Ask anyone what 2023’s song of the summer is, and they’ll undoubtedly respond, ‘Talibans by Byron Messia.’ The single, initially released in January and with an updated assist from Afrobeats artist Burna Boy, has since earned the 23-year-old Jamaica-born, St. Kitts and Nevis-raised artist his first single on Billboard’s Hot 100. Additionally, the official music video for “Talibans,” released via YouTube, has since garnered over 48 million views to date.
“In the making of Taliban, it wasn’t even something serious, I never wrote down the lyrics… It’s based on pure inside jokes,” Messia ironically described when speaking with Dash Radio earlier this year, per Dancehall Mag. The single’s official visual features the artist alongside his crew brandishing weapons and making it known that the group doesn’t “take talk.” Still, the 23-year-old explained to Dash Radio that the song is “more of a warning song…” In an interview with Capital XTRA, Messia explained that he was curious to see how the song’s rugged content and lyrics would perform over the afrobeat. The risky move appeared to be worth it.
As the 23-year-old moves forward, he’s preparing to usher in a wave of music he calls Dance-Soul. “I am bringing new flows, metaphors, wordplay, and personality. That’s what makes me stand out,” he told Jamaica Observer in August. Read as Byron Messia talks more about his debut single “Talibans,” working with artists such as Burna Boy, Russian, and more, and what fans can expect from his upcoming album and major collaborations.
Byron Messia Talks Creating His Single “Talibans,” The Song’s Success & Working With Burna Boy
Jadriena Solomon: We have to kick things off by talking about the undisputed song of the summer, “Talibans.” In less than seven months, the official music video for the single has garnered over 48 million views on YouTube. When you recorded this song, you explained that you were curious to see how a more rugged set of lyrics would perform over that afrobeat sound. Were you surprised when it took off?
Byron Messia: I’m actually surprised now. You know, I wasn’t expecting the feedback and the love from around the world that the song’s getting, so yes, definitely.
Jadriena Solomon: What kind of vibe did you initially imagine for the record? Did you see it being a song for people to vibe to while chilling with their friends? How did you think it would look?
Byron Messia: I thought it would’ve been a street record because, you know, we’re talking — I’m crazy on it, you know, it’s “Talibans.” It’s a title. I never expected it to blow up globally, like how it did.
Jadriena Solomon: You’ve been consistently making music for years, but with the massive success of “Talibans,” you’ve gained the co-signs of major artists in the game — Drake, Cardi B, Popcaan, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and even Chris Brown, who is said to have laid some vocals on the track. First off, how does it feel to be recognized by so many amazing people in the business?
Byron Messia: I mean, it’s a wonderful feeling, you know, it’s surreal to me still up to this day. It’s only been seven months, too, and the record has shown a lot of love. I’m grateful, and I’m here just to make more great music. Shout out to all the artists who have tapped in and showed my record love.
Byron Messia’s “Talibans” Getting Love From Cardi B
— Rap301 (@Rap301_) July 10, 2023
Jadriena Solomon: Who would you say is the most surprising artist? Like when you got that love from them, you were just like, ‘Whoa.’
Byron Messia: I would say Drake… [and] the three names you called just now, actually, you know. I would say also say, Lil Durk. I was shocked [by that one].
Jadriena Solomon: Right, that’s definitely a surprising one. Should fans be keeping an eye out for a Chris Brown and Byron Messia “Talibans” remix?
Byron Messia: They should be looking out for everything at this point. I got so much in store, so much in the bag — we’re just making music like we’ve been doing.
Jadriena Solomon: Right. In one of your interviews, you said you have over 800 songs in the tuck.
Byron Messia: Yeah, 816 now.
Jadriena Solomon: And we’re keeping exact count — that’s really dope! So one thing that has raised fans’ excitement about “Talibans” is “Talibans II,” released with Burna Boy. It was the perfect match-up. How was that experience working with him, shooting the video, everything?
