BLVK H3RO (pronounced Black Hero) is one of Jamaica’s most exciting and original young artists, but he’s far from new to the scene. Over the past half-decade, he’s built an impeccable track record and fervent following with his uplifting and ambitious modern reggae sound, while collaborating with the likes of Bunny Wailer, UB40, Equiknoxx and Skillibeng. Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, has even sung his praises, commending his song “It Nuh Easy” for its positive influence on Jamaican youth during a recent speech to the nation.
Even if you haven’t heard his music, you may have seen BLVK H3RO in ad campaigns for Carhartt, Clarks, Karl Kani, Levi’s and The Elder Statesman, among other celebrated fashion brands. With his roots firmly planted in Jamaica’s rich musical soil, he’s ready to take his innovative sound and invigorating message to the world with his latest album, Man On a Mission.
Born Hervin Augustus Bailey Jr, young H3ro grew up in Waterford, a neighborhood in Portmore, Jamaica famed for producing the dancehall icon Vybz Kartel. The son of a Pentecostal deacon, he was playing drums and singing in his church’s junior choir by age eight. He’d gain a different sort of musical education each December when Sting, the iconic Jamaican music festival known for its epic clashes, would unfold within earshot of his home.
After high school, he took a job at a bank in the hopes of funding his college education. “It was never in the plan to do anything musical,” he recalls. However, he quickly tired of the corporate hustle, and decided that the 9-to-5 life wasn’t for him. One fateful night, a co-worker who also happened to be a budding music producer invited him over to hear some riddims. The freestyle they recorded together that evening would ignite his creative energies, and inspire his new life as a recording artist. “I never looked back,” he recalls.
Plunging into the life of an artist was not easy, and the young singer found himself homeless, couchsurfing in the dorm rooms of friends and strangers alike, even sleeping on radio station floors. It was during this tumultuous and challenging period that he found his name, his community, and his mission. At the time, artists like Protoje and Chronixx were leading a revival of positive reggae music in Jamaica, and gaining worldwide fame. H3ro envisioned himself as a leader of the next wave of conscious-minded and musically experimental reggae visionaries, alongside fellow upstarts like Runkus and Royal Blu. Using his musical gifts for good, he would become a hero — BLVK H3RO — for a new generation of Jamaican youth on the rise.
In 2016, he released his first project, a seven-song EP dubbed THC: The H3rb Connoisseur. Assembling a backing outfit of young musicians which he dubbed the Reggae Soul Band, BLVK H3RO hit the road for his first overseas tour dates in Summer 2017, landing at major European festivals like Reggae Jam in Germany and Belgium’s Reggae Geel. With his breakthrough track ‘Feet Don’t Fail’ leading the way, he released his debut album, The Immortal Steppa, in 2019. In 2020, he teamed up with fellow rising star Wayne J for New Millennium, a joint EP inspired by classic dancehall; The project marked his first release with Delicious Vinyl Island, the Caribbean music imprint from the iconic LA-based record label Delicious Vinyl. Highlights included “Young Boss,” a track supported by a remix from dancehall’s hottest rising star in Skillibeng.
Through his journey, H3ro has been mentored by some of reggae’s most celebrated voices. In November 2019, Bunny Wailer tapped him to appear on what would prove to be the final tour of his six-decade-long career. In addition to performing onstage with the Wailers legend, BLVK H3RO recorded more than a half-dozen tracks with the iconic singer. In 2021, he was tapped to appear on UB40’s latest album, Bigga Baggariddim, placing all three tracks that he submitted for the project. He also returned to the road with his band to represent Jamaica at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Portugal. “It was an eye opener to see how big — and small — the world is, and how powerful music is,” H3ro says of these experiences. “These 2 million people in Jamaica, even if none of them like what you are doing, there are 7 billion people out there. “ Striding into 2022, BLVK H3RO is making his loudest statement yet with Man on A Mission. The album, forwarding soon through Delicious Vinyl Island, boasts collaborations with fellow rising stars Teejay, NationBoss and Iotosh and an expansive, genre-bending sound blending reggae, dancehall, trap and afrobeats rhythms with touches of jazz, soul, funk and R&B.
“This music I am making is for the youth,” BLVK H3RO says of his mission. “When somebody is trying to find a different outlook on life, this is something that can help guide them there through some form of breadcrumb or sonics. That’s what music did for me.”
To coincide with the album drop, BLVK H3RO heads on his first solo U.S. tour this Summer, hitting stages from Miami to Maine as well as the Golden Gates Festival in San Francisco. The goal, as always, is to reach new audiences and inspire. “I want you to feel like you’re right in the middle of whatever mission you’re on personally, and relate it back to your life,” he says of his music. “That’s my mission, that’s my purpose.”