It's not everyday that a pop star stops by a middle school and performs his newest single. But that's exactly what happened on March 26 when Jaicko, the up-and-coming Barbadian singer, visited students at St. Mark the Evangelist School in Harlem.
Jaicko, who's only 18, spoke to the group of 5th through 8th graders about his own experience with music growing up and then performed three songs from his upcoming debut album, Can I (Capitol), that had the students clapping and singing along. Music Unites and Education Through Music, two non-profits that work to bring music education into underserved schools, organized the event, which Jaicko says was a great experience. "Music in school really helps kids," he says. "It really expands your mind and calms your soul. It's part of how we live."
Music has always been a big part of Jaicko's life. His dad, a well-known nightclub musician in Barbados, encouraged him to do music from an early age. Jaicko studied piano and started performing when he was nine years old, but didn't decide on music as a career path until he was much older. "When I was younger I wanted to be a Power Ranger," he says with a laugh. "A superhero! I had the passion for music, but I didn't start to get really serious about it until I was about 16."
Of course, this was around the time that one of his fellow Barbadians, Rihanna, was being hailed as the biggest pop star on the planet. "I definitely can't ignore the fact that she has paved the way for me and all the other Barbadian artists who are coming out," he says. "I can't ignore that--it's right there in front of your face: Rihanna is top of the Billboard charts right now! I don't mind [being compared to her]. They can call me the male Rihanna. At the end of the day, the numbers will tell the story."
Jaicko, who writes his own music, is already a huge success in Barbados. "You put me and Rihanna in the same room back home and you probably go crazy trying to figure out who you want to see first," he says. "I remember when I started to come to America, this was almost like my getaway place. But now the way it is at home is turning into that here. But I think having that type of local success has prepared me for my journey now."
Jaicko will release "Can I" this summer. "As soon as the single "Fast Forward (FFWD)" blows up and as it hits number one, we're gonna drop the album and BAM!" he says, adding "Ya mon," in a thick, Bajan patois. Though that success is imminent (his first single "Oh Yeah" hit number 2 on the Bubbling Under R&B/Hip Hop Singles chart), he says he'll still make time to work with Music Unites and their education initiatives. On April 12, he's going to meet with the Music Unites Choir -- a group of public high school students from all over New York's five boroughs through a partnership with Young Audiences New York -- and give them advice on songwriting and performing. "It's a pleasure to be a part to the whole Music Unites organization," Jaicko says. "I applaud [founder] Michelle [Edgar] for taking that into her hands."
Follow Michelle Edgar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Music_Unites