The lyrics of King Bubba’s 2016 Soca hit, Calling in Sick are art imitating life.

The lyrics of King Bubba’s 2016 Soca hit, Calling in Sick are art imitating life. As a teen, Adam Elias struggled to make it through school, wanting only to be “where the music was”. Twenty years, several schools and numerous hits later, King Bubba has made his mark as one of the biggest names in Caribbean music.

King Bubba invites me to his home away from home — Platta Studios — the place where the magic happens and the old home of Club Extreme. His voice is husky and he is still recovering from an off-the-hook performance two nights prior at Illuminate, where he headlined, alongside the who’s who of Barbados’ soca circuit. Despite him being slightly under the weather, and definitely a quieter version of what I’ve seen on stage, the intoxicating energy that he is known for is still pulsating through the room. I kick off my shoes, cross my legs and we get talking about life.

“The energy is always there, but it’s there bubbling,” Bubba says of the force that lights up his performances and his music. “On stage it’s a different personality. When I’m not up there I’m just the businessman. Unless I’m on stage, I’m quiet. I only get loud when I’m angry. When I perform and I bring King Bubba out, it’s like a totally different person. I feed off of energy — that’s why I keep a good team around.”

The eldest of three siblings and the only boy, born and raised in Barbados to Lebanese-Trinidadian parents, Habib and Marian, Adam Elias has been a music enthusiast as far back as he can remember. “My dad used to play a lot of music and he told me that I was always behind the system playing with the wires. I was also influenced by my cousin, Rebel, and would watch him doing his thing. When I was in first form at Lodge School I would get the dub tapes that he made, as well as the tapes that Lil’ Rick made and make copies and sell them. My dad would bring home blank tapes to help me out. All that time I was learning the music.”

Despite the support that he received from his dad, his parents were concerned that he was more focused on music than on his studies. They decided to send him to boarding school in Pennsylvania, but his passion for music did not die. Upon his return to Barbados, Habib Elias convinced his wife to allow Bubba to take a broadcasting course, which lead to him being offered a junior position at Mix FM.

“Even though I wasn’t on the air yet,” Bubba explains of his time at Mix, “I got to know all of the staff. KB Kleen knew my uncle, whom everyone called Bubba, and he started calling me Baby Bubba on the air. That’s how I got my name.”

This was the first of a string of opportunities that would help to build Bubba’s reputation in the music industry. In the years to come, Bubba would secure gigs such as The Friday Night Dance Party on Mix FM, Yard Fest Saturdays at the Boatyard, as well as opportunities at HOTT 95.3 and Club Extreme, where he made his name as a DJ and got to know performers such as Beenie Man, with whom he got very close. He also opened Platta Studios, where he began to record tunes and jingles.

In 2006, Bubba invited Beenie Man to perform at an event called Bubbalicious in St. Vincent. It was here that he would meet Alex “Kubiyashi” Barnwell who would hear his voice and immediately recognise his potential; Barnwell invited Bubba to come to St. Vincent to do a song with Skinny Fabulous. This marked the beginning of his recording career and a rapid train of success that included his securing an Associate Degree in Recording Arts from Full Sail University and an investment in radio station SLAM 101.1 FM.

I take a few opportunities during our interview to address the elephant in the room. It is impossible to overlook the fact that someone as talented as King Bubba might not have had such a difficult time initially breaking onto the scene if he was not so… different. I pointedly ask him for his perspective on how his Lebanese heritage has affected his career.

Bubba smiles pensively. “I suppose it was an issue for some people but others not. Some used to tell me, ‘oh this ain’t right for you. Wuh you know about this kinda music?’ Others were fascinated by a white boy flinging tunes and wanted to support me when I was playing. It used to drive the crowd crazy. There have been rare bad cases.”

It is clear that those “bad cases” have not slowed him down. In his 20-year musical career that began with his selling mix tapes in the school yard at Lodge, Bubba has put out a long list of hits such as Mashup (When Ah touchdown), Whole Night, Tequila, Monster Winer, We Want Drinks, Who Drinking Rum, Calling In Sick as well as his most recent tunes, This Is The Life and Welcome Home. Bubba came second in both the Party Monarch and Road March 2015 competitions and has produced and written alongside artistes such as Bunji Garlin, Beenie Man, Pinchers, Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano, Lil’ Rick, Peter Ram, Nikita, Kerwin Dubois, Leadpipe & Saddis, Destra, Denise Belfon, Patrice Roberts, Alison Hinds, Jah Cure, Verseewild as well as a long list of others. Bubba is preparing to release King Bubba Mashup Volume 1 in the coming weeks, which will include most of his hits to date.

He has more than a few secrets up his sleeve and is extremely enthusiastic about cross-genre collaborations, such as the hit Mashup Gone Global, with Shaggy (which was produced at Shaggy’s request). He is also working on some hip hop and EDM fusions and believes that what makes his sounds unique are the dance-influences that have earned him global appeal as far as Europe and throughout the Caribbean and North America. Days prior to my writing this piece, Bubba also released Plenty Plenty, an effervescent power soca collaboration with Diztrict 7, Kerwin DuBois and Skinny Fabulous — a showcase of the biggest acts out of the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados and Trinidad.

