Reggae & Dancehall #48: J. Capri, Rebel Salute

All the latest goings-on...

It may be winter but the world of Reggae & Dancehall is still hotting up – Reshma B brings Clash readers her first report of 2016…

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The death of rising dancehall star Jordan Phillips aka J. Capri following an automobile accident in Jamaica brought out a huge wave of support for the 23-year-old artist who broke through in 2013 with 'Pull Up To Me Bumper,' a collab with Konshens. Dancehall queen Lady Saw was so moved at the artists’ wake that she says the Holy Spirit spoke to her, convincing Saw to make good on a long-standing promise to stop recording dancehall music and turn Christian. After posting an apology to all her former rivals on social media, Saw began work on a gospel album.

Following in the footsteps of smash hits ‘What’s My Name’ (2010) and ‘Take Care’ (2011), Rihanna and Drake have joined forces once again on ‘Work’, the first single of the Bajan pop star’s new album ‘ANTI’. Produced by Boi-1da and Sevn Thomas of Drake’s OVO Sound crew, the song sports an unmistakable dancehall beat and Drake and Rihanna showing off their patois skills.

Adele has topped the charts once again, but this time it’s the reggae chart. A reggae version of the British singer’s recent smash ‘Hello’, recorded by the British-Jamaican artist Conkarah and Rosie a 14-year-old singer from the Solomon Islands, shot to the top of iTunes Reggae Chart within a week of its release. The torch song was also covered by Jamaican reggae singer Alaine.

The Dab dance originated in Atlanta popularized by trap rappers like Migos. Since then the move—similar to sneezing in your elbow—has gone viral with pro-athletes celebrating big plays with the dance and 2Chainz launching a 'Dabbin Santa' app and merch for the holidays. It was only right for Mr. Vegas to take the dance to the streets of Jamaica with ‘Dancehall Dabb’, a hard-hitting track produced by Riva Nile for MV Music.

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Notnice first came to prominence as the in-house producer for Vybz Kartel and the Portmore Empire. He went on to produce massive riddims like the ‘Boom Box’ which sparked hits for artists like Alkaline and Spice. His new song 'Way Out' is a departure from the usual high-energy fare: a stripped down track with simple piano figure and a few bass hits. What shines through are the lyrics of Sizzla, Popcaan and Teflon—all speaking on the desperation that comes with poverty of the judgment that awaits those who play with poor people’s lives. You might not expect to see Popcaan alongside these hardcore Rasta DJs—after all isn’t he supposed to be the 'Raving King'? But having seen previews of Poppy’s Abundant Life documentary, and having watched these three artists tear up Ghetto Splash just over a year ago, this songs comes as no surprise at all.

The hottest riddim in rotation is '90s Don Dada', produced by Seanizzle the man who brought you Beenie Man and Fambo’s 'Rum and Red Bull'. From the cassette-inspired cover art to the tempo to the line up, this juggling brings back the vibes of classic 90s dancehall. Standout cuts by De-marco, Busy Signall, I-OCtane and Ninjaman, as well as 'My House,' which may be the last dancehall song ever recorded by Lady Saw.

February 1st marks what would have been the 59th birthday of Dennis Brown. VP Records is honouring the Crown Prince of Reggae’s legacy with a tribute album called ‘We Remember Dennis Brown’ consisting of new versions of some of D.Brown classics as performed by new reggae art-ists. Romain Virgo sings ‘Caress Me Girl’, Raging Fire handles ‘Milk and Honey’, JAH9 tackles ‘Bloody City’, and Hawaiian reggae band The Green will take on ‘Promised Land’. St. Lucian roots reggae artist Taj Weekes is set to release the album ‘Love Herb & Reggae’ on February 12. Recorded with his band Adowa, the 14-track offering continues his track records of socially conscious lyrics and inventive musical arrangements. ‘Life In The Red’ addresses the feeling of living with financial pressures while the thought-provoking ‘Let Your Voice’ challenges listeners to speak up with the lyric ‘let your voice be as loud as your silence’.

