Dre Island, born Andre Johnson May 2, 1988, hails from the Red Hills Road section of Kingston, a rougher part of uptown where gunshots and crime are in abundance. At the tender age of three, his father asked him what he wanted to do when he grows up, his answer was one word “Piano!” His grandmother nurtured his interest in music, and encouraged him by bringing him to church to sing in the choir and take piano lessons. By the age of 12 he was already adopting a rebellious spirit, sneaking out of the house at night to attend local stage shows. By the time he attended the elite Calabar high school, he started taking his craft more seriously. His artist name Dre Island came when a friend of his used to refer to him in that way, as he says “I researched the term and discovered that apart from the meaning we all know, a mass of land surrounded by water, there is another definition ‘an isolated place where you go to find yourself’ and in that perspective it became a spiritual term to I&I: the place where Dre goes to be alone with Jah.”
Once introduced to the studio, a young Dre observed keenly the ins and outs of every facet of the recording process, while developing a talent for production using his classical piano training. His professional journey working as a producer in some of Jamaica’s top recording studios led Dre to successfully complete projects and gain notoriety. With the experience garnered as a producer, and an unwavering support from family and friends, Dre Island made the transition to a recording artist, releasing his first single “Reggae Love,” in 2013. His first big performance took place around the same time at Rebel Salute, one of Jamaica’s largest music festivals, known for its focus on roots and conscious music. The local buzz, fueled by live acoustic performances posted on YouTube, garnered an international fan base that demanded more from the young artist. It wasn’t until several years later that Dre penned his first bonafide hit song “We Pray” featuring Popcaan, which has over 27 million views to date on Youtube. In 2018 he headlined Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica, the island’s largest international stage show.
The success and notoriety of international stardom have fueled his mission to complete a full album. The result being ‘NOW I RISE,’ a comprehensive vision of his career so far. Themes of equal rights and justice, rebellion, love, faith, change, and comfort in the face of struggle abound in the interconnected songs on the 14-track album. Armed with life's struggles and successes, tribulations and victories, Dre Island’s musical journey is ready to be shared and leave its own legacy in the history of reggae music. Despite heavily embracing the spirit of reggae and Rastafari, he tries to remain genre agnostic. He explores the depths of his creativity, and by not allowing his art to be contained nor confined, he has been able to explore many genres.
Revival, Resurgence and Revitalization, all depictions used to describe the new wave of consciousness-raising, spiritually awakened artists evoking a golden era when the foundation reggae artists sang of oppression. Through a steady stream of hit singles he has captured the attention of fans from around the world who are drawn to his inescapable authenticity. His superb musicianship and revolutionary vocals have been shaking sound system speakers for many years now, and a growing anticipation has paved the way for his debut album. For the past 5 years, Dre Island has built an organic following amongst reggae fans and his contemporaries. ‘NOW I RISE’ is scheduled for release May 29th 2020, as a joint venture between Dre Island Music and the Kingston Hills Entertainment label, in partnership with New York based DubShot Records.