backdrop for motivational anthems like “Stronger,” “Day In Day Out,” and “No Slave.”
While Sasco is aware that he is a benefactor of his talent, he also gives credit to a greater force at work making it all possible. Call it coincidence or divine intervention. Sasco calls it a blessing. On his fourth studio LP (slated for July 2018), Sasco puts fame into perspective by looking through the lens of his true identity, Jeffrey Campbell. He reflects on being raised in Kintyre, a neighborhood within the parish of St. Andrew. Despite his parents separating when he was two-years-old, Campbell was instilled with core values of gratitude and spirituality. “Born with nothing, still have everything,” he says on “So Blessed,” a single from the forthcoming album. “Winning Right Now” is another key track that is a celebration of overcoming adversity. Sasco’s family appeared in the video for “Winning Right Now” as a true testament of how he is winning in life. The video’s popularity on YouTube spawned a social media campaign by Captain Morgan Rum featuring Sasco during the 2018 Winter Olympics, in support of the first Jamaican women’s bobsled team.
The personal touch to Sasco’s music makes his new album his best work to date. By pouring his life story into music, his songs are more relatable than ever. Credit the wisdom Sasco has earned through his thirties. Learning how to produce his own music has improved his creative process. In January 2018, he built Diamond Studios, his homebase where he recorded the majority of his next release. “This album is a representation of where I am musically, mentally, and spiritually,” says Sasco. The journey continues.