This is the fourth of a five part list compiled as a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. The list contains 50 albums – ten for each decade. Today it’s time for 1993-2002.
During the early 90’s ragga with mainly slack lyrics dominated the Jamaican dancehall and the airwaves with deejays such as Ninjaman and Cutty Ranks. At the same time a new breed of roots reggae singers started to come forward. This era is appropriately described in the indispensable book The Rough Guide to Reggae as “rasta renaissance”.
But 1993-2002 is also the period when two new reggae superstars rise and completely rule the reggae charts as well as the more mainstream ones.
Shaggy scores two major hits with Bombastic in 1995 and It wasn’t Me five years later and Sean Paul drops several smash hits during the early 2000’s, including Gimme the Light, Like Glue and Get Busy.
As with the previous periods, the list doesn’t contain any compilations, but as always with Jamaican albums, some albums are more or less made-up of several previously released singles.
Luciano – Where There is Life (1995)
Luciano is a pivotal figure in the development of modern roots reggae, and several of his mid 90’s albums are essential. On this Phillip “Fatis” Burrell produced album he sings with confidence and coolness and lines up masterpiece after masterpiece, including Lord Give Me Strength and It’s Me Again Jah.
Buju Banton – ’Til Shiloh (1995)
In 1995 Buju Banton ventured into spirituality with the semi-acoustic lighter raising Untold Stories. His shift towards conscious and cultural themes is apparent on the deejay’s magnum opus ‘Til Shiloh, on which he with both power and emotion rages against Jamaican domestic violence, pays homage to Africa and praises Jah.
Anthony B – Real Revolutionary (1996)
Just as Sizzla, Anthony B belonged to a new generation of cultural deejays in the mid 90’s, and both were at the forefront with their messages of righteousness and equality. His delivery is fierce on this Richard “Bello” Bell produced set, a set that contains the controversial Fire pon Rome along with Repentance Time and an interpretation of Tracy Chapman’s Cold Feet.
Sizzla – Black Woman & Child (1997)
The prolific turban-clad righteous ranter Sizzla has had his ups and downs in album quality. But in the mid to late 90’s he reigned the conscious roots dancehall scene with several top-notch albums for Phillip “Fatis” Burrell and Bobby “Digital” Dixon. This Dixon-produced set includes both reworkings of reggae masterpieces and fresh originals, and Sizzla chants are both ferocious and catchy.
Tony Rebel – If Jah (1997)
One of the earliest righteous chanters of the modern roots reggae era in the 90’s, and on this set Tony Rebel rejects slackness with a more melodic approach compared to some of his contemporaries. Includes self-productions as well as collaborations with Donovan Germain, Bobby “Digital” Dixon, Richard “Bello” Bell among others, and notable tracks include his bestselling Jah is By My Side, Know Jah, on a relicked Swing Easy riddim, and the marvelous Marcia Griffiths duet Ready to Go, a version of her own Land of Love.
Bushman – Nyah Man Chant (1997)
Heavily influenced by Dennis Brown, Frankie Paul and Luciano, Bushman has a powerful and no-nonsense vocal approach and sings with attitude and confidence. This debut set is produced by Steely & Clevie and is filled sizzling beats, wicked grooves and thoughtful lyrics.
Jahmali – El Shaddai (1998)
The stunning debut album by this shamefully under recorded singer. Jahmali’s strong and expressive voice is easy to fall in love with, and on this set it’s matched by equally strong and expressive riddims produced by Donovan Germain.
Prezident Brown – To Jah Only (1999)
Prezident Brown has a rhythmic and melodic swinging flow in his chanting style, while his singing is a little rough around the edges. To Jah Only is a cultural album from start to finish and the styles range from modern roots reggae and nyabinghi to danchehall-tinged pop.
Capleton – More Fire (2000)
In the late 90’s the thunderous voiced fire raving Capleton was at the peak of his career. This album collects recordings from 1999 and early 2000 and is filled with brimstone and fire lyrics ready to mash up the world. Song titles such as Pure Sodom, Bun Dung Dreadie and Jah Jah City set the tone.
Ras Shiloh – From Rasta to You (2002)
Ras Shiloh has been described as the reincarnated voice of the late Garnett Silk, and the resemblance between the two singers are spooky. The similarities and differences become apparent on the opening track Complain, a duet where both singers ride the mighty Tempo riddim. The other 16 tracks are just as essential.
Curious about the albums? Check this Spotify playlist with nine of the albums.