Byron Messia: It was more of a brotherly love. It wasn’t just like an artist hopping on a song – we recorded that song in sync. It was back home (St. Kitts and Nevis) right after the music festival, and we went back to the hotel — me and him were staying in the same hotel, and he was like, ‘Yo, link up.’ And it was just magic for me — it was just vibing. And then he was like, ‘Yo, play the Talibans with the open verse,’ because I always had “Talibans” with an open verse, and then it was just magic from there.
The St. Kitts & Nevis-Raised Artist Reflects On His Upbringing & Caribbean Roots
Jadriena Solomon: I want to take the conversation back to your upbringing — you’re Jamaican-born but were adopted at two months old and relocated to St. Kitts. At age 15, you started recording music, and by 18, you were “island famous” in St. Kitts. What was your upbringing like, and how were you able to become so successful and supported with your music?
Byron Messia: I have some of the most supportive friends — up to today, we’re still friends. They would always push me to do music cause in class, I used to freestyle, and they used to be like, ‘Yo, you need to hit the school. You need to do something.’ You know what I mean? So, my friends were always supportive. I always had a supportive family as well. Even when I went to college, I dropped out and told my mother, like, This is what I want to do… This is my escape to actually being somebody in life.’
Jadriena Solomon: How did that support and acceptance also translate to the entire island?
Byron Messia: I had a different sound, and [me and my friends] changed the game a bit. Like, we’ve been changing the game since we were 18. [We would] link up a couple of producers, and they all accepted me with open arms.
Jadriena Solomon: So fast forward to today, you’re performing all over the Caribbean — I’m sure the crowds are absolutely losing their minds. You’ve been to St. Maarten, Belize, Guyana, Bahamas. Recently, you took to your Instagram story to share that you’re “grateful for everything” and you’ve achieved a lot in only six months. Specifically, you’re the first St. Kitts and Nevis artist to chart on Billboard’s Hot 100, with “Talibans’ at number 99. Your last project, ‘No Love,’ debuted at No. 8 on Billboard’s Reggae Albums chart. Looking back on 2023 thus far, what are you most proud of?
Byron Messia: I’m proud of everything. I’m proud of myself. Even if it seems like it’s a little that I have been doing, I’m even proud of that, too. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve achieved in the past six months.
Jadriena Solomon: How does it feel to be so accepted by all different kinds of people within the Caribbean? When we have functions in that culture, there’s such a strong feeling of love, support, and fun. How does it feel for you to be on the receiving end of all of that?
Byron Messia: I know, like, I feel like I fit in, like, with so many cultures and ethnicities around the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m Trini. Sometimes I feel like I’m Indian, like it’s just [laughs] — It’s just me as a person now. I’m a vibe and energy, you know? So it’s not hard for me to maneuver and do what I have to do — [it’s not hard] for other people to accept me.
Byron Messia Shares His Biggest Piece Of Advice & Talks His Forthcoming Album And Collaborations
Jadriena Solomon: You’re very humble. In a recent interview, you explained that despite the mega fame and the success — you never get big-headed; you remain grounded. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since your breakout success, or what is the most significant piece of advice you hold close?
Byron Messia: Never give up. Keep going. And never let anybody change the direction of your thoughts. If you know that is what you want to do [with] your project or your work, keep it in mind for yourself. [Also,] never get too lazy — never get too comfortable.
Jadriena Solomon: As far as future collaborations, you’ve said that you are looking forward to collaborating with Masego and Vybz Cartel — it would be cool to see you link up with Popcaan. What future collaborations do you have in the works?
Byron Messia: I have plenty in the works right now. I have a song with Fridayy called “Mercy” and a collaboration with Rvssian called “Tropicana”… I got one with Busta Rhymes. It’s so many collaborations. I got plenty of them in the tuck. I don’t want to call specific names, but just look out [for it] — just subscribe and follow, you know.
Jadriena Solomon: That is so dope. Congratulations on Busta Rhymes, that’s major! You also have — your version of an album — a “gyalbum” called ‘Sad & Famous’ on the way. What can you tell us about that?
Byron Messia: Yes, I’m still working on it — it’s still in the making. But just expect some dope videos on my YouTube channel — expect so much from me. You never know; I might be in a movie. You never know [what’s to come.]