You already know Jamaica gets it poppin’ during the holidays. But it’s one thing to know it, and it’s another to have your feet on the ground in Kingston for the last week of 2012. From the concerts to the clubs to the parties—not to mention all the behind-the-scenes madness—there’s no better place to ring in the new year than Jamrock.
First things first, LADY SAW is not getting out of the game (phew!). Having been on set to see her shooting the music video for her sexy single 'Heels On', I can assure you that there’s no way she's leaving anytime soon. Saw did make it clear that her music is going to turn towards a more gospel direction in the future, but for now the Queen of the Dancehall is staying put on her throne. Judging by all the curves and crevices that were on display during the video shoot, it will be a sad day indeed when she does decide to step down. But for now boys, you’re in for a TREAT. While you’re waiting for that “Heels On” video to drop, peep the behind-the-scenes interview here. And you better believe the QOTD has something to say about the recent spat between all the dancehall girls—you don’t want to miss her thoughts on that topic.
The island was on fire this Boxing Day as Sting hosted some of reggae’s biggest names at the 29th staging of the annual mega-show. They may have put up a pretend boxing ring this year but one thing that was very real was the moment when POPCAAN shoved BLAK RYNO off the stage after he interrupted Papi’s set, resulting in a punching and kicking match. These two artists were previously from the same camp, but things just haven’t been the same in Gaza world since Kartel was locked up. I guess this means we’ve got a new beef ahead in 2013—Ryno has already recorded a dis song called 'Courage', and Papi’s response can’t be far behind. Never a dull moment innit?
Speaking of KARTELl, the Werlboss spent his birthday (January 7th) behind bars again this year. But his case is set to move forward on the 21st of this month—hopefully for him no more push-backs.
Closer to home, the renowned reggae singer and producer LLOYD CHARMERS died at the age of 74. He was feeling unwell on December 26th when he suffered a heart attack while driving himself to the hospital. Charmers got his start as a member of the Flames with Alton Ellis and later joined The Uniques along with the late great Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley, father of Tarrus Riley. Charmers went on to release a few solo albums, including one naughty record called Censored (under the name 'Lloydie and the Lowbites') but perhaps his greatest claim to fame was producing the timeless 'Everything I Own' for Ken Boothe, which topped the national charts in England, where Charmers had lived for many years.
After going almost half a decade without performing a full set on a major stage show—not to mention having just been released from a U.S. Federal jail—BUSY SIGNAL had lots of pent-up energy when he stormed the stage at Sting this year. He opened his set with 'Nah Go a Jail Again', a highly appropriate track from his deep catalogue, and Busy had the crowd in the palm of his hand all throughout his impassioned performance. Emotions ran wild during the 30 minutes Busy worked the stage at Jamworld. There was something for everybody—the girls, the hot-head youths, the nation and the incarcerated of course. Busy even dropped a few new tracks—one of which broke down his recent ordeal in the U.S. correctional system. “Mystery History” is the most detailed account yet of Busy’s 6 months in prison, and when he premiered it at Sting, the crowd made so much noise that he had to run through the tune a couple of times just to make sure they heard every word. Later, just before he invited sax-master Dean Fraser onstage to pay tribute to Buju Banton, Busy remarked “I'd rather get an instant death sentence than go back to prison.” If the hairs on your arms weren’t standing up by that point, somefing had to be wrong with you… I caught up with Busy right after his performance—check the interview here —and don’t miss his new tune: “Nothing but the truth so help me God, take me outta foreign.”
The Ghetto Youths International crew has been working extra hard this year, and one of the newest recruits to Jah Army, BLACK AM I, has just released his first music video, “Modern Day Freedom.” Hailing from Nine Mile, the same village where Bob Marley was born and raised, this Ghetto Youth is bringing a fresh sound to conscious reggae music, and judging by the video, he’s kind of fit with his top off. If you don’t know anything about Black Am I, then it’s time to get familiar. RGAT had the privilege of building with him during his 2012 tour so watch for an exclusive interview to follow. And you know what they say in the Vegas: always bet on black.
As the Ghetto Youths continue making moves—and never faking moves—WAYNE MARSHAL dropped the video for 'Go Hard', a song that boasts an all-star line-up—Bounty, Aidonia, Agent Sasco, I-Octane, Jr. Gong. No wonder the video racked up 3 million views in its first week. Oh, and did I forget to mention Kartel? Yep, that’s him on the track saying ''Teacher me name; some of them say bleacher me name". Looks like nothing is out of reach for the Go Hard crew. Watch Wayne chat about the making of this star-studded song and how they managed to “get Vybz Kartel on the line.”
Out of sight but never out of mind, Di Teacha always seems to be pon everybody's lips. Last year VYBZ KARTEL carried his ladies in the S Class, but this year he's pushing a convertible. His first Mercedes song, “Benz Punany” was a major hit with girls and boys alike—but who’s gonna complain about a luxury car upgrade? So it’s time to drop the top peeps. In the words of the Werlboss, “Your pum pum full of prestige like my new brand Benz with the top off …. Your interior comfortable.” “What a way convertible benz a beat dem bad!”
