Big and bad Jamaican dancehall giant King Kong broke big in 1986 with the superb Red Rose combination Two Big Bull In A One Pen for King Tubby. It was followed by several strong singles and albums, including Trouble Again for King Jammy. But from the late 80s King Kong kept a low musical profile for about two decades.
In past years he has however been productive. In 2013 he dropped the album Ethiopian Dream and last year the showcase set In the Old Capital Vol. 1 was released. And a few months ago he put out Repatriation, an album produced by France’s Irie Ites.
Repatriation is pulsating dancehall with a contemporary twist and musicians include giants like Sly & Robbie, Russ D and Bongo Herman along with guest artists such as the gravel-voiced Burro Banton on the soon to be classic Old School.
Irie Ites’ productions are always well above par and Repatriation is no exception. Another killer album.
During the late 80s and throughout the 90s Bobby “Digital” Dixon produced a truckload of superb singles and albums, of which several are today hailed as some of the greatest reggae and dancehall ever released.
Bobby Digital grew up in the 70s listening to roots acts such as Black Uhuru and Wailing Souls and his journey in the music industry began when he from an early age attended sound system dances. He was an apprentice of King Jammy and he later branched out on his own creating a musical revolution that took Jamaica by storm.
He started out producing lethal dancehall and later helped the roots reggae resurgence in Jamaica with artists such as Garnett Silk, Jahmali, Sizzla, Capleton and Buju Banton.
And VP Records has through its subsidiary 17 North Parade now released two compilations dedicated to Bobby Digital’s productions. The first anthology X-tra Wicked covers his dancehall catalog, while the second anthology, Serious Times, showcases his rootsy side. These two albums cover a neat 80 tracks, including many classics, for example Shabba Ranks’ Peenie Peenie, Mad Cobra’s Tek Him, Morgan Heritage’s Don’t Haffi Dread and Buju Banton’s Til I’m Laid To Rest.
This double anthology showcases a musical genius and a game-changing producer. Now I’m waiting for an anthology dedicated to the works of Richard “Bello” Bell, another producer responsible for some of the greatest reggae released in the 90s.
French versatile singer and singjay LMK drops her second album Highlights, the follow-up to her debut full-length Musical Garden released in 2015. On this new set she has sharpened her musical edge and crafted many memorable hooks and catchy choruses.
Highlights is a dancehall album particularly influenced by R&B, hip-hop and pop. It’s delightful and the chorus on See the Light is simply irresistible with its strings and LMK’s sprightly and youthful singing.
But she also has another side. Check the fierce See Dem Out and the brilliant Skarra Mucci combination Crazy And Alive where she showcases her rapping and fast chatting style. She also has a distinct hip-hop connection and is joined by four U.S. rappers – Reverie and Gavlyn along with veterans Mann and Billy Danze from Brooklyn’s MOP.
LMK is along with Soom T and Marina P the most promising and interesting talent on the European reggae and dancehall scene.
Soundclashes are a vital part of reggae culture and soundmen around the world always aim to stay ahead of competition by having the toughest dubplates where the artists spits insults and boasts the sound they are singing and chatting for.
On the by Japan’s Dub Store Records’ recently reissued Soundclash Dubplate Style Vol. 1 & 2 this culture and style is highlighted through ten cuts complemented by their dubstrumental version.
The set is produced by the late engineer-turned-producer King Tubby and was originally released in the late 80s. It’s a solid collection of digital soundboy tunes showcasing the essence of reggae and dancehall culture with each track being introduced by hypeman Fuzzy Jones.
Johnny Osbourne delivers the blazing and pulsating Line Up. It’s by far the strongest cut on the album where Johnny Osbourne fuses tough boastful lyrics with a catchy melody. The grim Die Yu Die from Michael Bitas is another gem which will make competition run.
Reggae history right here.
Forward-thinking Scottish outfit Mungo’s Hi Fi has put out their first compilation featuring some of the key musicians and producers that have influenced them. And it’s a bass heavy bunch of people working out of Europe.
Puffer’s Choice comes with material that has previously appeared on singles along with in-demand dubplates played in dances and a few brand new cuts.
Prince Fatty kicks things off with a chilling and atmospheric version of Kraftwerk’s The Model – with an uncredited vocalist sounding a lot like Hollie Cook – and from then and there it’s a ground-shaking journey with wobbling bass lines, smattering drums and lethal chatting from Danny T, Parly B, Solo Banton, Daddy Freddy, Macka B and Mr. Williamz along with a few more.