Despite the international reach of his music, Bubba makes no bones about his attachment to the region. As the lyrics of his 2017 hit, “Welcome Home” profess, Bubba is a true Caribbean man. “No place better than this… you could never pay me to leave here,” he sings of his love for country. As much as he loves touring and travelling, Bubba is happiest when he is settled and close to his roots. He recently celebrated his first anniversary with his wife, Louise, and his affectionate references to her both in our interview and on-stage, reveal that the honeymoon stage is far from over.

When I ask Bubba what his plans are for the future, he smiles, squeezing together his right index finger and thumb. “I’m only this much of what I want to be,” he says. “I want to put soca on the Grammy and Billboard charts. I want to help other artistes make it big. I love soca with all my heart and I am going to continue to do the best that I can.”

“And yet,” continues Bubba, pausing to consider what is yet to come, “if something is meant to happen, it will.” This was the first of a string of opportunities that would help to build Bubba’s reputation in the music industry. In the years to come, Bubba would secure gigs such as The Friday Night Dance Party on Mix FM, Yard Fest Saturdays at the Boatyard, as well as opportunities at HOTT 95.3 and Club Extreme, where he made his name as a DJ and got to know performers such as Beenie Man, with whom he got very close. He also opened Platta Studios, where he began to record tunes and jingles.

In 2006, Bubba invited Beenie Man to perform at an event called Bubbalicious in St. Vincent. It was here that he would meet Alex “Kubiyashi” Barnwell who would hear his voice and immediately recognise his potential; Barnwell invited Bubba to come to St. Vincent to do a song with Skinny Fabulous. This marked the beginning of his recording career and a rapid train of success that included his securing an Associate Degree in Recording Arts from Full Sail University and an investment in radio station SLAM 101.1 FM.

I take a few opportunities during our interview to address the elephant in the room. It is impossible to overlook the fact that someone as talented as King Bubba might not have had such a difficult time initially breaking onto the scene if he was not so… different. I pointedly ask him for his perspective on how his Lebanese heritage has affected his career.

Bubba smiles pensively. “I suppose it was an issue for some people but others not. Some used to tell me, ‘oh this ain’t right for you. Wuh you know about this kinda music?’ Others were fascinated by a white boy flinging tunes and wanted to support me when I was playing. It used to drive the crowd crazy. There have been rare bad cases.”

It is clear that those “bad cases” have not slowed him down. In his 20-year musical career that began with his selling mix tapes in the school yard at Lodge, Bubba has put out a long list of hits such as Mashup (When Ah touchdown), Whole Night, Tequila, Monster Winer, We Want Drinks, Who Drinking Rum, Calling In Sick as well as his most recent tunes, This Is The Life and Welcome Home. Bubba came second in both the Party Monarch and Road March 2015 competitions and has produced and written alongside artistes such as Bunji Garlin, Beenie Man, Pinchers, Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano, Lil’ Rick, Peter Ram, Nikita, Kerwin Dubois, Leadpipe & Saddis, Destra, Denise Belfon, Patrice Roberts, Alison Hinds, Jah Cure, Verseewild as well as a long list of others. Bubba is preparing to release King Bubba Mashup Volume 1 in the coming weeks, which will include most of his hits to date.

He has more than a few secrets up his sleeve and is extremely enthusiastic about cross-genre collaborations, such as the hit Mashup Gone Global, with Shaggy (which was produced at Shaggy’s request). He is also working on some hip hop and EDM fusions and believes that what makes his sounds unique are the dance-influences that have earned him global appeal as far as Europe and throughout the Caribbean and North America.

Days prior to my writing this piece, Bubba also released Plenty Plenty, an effervescent power soca collaboration with Diztrict 7, Kerwin DuBois and Skinny Fabulous — a showcase of the biggest acts out of the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados and Trinidad.

Despite the international reach of his music, Bubba makes no bones about his attachment to the region. As the lyrics of his 2017 hit, “Welcome Home” profess, Bubba is a true Caribbean man. “No place better than this… you could never pay me to leave here,” he sings of his love for country. As much as he loves touring and travelling, Bubba is happiest when he is settled and close to his roots. He recently celebrated his first anniversary with his wife, Louise, and his affectionate references to her both in our interview and on-stage, reveal that the honeymoon stage is far from over.

When I ask Bubba what his plans are for the future, he smiles, squeezing together his right index finger and thumb. “I’m only this much of what I want to be,” he says. “I want to put soca on the Grammy and Billboard charts. I want to help other artistes make it big. I love soca with all my heart and I am going to continue to do the best that I can.”

“And yet,” continues Bubba, pausing to consider what is yet to come, “if something is meant to happen, it will. I want to put soca on the Grammys and Billboard charts.”

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