Many reggae and dancehall fans were probably struck by surprise in late November last year when international dancehall star and MOBO award-winner Mr. Vegas started the Save Foundation Reggae Music petition with the words “reggae music is dying, it’s being replaced on our airwaves by hip-hop sounding beats.”
As a long-time fan of 60’s and 70’s reggae I celebrate this initiative, but was nonetheless also surprised.
Mr. Vegas then decided to take things a step further and announced the release of his first reggae album – a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. However, he soon realized that his dancehall fans might be disappointed. So in order to satisfy all tastes he decided to drop a double album instead – one aimed for one drop reggae enthusiasts and one for his dancehall followers.
Sweet Jamaica was the first single off the album, put out in late 2010. The new album is aptly titled after that particular tune.
The double album boasts a juicy 32 tracks – 16 flavored in foundation style with hints of ska, lovers rock, early reggae and rocksteady as well as another 16 tunes branded by his usual energetic dancehall style.
The majority of the reggae tracks are new acquaintances with a mix of fresh originals, versions and straight covers, while the dancehall album contains several of his recent dancehall bangers, including Bruk it Down, Whine for Me Baby, Certain Law and Beautiful Life. However, the brightest shining light on the dancehall disc is Let the Music Play where Mr. Vegas puts on a UK old school MC:ing style reminiscent of Tippa Irie or Papa Levi.
Sweet Jamaica is a broad effort that aims to satisfy a wide range of reggae fans. And even though some of the reggae covers could have been left out, this album certainly showcases a vast genre and a gifted and versatile artist.