A flavorful compilation for those aiming to annoy neighbors.
UK MC Parly B first grabbed the mic on the 90s as part of the local jungle scene and it wasn’t until quite recently he burst into the dub, reggae and dancehall scene. He has recorded a number of tough tunes and several of them are now collected on This is Digital, an eight track set released via Mungo’s Hi Fi’s Scotch Bonnet label.
Two of the cuts are brand new, while six are previously put out different labels and for different producers. The audio landscape is dark and grim with dry melodies and bass lines echoing over oceans. And it suits Parly B’s authoritative vocal style very well.
The title track is an homage to King Tubby’s Firehouse label and was originally cut for Top Cat’s Herbalist and was latest heard on YT’s No Wata Down Ting. The brand new Duppy is produced by Greece’s Fleck and borrows the 19th century Russian folk song Korobeiniki widely known as the being the Tetris theme song.
UK label Reggae Roast has by now a number of strong releases in their catalogue. The latest addition is producer Interrupt and singer Tenor Youthman’s We Rule the Dance, a ten track set packed with computerized sounds, keyboard licks and airhorns ready to test any sound system.
We Rule the Dance is upbeat and digital reggae 80s style. That means drum machines, colourful sounds from Casio keyboards and bouncy bass lines. Add Tenor Youthman’s haunting singing style, which is heavily influenced by Nitty Gritty, King Kong and Tenor Saw, three singers that made a huge impact in the mid to late 80s with their nasal and non-melodic style, and you are at a yard dance in Kingston circa 1986.
On Flash Hit Records’ Time Machine EP they have worked with veteran artists from the early dancehall era and the digital dancehall craze. Papa Michigan, Lieutenant Stitchie, Derrick Parker and Carl Meeks all showcase their talents over explosive riddims created by the team behind Flash Hit Records along with the insanely productive Manudigital, an expert in recreating 80s digital reggae with a contemporary flavour.
This short set – four vocal tracks and two instrumentals – is boiling with energy and Lieutenant Stitchie spits lyrics over a crazy, pulsating beat, while Carl Meeks’ dramatic singing bounces over a lively riddim.
An excellent introduction to the Flash Hit sound.
Versatile singjay Skarra Mucci returns with another energetic, bouncy and playful album with influences from back when, now and then. And it carries another boastful title – Dancehall President. The album before was called Greater Than Great. Skarra Mucci isn’t short on confidence. That’s for sure.
Dancehall President is his fifth studio album and it comes with the same tasty ingredients as his previous sets – reggae, hip-hop, and old school dancehall. This set also add some dubstep, as showcased on the meaty Handz Ina Di Air.
Skarra Mucci effortlessly raps, sings and singjays over contemporary riddims and beats sprinkled with vintage vibes, including It Wasn’t I recorded over a relick of Keith & Tex’ melancholic Goodbye Baby.
The album carries 15 blazing cuts featuring combinations with artists like Beenie Man, Yanis Odua, Mandinka and Horace Andy with production helmed by Irie Ites, Weedy G Soundforce and Deebuzz.
Another sharp and party-starting album with enough energy to keep one rocking and swinging through the night.
German label and production crew Jugglerz recently released a various artists compilation with an impressive line-up and a hefty 21 cuts. Singers and deejays from no less than eight countries are featured on Jugglerz City, which boasts a tasty mix of released and previously unreleased cuts. It almost has the feel of a cohesive mixtape, but with full tracks and no sound effects.
Jugglerz City gives a great chance of discover fresh one drop and lively dancehall as well as a new generation of singers and deejays since talents like Randy Valentine, Christopher Martin, Bugle, I-Octane, Jemere Morgan, Zagga and RC aka Righteous Child are included. The provide the set with youthful energy and vitality.
The highlights are numerous, but some of the brightest moments are Luciano’s Where Are the Hearts on Reggaemiles riddim, Randy Valentine’s album opener My Team, Miwata’s pulsating Daylight and Christopher Martin’s Is It Love with its underlying infectious keyboard hook.
J Boog does what he does best on Worth My Time – sun-drenched reggae – while Etana shows a different and fiercer side on Money is the Motive. This Beenie Man combination is ska-fueled dancehall turning into a frenzy.
Jugglerz has managed to get the best out of a number of highly talented artists.