Hot riddims in rotation include Jukeboxx Productions’ 'Chant Down Babylon Riddim' featuring voicings by Busy Signal ('Wicked Man') Morgan Heritage ('Stand Up') and the latest single from Romain Virgo ('Fired Up Inside' ). Seems like Romain can do no wrong these days. The young singer truly has grown into a rising star.
Team Cashflow’s 1990 Riddim is a tasty throwback vibe that brings together Spice with Mr. Lexx, Frisco Kid, Frankie Sly, and Tanto Metro & Devonte. And it seems they’ve been working overtime because Cashflow’s Invasion riddim is packed with stars from Aidonia to Elephant Man, Lady Saw to D’Angel, and many many more. Guess they didn’t call it invasion for nothing.
Meanwhile Buju’s son Markus Myrie has served up the 'Bar Bounce riddim', featuring the team that brought us 'Rum and Red Bull', Beenie Man & Fambo, getting their drink on once more with 'Let’s Make A Toast'. We’ll drink to that—again.
Hot Jamaican eatery Miss Lilly's in NYC teamed up with VP records to release a mad compilation. The place is no ordinary joint as it doubles as a reggae record shop and the headquarters of RadioLily.com. Everybody who’s anybody in the reggae and dancehall universe—from Clive Chin to Snoop Lion—can be found passing through Lily’s on any given night. The compilation’s called 'Miss Lilys Family Style' – if you appreciate good music this one’s chock full of dancehall and reggae hits ranging from classics like Buju & Wayne Wonder’s 'Bonafide Love' to newer hits like Busy Signal’s 'Real Spender$'.
Continuing on the classical reggae vibes, BARRINGTON LEVY's 'Sweet Reggae Music' is a double CD that collects the legendary singer’s greatest recordings, with a few rarities thrown in to thrill even the most ardent collector.
The Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival always pulls together some international heavy hitters for three days in January, but this year they’ve gone above and beyond. The 2013 lineup includes Mary J. Blige, John Legend, and the roots reggae ensemble Third World. Look for the band to pull out all the stops as Third World celebrates their 40th anniversary. For more gig info and tickets visit http://jamaicajazzandblues.com/
Preparations for the Annual Rebel salute show (January 19) are in full swing, with this year’s headliners including Tarrus Riley, Marcia Griffiths, Luciano and Chronixx—who's making some big waves at the moment. Ever since he released his mixtape with Major Lazer's Walshy Fire, Chronixx has emerged as the new talent that everybody’s raving about. This year he performed on Sting for the first time but despite the crowd’s ecstatic reaction he remained super chill! (interview to follow) As he put it, Sting is a big stage, but life is an even bigger stage. It’s not every day you meet a young artist who’s so immune to hype.
AND TO WRAP UP…
Speaking of hype, Sting wouldn’t be Sting without a big lyrical clash, and this year was all about the girls. For the past 29 years, Sting has come to be recognized as the annual heavyweight championship bout of reggae and dancehall, usually culminating with a live head-to-head battle.
A few highlights include Beenie Man and Bounty Killer’s first clash on stage—sowing the seeds for one of the longest-running rivalries in dancehall history. Equally epic was the Shabba Ranks versus Ninja Man and Mavado versus Vybz Kartel. This year there was speculation that Tommy Lee and Bounty Killer would clash, but when Killer made it clear he would not be performing, many speculated that Busy would clash Tommy Lee instead. However it was the battle between the girls that really got everybody talking.
Over the last few months Lady Saw, Spice, Macka, and Tifa have all had their differences—as expressed via interviews, social media, and the occasional dis track—but it was the argument between Spice and Macka Diamond that took centre stage this year. Nobody wanted to miss this clash—not the crowd, not the other performers and not even the organisers!
SPICE held up her end of the bargain, she wasn't playing—storming on stage at 9 in the morning (as always dressed for the occasion in #spicecouture) accompanied by a live prop—a donkey dressed to mimic Macka. But Macka was a no-show. I caught up with Spice right after she came off stage and she spoke her mind on what the donkey was all about—see what the Mad Gyal had to say here:
Although MACKA DIAMOND didn’t turn up for the clash you might not want to write her off as yet. She says ‘’she didn’t run from the clash’’and she even let loose a new track for Spice to make it clear that the war has only just started. Check out the original Money-O as she talks cash, book deals, Jamaican men and the art of war.
Last but not least, I had to make sure and sit down with TIFA while I was on the Island. Despite being in the firing line a few times with Lady Saw she has been mostly quiet and kept her thoughts to herself until now. But when she took to the mic to speak, she made it clear that T.I.F.A “ain’t no easy sittin.” Despite all the drama, it seems like she’s not taking her eye off the ball. Don’t sleep, TIfa’s about to release her first album— “Twisted Footprints” is scheduled to be released real soon – check out the exclusive freestyle – Not Mad!
Happy New Year!
See ya next month!
Words by Reshma B