Reggae & Dancehall #47: Busy Signal, Damian Marley & Super Cat

The latest goings-on...

It's Reshma B, back with her final Reggae & Dancehall round up of 2015…

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The Grammy nominations for Best Reggae Album are in, and the field is looking stronger than ever. Congrats to Jah Cure, nominated for ‘The Cure’, Morgan Heritage for ‘Strictly Roots’, Barrington Levy for ‘Acousticalevy’, Luciano for ‘Zion Awake’ and Rocky Dawuni – a Ghanaian reggae artist based in Los Angeles – for ‘Branches Of The Same Tree’. Grammy winners will be announced on February 15th in LA.

Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service has jumped into the reggae arena with the announcement of Damian Marley as the company’s latest signee and and co-owner. Jr. Gong joins the likes of Kanye West, Rihanna, and Coldplay as shareholders in the service, which celebrated its one millionth subscriber this year. The youngest of the Marley brothers has stated that he and his team will curate Tidal’s reggae catalog to make sure it’s up to the highest standard.

Cham sticks to his winning formula on ‘Yeah’, a stripped-down, hard-hitting digital dancehall riddim courtesy of Cham’s go-go sparring partner, superproducer Dave Kelly. “Everything is OK, but we did it our way,” the DJ boasts on the rags-to-riches tale, his latest release for Madhouse Productions. “I would never sell out my friends cause of all the new trends, despite everything them say.”

UK grime diva Lady Chann takes aim at wutless men in her new dancehall-flavored track 'Not Me' ft. Rage. “Cocky me nuh run down, no not me,” the UK riddim killer proclaims in her lightning-fast flow. Chann’s girls show off some slick dance moves in the video for the song, which is set in a parking lot somewhere in London. Rage of the SlewDem grime collective represents the male side of the conversation – along with some male dancers who look like they know what they’re doing.

Despite producer Anju Blaxx’s incarceration in the United States on lotto scamming charges, UIM Records continues to drop powerful productions like the brand-new ‘Zen’ riddim, which features tracks like ‘Company’ by Alkaline and ‘Gone’ by Serani, but don’t light the incense too soon! Popcaan’s feisty track on the riddim titled “Suck Yuh Modda” sets a whole different mood.

VP Records took a different approach for the 2015 edition of its popular ‘The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems’ series. Rather than compiling tracks from various labels, they stuck with one great producer, Clive “Uglyman” Hunt, who has worked with Jamaican legends like Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and The Wailers, as well as international stars like The Rolling Stones and Grace Jones. “I’m very touched to be working as long as I have and not just with established artists but young up and coming,” says the producer who included such rising talents as Jah 9, Iba Mahr, Raging Fire, Jah Vinci, Randy Valentine, and Yahsha on the album, as well as veteran singers Richie Spice and Luciano.

Lovers rock rules when Janet Kay and Caroll Thompson grace the the Jazz Cafe for a Holiday season concert on December 28th. If it’s Boxing day in Jamaica then it must be time for Sting. This year the annual showcase delves into classic dancehall with featured performers like Tiger, Burro Banton, and Wickerman. Shaggy and Friends kicks off the new year with a star studded lineup to raise funds for the international hitmaker’s charitable foundation. Popcaan and Cham are confirmed for this year’s event. For more info and tickets visit HERE.

To Wrap Up
Now in its second year, Damian Marley’s Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise pushed off from the Port of Miami on November 30th for the first of two back-to-back voyages loaded with no fewer than 23 different acts plus 10 sound systems. If you were to imagine the ultimate reggae lover’s fantasy lineup, packed wall-to-wall with top-tier talent, this would come close.The decision to undertake two trips in 2015 was made last year after the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship filled up within a matter of weeks. Headliners Damian and Stephen Marley returned this year, along with the likes of Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage and Christopher Ellis. Among the new acts were legends like Super Cat, Barrington Levy, Third World, Maxi Priest and Sly & Robbie plus Popcaan, Elephant Man, Ky-mani Marley, Protoje and Capleton—as well as esteemed sound systems Saxon Studio out of South London and Black Scorpio from Kingston, JA.

For those who have never visited Stone Love’s ‘Weddy Weddy Wednesday’ party in Kingston, selectors Rory and Geefus showed how they rock a crowd whether they were juggling on the main deck or in the ship’s atrium. King Jammy’s Wednesday night showcase featuring freestyle performances by Jr. Gong, Shinehead and Elephant Man was a definite highlight, particularly when the Energy God reminisced about growing up in Jammy’s yard. This night was rivaled only by the Thursday night sound clash, which pitted Japanese sound Mighty Crown aka ‘The Far East Rulers’ against heavyweight Jamaican sounds Bass Odyssey and Metro Media in a musical battle royale, as each sound showed off their collections of exclusive dubplates punctuated by slick microphone talk.

The competition was so fierce on the first leg of the journey that Mighty Crown and Bass Odyssey were forced into a tie-breaker round, which led to a controversial non-decision and talk of a forfeit. It might have been all in fun but the rules were still being hotly debated the next morning at breakfast, as some questioning Chris Dubmaster’s refereeing skills. The winner had to be decided on the second leg of the cruise, with Mighty Crown finally emerging victorious on the strength of a Super Cat dubplate that proved to be the knockout punch.

Every artist rose to the occasion, delivering standout performances—perhaps none more than the lineup on Wednesday night, when the boat traveled from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, allowing artists like Bounty Killer, Popcaan, Jah Cure and Busy Signal the chance to perform for an international crowd while staying in Jamaican waters. Unlike last year’s smiles and girl tunes this time around Bounty killer was in full Warlord mode from his choice of badman tunes to his harsh talk for the sound engineer.

Newcomer Papi kept his set extra real with tracks like ‘Rup Rup’ and ‘Party Shot’ just when you think he’s heading mainstream papi reminds you that real thugs never forget the dumpland. Since none of these artists are currently able to travel to the UK or the U.S. due to visa restrictions, the cruise presents a rare opportunity both for the fans and for the artists themselves. During Cure’s powerful set he introduced his song ‘True Reflection’, released during his seven-year incarceration, with a personal anecdote about his own time behind bars. “When I was down, there was a lot of artists everywhere in the world that say ‘Free Jah Cure” the singer said, but the first to come to his aid was Buju Banton, who is now doing time in the U.S. on Federal drug charges. “Tears come to my eye” said Cure as he recalled how Buju looked after him and his family.

Encouraging the crowd to raise their hands in the air and shout “Free Buju!” Cure evoked a day when another star will take the stage on this cruise, which has already become an indispensable platform for bringing Jamaican musicians to the world—and vice versa. Watch the Wild Apache Super Cat perform live on the Jamrock cruise:

See ya next month!

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Words: Reshma B

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