Erupting out of the soundsystems of Jamaica, dancehall is a sound which has travelled the world.
Tracing it back to its origins, Reshma B compiles the very best in JA music - from legends to newcomers, mainstream to leftfield, this is what's happening in Jamaican culture right now.
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Monday June 10th, Kanye West held a listening session to reveal music from his sixth solo album, 'Yeezus'. Despite the rain it was a full house that turned up at Milk Studios on Manhattan's far west side for the "invitation only" event. In true Kanye style the listening didn't actually take place in the studio but in a loading dock, with images of himself and all sorts of air force planes projected on the walls as the music echoed up and down the street. Seems like Kanye's been bitten by the dancehall bug.
This should come as no surprise: the last G.O.O.D. Music project had some unmistakable reggae flavor as well. Four of the 10 tracks played at Milk featured extensive samples of vocals by dancehall artists, including Capleton, Popcaan, Assassin, Beenie Man. The Popcaan vocals were the most recent, adapted from Papi's intro to the Pusha T song 'Blocka'. The chorus to Beenie Man's '90s hit 'Memories' was lifted completely and laid onto the song 'Bound'. (Read Clash's review of 'Yeezus' here.)
Hard to believe that Vybz Kartel has been in custody since October 2011 and he still hasn’t stood trial. Late last month his case received another setback when a judge pushed the trial date for one of his two murder cases back from May to somewhere between November and December. After receiving the news, Kartel fired his lead attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson and put Tom Tavares-Finson in charge of his defense. Their first order of business will be to look into why the Worldboss’s bail application has not been granted.
Sixty-seven-year-old reggae legend Toots Hibbert, of Toots & The Maytals, has canceled the rest of his US tour after being struck in the face by a bottle of vodka thrown at him during a performance in Virginia. Police arrested a 19-year-old and charged him with aggravated assault and public intoxication. After being treated for injuries to his forehead, Toots was forced to cut his tour short and return to Jamaica for rest and recovery. Meanwhile, he’s reportedly suing a former manager for $1.25 million, claiming that he was tricked into signing away half of his publishing rights. Can’t a legend get some respect?
After successful tour of Europe, rising reggae star Chronixx was forced to postpone his US tour due to “circumstances beyond his control”. The artist’s management later revealed that they had trouble securing a work permit from the US. Embassy in Jamaica. Fans were disappointed, and at least one promoter took legal action, but the artist has vowed to return to the States. as soon as possible.
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It’s sexiness on tap with Konshen's 'Pull Up To Mi Bumper', featuring J Capri on a Rvssian production. “When mi pull up to your bumper make sure the parts them genuine.” Looks like the dance just got even hotter.
Talking about heat, Cashflow productions tun things up for the new RDX tune 'Drop That'. Part two to Kotch! Once again their message is simple: “Drop that gal.” Yep, you already know this video is going to be a next-level production.
In keeping with the sexiness theme, Busy Signal is back with 'Set It Good'. The girl’s voice at the beginning of the track asks for “something to wine to,” and Busy does not disappoint: “Gyal quint the supm - how it so tight?” Playing this one on loop in the bedroom is gonna create some havoc.
Wayne Marshall's new one-drop track 'I Know' is a message to all people who feel the need to put shots of artists on Instagram when they’re handling their private biz. Just remember there might be a possibility you don’t know the whole picture. And even if you think you do, Marshall says it’s best to leave it alone. From the sound of this tune, his album 'Tru Story' is gonna be a killer.
Stylo G has been making major moves for a minute now and late last month saw the official release of his single 'Soundbwoy' on iTunes . He’s got the streets and the clubs on fire with his one. Check Stylo chatting about how he developed his own sound as a UK reggae artist:
And speaking of UK vibes, Congo Natty's 'UK Allstars' shows how hard the jungle massive can go, showcasing the lyrical talents of Tenor Fly, Top Cat, General Levy, Tippa Irie, Sweetie Irie and Daddy Freddy. The original was hot, but the new Machinedrum remix takes the madness a notch higher. Stephen 'Ragga' Marley recently squeezed off a new bombshell from his long-awaited 'Revelation Part 2: The Fruit of Life' album. The track is called 'Bongo Nyah' and it features Stephen chatting rather than singing with his brother Damian and Spragga Benz. With Ragga, Spragga, and Gongzilla on one track you know it's a lyrical massacre.
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On the topic of Marley, If you’re making a list of the must-have albums in the reggae genre then Bob Marley's 'Legend' would have to be right up near the top of the list. Now comes word that there’s gonna be a brand new version of the classic album, 'Legend: Remixed'. Yep, a whole new Bob Marley album, with 16 tracks reinterpreted by top producers and DJs like Rac and Nickodemus.