Nine Mile is a village in the mountains of Jamaica’s Saint Ann parish where Bob Marley was born and where he was laid to rest after dying in 1981. The annual 9Mile Music Festival has always had a strong connection with the Marley family and this year is no exception as Stephen Marley, Da-mian 'Jr. Gong' Marley, Julian Marley, and Skip Marley—the son of Bob’s eldest child, Cedella—will take the stage, along with Capleton, Konshens, Protoje, and hip hop legend Nas, who might just perform some joints from the ‘Distant Relatives’ album with Jr. Gong. February 14th is Valentine’s Day and what better way to celebrate than a night of Lovers Rock with Carroll Thompson, Victor Romero Evans and Janet Kay backed by a live band at the Clapham Grand in London.

When you think of Jamaica the first images that often come to mind for most are sunny beaches, reggae music, rum, and weed—lots of weed. Up until recently only the first three have been legal, but last February there was a great breakthrough in the battle for marijuana legalisation on the island. Yup. Ever since the two ounce law passed, you can lawfully carry that amount for personal use. The word has been spreading slowly, but this past January’s Rebel Salute festival in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica was the ultimate victory celebration. The first music festival in Jamaican history with legal ganja. Not that Rebel Salute has actually lacked ganja smoke in years past, but this year the festival hosted an official area for marijuana enlightenment, known as the 'Herb Curb’.

More than just a “smoking section”, the Herb Curb is an area where festival attendees were able to go and respectfully gain more knowledge about the benefits of the weed known to Rastafarians as “the healing of the nation”. Complete with seminars, informational brochures, and a speech from Jamaica’s Justice Minister Mark Golding, the Herb Curb felt almost like a trade show in the most beautiful convention center imaginable. Festival founder Tony Rebel described it as a space “where we will accommodate recreational, medicinal and sacramental uses for ganja.” The American-Jamaican company Epican set up an enormous CO2 extractor to demonstrate show the process of extracting concentrated ganja extract which can be used in vaporisers, which is apparently better for your lungs. From potent oils to slick vape pens organisers were fully equipped to pass down the knowledge—and do business.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting shared the fact that not only was possession of small amounts of ganja legal, but the government had taken the additional step of clearing the criminal records of any person convicted of possessing small amounts of herb. Good news all round—pass the cutchie pon the left!

Ask any artist at the fest if they visited the Herb Curb and you’d be hard to find one who said no. Macka B from the UK reeled off the benefits of the holy herb during his time on stage, along with deejaying about his favourite vegetarian foods. Speaking of vegetables Tony Rebel performed his hit 'Fresh Vegetable' twice—first during his own set on night one and then once again alongside Beres Hammond. With three encores and a voice soaring as high as his catalog runs deep, it was Sanchez who thrilled the crowd with classics like 'Praise Him' and 'Never Dis The Man' as well as covering Dennis Brown’s 'Love and Hate' and Gregory Isaacs 'Night Nurse'.

Queen Ifrica commanded the stage in her usual style on night two with songs like 'Lioness On The Rise' serving notice that she’s both a powerful singer and a DJ with the ability to spit fire on topics like medical marijuana. But the climax of the show was undoubtedly the Gully Gad, aka Mavado, performing for this night as David Brooks.

It’s not often that a dancehall artist whose music has been considered ‘slack’ graces the Rebel Salute stage, but Brooks showed the crowd that his body of work—from 'On the Rock' to ‘Hope and Pray’—is palatable for any Rastaman. After the show the singer—who is now a permanent resident of the U.S.—revealed his pleasure at the recent ganja announcement stating that he 'loves it' and that he hasn’t been able to stop smoking since he got back to Jamaica!

Check out Mr. Brooks straight after his performance at Rebel Salute…

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See Ya Next Month!

Words By Reshma B

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