From Sicily to Miami in a single month…

This month’s goings on in dancehall and reggae…

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Just a few months ago it was starting to look like Vybz Kartel would soon be a free man. He’d already beaten the first of two murder cases – there was no body recovered in the second. Then sometime last month the trial of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams took a U-turn. New evidence from phone records put the Worl’Boss back in the hot seat. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride for the dancehall star: he delivered an emotional statement near the end of the trial stressing that he wanted to be judged as Adidja Palmer, not as Vybz Kartel. One way or another, the two-and-a-half-year trial will soon come to an end.

Just this month, Mavado spoke out in his support of his former rival. The Gully Gad has not always seen eye to eye with Kartel, but neither one of them is any stranger to struggling with the system.

“People always make their own verdict, which is a guilty verdict,” Mavado said. “They want to see we mash up inna life. With Kartel now pon the murder trial, people say a lot of things. But I wonder if people ever get up and say, ‘Mek we pray for the youth.’”

More comments from Mavado:

Twenty years after the launch of Blood And Fire Records in Manchester, the storied reggae imprint is being revived by VP Records. Author and reggae historian Steve Barrow, who co-founded the label with a group of friends including Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, will select reissues of classic Jamaican records from the 1970s and give them new packaging as well as a fresh merchandising line.

It’s always a sad moment to lose a soul in the world. Last month the reggae fraternity mourned three tragic deaths, starting with Bunny Rugs of Third World, who succumbed to leukaemia in early February. On February 17thWayne Smith, the singer best known for his smash hit ‘Under Me Sleng Teng’ and for helping to create the computerised riddim of the same name which changed the course of Jamaican music, died at age 48 of unknown causes.

Then on February 25th, producer Philip Smart, who headed up the HC&F Studio in Freeport, New York, died at the age of 54 after battling cancer. His illness was not a subject that he shared with most people so it was a shock to many fans. A student of King Tubby the Dub Master, Philip moved to the US in the late 1970s and went on to establish the studio that was the hub of Jamaican music outside of Jamaica. Such hits as Shaggy’s ‘Mampie’, Supercat’s ‘Don Dada’ and Barrington Levy’s ‘Murderer’ were all made at HC&F.

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Stylo G trekked back to JA to shoot the video for his latest banger, ‘Move Back’. The UK dancehall yardie originally hails from Spanish Town, so returning to yard sounds like it would have been well fun. Here’s Stylo in full yard flow:

The Heatwave are back on their refix mode and this time they’ve blended the beat to Damon ‘Storm Queen’ Scott’s ‘Look Right Through’ with Stylo G, alongside Popcaan, Konshens and J Capri – all locked in synch with the classic UK house groove.

Two leaders of reggae’s new roots movement kick into overdrive as Protoje joins forces with Chronixx on a melodic new rub-a-dub track called ‘Who Knows’, produced by Winta James for Overstand Entertainment. On the subject of Chronix collabs, word is that he will be linking with the classic reggae band Inner Circle to record a new version of their rockers scorcher ‘Tenement Yard’, which was last sung by the late, great Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller.

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On March 4th I-Octane (pictured) dropped his second album, ‘My Journey’, on Tad’s Records. Largely produced by DJ Frass, the album features collaborations with Ky-Mani Marley and Gentleman. The new project marks a slightly new direction for the dancehall singjay, who’s experimenting with more universal sounds this time around.

‘Love You Like I Do’, from ‘My Journey’

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Fresh riddims in rotation this month include SoUnique’s ‘Igloo’ track, which features tunes by Vybz Kartel, Konshens and fast rising star Alkaline, whose slinky flows and tattooed eyeballs have definitely made him a hit with the girls. Check Alka in action:

Busy Signal delivers the title cut on the ‘Saddle Up’ riddim, riding the track like a champion jockey. QQ and Gage handle the rest of the high-energy beat.

ZJ Chrome’s new juggling is called ‘DUI’ (Dance Under The Influence) and it boasts an intoxicating line-up of talent including Beenie ManVoicemail and Mavado.

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He goes by many names – Pipecock Jackxon, the Super Ape, the Upsetter. But when Lee “Scratch” Perry touches the stage at the Jazz Cafe on March 21st you will know why they call him a living legend.

Born and raised in Italy, currently living in Kingston, Alborosie is reggae’s top-ranking Sicilian. On April 10th he comes to London’s Electric Brixton to drop some new tunes from his latest album, ‘Sound The System’.

Speaking of systems, on April 12thSaxon Sound will be among the distinguished selectors throwing down tunes for Bitty Mclean, Earl Sixteen and many more on a night called The Voices of Reggae. See Facebook for more info.

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In keeping with the current trend of hip-hop/reggae mash-ups, on February 11th Miami’s Maybach Music Group gathered in a midtown New York movie theatre to preview Rick Ross’s new album ‘Mastermind’. Upon arrival VIPs were treated to cocktails laced with Rozay’s own vintage Belaire rosé champagne. He was then joined backstage by the likes of Busta Rhymes and his down-from-day-one champion DJ Khaled. Ross’s cinematic rhymes were accompanied by striking black-and-white images projected on the big movie screen, selected to illustrate the themes on the album – yes, lots of streets, cars, girls, smoke and most interestingly the crocodile Birken bag during the ‘Dope Bitch’ vs ‘Basic Bitch’ skit.

Ross’s thoroughly over-the-top album, out now, features some of the heaviest hitters in the rap world: Jay Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne, Jeezy and The Weeknd. Two of the 16 tracks focus on Jamaican culture, one being ‘Walkin’ On Air’, which name-checks Emperor Haile Selassie I throughout, and the other being ‘Mafia Music III’ featuring Sizzla and Mavado.

And it’s not only Ross who's feeling the Gullyside at the moment – Jay Z shouts out Mavado on his verse from the Rick Ross single ‘The Devil Is A Lie’. Comparing his own ‘Hard Knock Life’ in the streets of Brooklyn, New York to David Brooks’ time on the Gullyside, Jay raps: “Bravado like Mavado / Yeah I’m that gully.”

While performing at the Nine Mile Music Festival in Miami a few days later, Mavado showed how well his Gullyside sound hits home with the man in the streets (review). After a true Starbwoy performance, Mavado spoke on why he decided to work on Ross’s album and what he thinks about Jay shouting him out even though he doesn’t sell records to platinum levels (yet). Check Mavado talking about the collabs and why you don’t need to keep it real when you are real:

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See ya next month!

Words: Reshma B
Online / Twitter

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