I know what you’re thinking: why mess with perfection? Well let’s just wait and see what executive producer Jason Bentley has in store. After all, the line-up includes a new version of 'Redemption Song' performed by Ziggy Marley, and a new version of 'Three Little Birds' produced by Stephen Marley.
V.P. have released the latest volume of their hardcore 'Ragga Ragga Ragga' compilation series. Mavado got a good look with three inclusions on the 2013 edition: 'Box a Money', 'At The Top' and 'It Ain’t Easy', while Konshens didn’t do too bad either with 'Gyal Siddung' and 'So Mi Tan'. Soca Gold 2013 has also hit the streets in plenty time to get ready for this year’s Notting Hill Carnival celebrations. The album features Super Blue's 'Fantastic Friday' and 'Teif a Wine' by Kess, as well as the massive hit 'Differentology' by Bunji Garlin, which has already been remixed by Major Lazer. If you haven’t seen the vid yet, take a peek here.
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You can catch the Ghetto Youth's Internal crew on their stateside 'Set Up Shop' tour, which kicks off June 14th in Maui, Hawaii. Most of Cali seems to be sold out already so if you're trying to get out there you'd better get on it soon! For more information visit HERE.
In London, The Congos will be filling The Jazz Cafe with some reggae and dub vibes on June 26th. For tickets visit HERE.
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Hot new juggling in rotation includes the 'Happy Tyme' riddim from Good Good productions with voicings by Beenie Man, Konshens, and I-Shawna. #NotMad. The latest release from the Full Chaarge label is called 'Ova Rave'. DeMarco, Voicemail, and Blak Ryno have the raving-est cuts this time around. Very Huge productions’ 'Earth Fire and Wind' riddim features Delly Ranx and Lutan Fyah, but the top tune has to be Sizzla's 'Ghetto Gal Sexy 4 Real'.
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The Red Bull team set up shop and took over NYC for this year’s edition of the Red Bull Music Academy. The international event was ram-jam with a who’s who of musical talents young and old, serving up 31 days of knowledge, recording sessions and live gigs coming out your e-a-r-s.
Passing through the building was an experience in itself. The multi-floor extravaganza in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood included eight recording studios for the students who were fortunate enough to be chosen for this year’s RBMA. Sparing no expense, each soundlab was designed and decorated by different visual artists to inspire maximum creativity with themes and colours to suit every known mood possible. From color therapy to inflatable rats, it was a case of luxury meets freaky.
Gigs ranged from UK electro DJ nights with mixmasters like Benji B to the freshest hip-hop producers on the decks, including Toronto’s BOI-1DA and Chicago’s Young Chop. Chop went all out and brought a sexy girl to twerk like mad during his set. (All about the girls, innit?)
The annual Culture Clash saw four crews competing: the dance music outfit Trouble & Bass, dancehall reggae stalwarts Federaiton Sound, hip-hop heros Young Guru and Just Blaze, and Cumbia / Moombathon masters Que Bajo. Trouble & Bass won the night thanks to performances by surprise guest stars like 2 Chainz and house music diva Robin S. And the action didn’t all happen at night. The days were packed with couch chats by certified music legends, ranging from Egyptian Lover to Philip Glass to Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest.
Red Bull really pulled it out the bag this year. The sound of reggae was well represented throughout the decades at RBMA. Highlights included rock'n'rollers Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie speaking about their love for reggae and the making of 'The Tide is High' - a cover of The Paragons' rocksteady classic (later covered by Atomic Kitten). French house producer and DJ extraordinaire Francois K shared his love for Jamaican music, speaking on his passion for dub and his collaborations with some of the island’s greats, including Bunny Wailer.
Brooklyn-based producer Dre Skull (pictured) spoke about his experiences working with today’s dancehall artists including Vybz Kartel and his protege Popcaan. The biggest reggae moment of all was when Jamaican dub pioneer Lee 'Scratch' Perry (aka Pipecock Jaxon) joined UK dubmaster Adrian Sherwood to share deep thoughts on the dub era. Later in the week they hit the stage to close out RBMA along with the mystical Black Ark harmony group, The Congos.
Of course the gig was sold out, and of course it was a classic! The crowd roared as Scratch took the stage dressed all in red, flashing lighters in the air. The man is almost 80 years old and sounds stronger than ever. What’s his secret? Better ask his wife and manager Mireille - they say behind every successful man is a strong woman. Fresh off the bandstand, The Upsetter joined fellow producer Clive Chin backstage. What are the chances? A classic case of right place, right time. Check the two of them chatting about their early days working with The Wailers at Randy’s Studio 17. #2legends1space. And be warned: Scratch is not afraid to speak his mind. Like the song says, “Who the cap fit, let them wear it.”
Words: Reshma B
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