Jamaican-born, Miami-bred and NYC-based dancehall singer Kranium rose to prominence with his breakthrough hit single Nobody Has to Know, which catapulted him onto A&R’s radars. It was originally released on small independent label Frequent Flyer and became a summer anthem in 2014, and it’s the closest to a smash dancehall hit since Gyptian’s monster tune Hold Yuh. And that was in 2010. Dancehall hits doesn’t come often these days.
The success of Nobody Has to Know soon led to a major label contract along with a ton of remixes. The best version – together with Major Lazer’s cut – is the remix with Ty Dolla $ign, and that track is also available on Kranium’s debut album Rumors, a set where he teams up with Ricky Blaze, who was responsible for Hold Yuh, and Lamar “ LMR Pro” Reynolds, who produced Nobody Has to Know.
Rumors is urban and contemporary, but not the usual dancehall album. It’s slower, darker and more atmospheric. It doesn’t have the pedal to the metal and party-frenzied riddims often associated with dancehall. It has several slower jams and most songs are melancholic rather than joyous.
It’s just as dark and introspective as its cover sleeve and probably better suited for an oozing after-party rather than crazy clubbing.
King Spinna Records – run by one of the founders of legendary label Blood & Fire – has just reissued Dillinger’s solid Join the Queue, originally released in 1982 on Oak Sound.
Dillinger is best known for his international hit song Cocaine in My Brain, but he was during the 70s also one of the leading deejays with his slick style. Join the Queue was released at a time when dread roots reggae was giving way for the more slack dancehall genre.
And this set captures the shift very well, with rock-hard riddims provided by Roots Radics and We the People Band. They contribute with five tracks each, on which Dillinger lays down playful, boastful and rootsy lyrics. He even slips in a bit of yodelling on Duddle Oley, unusal in reggae, but can also be heard on Tony Tuff’s Come Fe Mash It and Perfect Giddimani’s Never Fail.
After being out of print for the last 33 years this reissue is certainly very welcome.
We have now passed the midpoint of 2015 and that means it’s time to summarize the year so far. Below I have collected 20 reggae and dancehall favourites released this year. It’s always hard to make such a list because there’s a ton of music released each week – on vinyl, on iTunes, on Spotify and on Soundcloud. But I have yet again managed to dig deep in my archives and the list below might be of some help navigating the best releases so far this year.
All 20 tracks are of course highlights in my opinion, but a few shines a bit brighter than others, for example Torch & Bugle’s heavy Fire Man a Bun, Kabaka Pyramid’s fiercely sarcastic Well Done, Protoje & Sevana & Jesse Royal’s smooth Sudden Flight and The Wizard & Jesse Royal’s criminally catchy Raging Storm.
The list below is as usual presented in no particular order and the songs included are only singles or tracks taken from compilations. If you are curious about the songs you can download a Spotify playlist with 19 of 20 tracks. Download here. Enjoy!
Artist – title (label/riddim)
The Wizard & Jesse Royal – Raging Storm (Tropical Storm)
Fantan Mojah – Nah Vote Again (Live MB Music/Vision)
Dreadzone & Earl 16 – Fire in the Dark (King Dread Rumours riddim Remix) (Dubwiser/Rumours)
Torch & Bugle – Fire Man a Bun (Weedy G Soundforce/Gate 7)
General Degree – Feeling Irie (Germaica)
Kabaka Pyramid – Well Done (Ghetto Youths International)
Major Lazer & MØ & DJ Snake – Lean On (Mad Decent)
Samory I – Take Me Oh Jah (Rorystonelove)
Exco Levi – Love (Jugglerz/Reggaemiles)
L.U.S.T – She’s Pretty Like (Silly Walks Discotheque/Ram Jam)
RDX – Linky (Cashflow/Sounds of the Heart)
Tifa – Rock My Body (Mixpak/Blacklight)
Sizzla – Think Positive (Special Delivery)
Shuga – In Deh (Penthouse)
Luciano – Solid Like a Rock (Larger Than Life/Hungry Dayz)
Shanty B – Feisty Gyal (Maximum Sound/Clash of the Titans)
Protoje & Sevana & Jesse Royal – Sudden Flight (Baco Records)
Cornell Campbell – Good Old Days (Tuff Scout/God I God I Say)
Ce’cile & Vybrant – Mr. Right (Loud City Music/Ice Cold)
Sizzla – Cold War (acoustic version) (Muti Music)
Major Lazer’s new album Peace is the Mission is the trio’s most pop-oriented yet. This genre-fusion project – led by U.S. producer Diplo – has gone from working with hard and uncompromising dancehall artists to feature several slick and more polished pop singers.
Peace is the Mission is Major Lazer’s third album and it has been preceded by several singles, including the hyper-catchy MQ and DJ Snake combination Lean On. This is global dance music, heavily influenced by the Caribbean music scene, especially Jamaican dancehall and Trinibagoan soca.
The energy levels are high, even though there are room for slower jams, such as the dreamy and beautiful Tarrus Riley and Ellie Goulding combination Powerful and the hip-hop-tinged Night Riders, which features Travi$ Scott, Pusha T, 2 Chainz and Mad Cobra.
Peace is the Mission is electronic and electric. It’s dancehall for festivals and stadiums and a logical and mature follow-up to Free the Universe.
Jamaican singer Keida is an emerging talent on the international reggae scene. And just as several other notable Jamaican performing artists Keida started to get enrolled in music while at the Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts.
She dropped her debut single Jamaican Boy in 2009 and has since dropped a number of singles. But her brand new EP Ebb & Flow is her first more full-body of work.
On this seven track set – including a dub version – she enrolls five different producers – Rory Stonelove, UIM Records, Natural High Mystic, Suns of Dub and Royal Order Music. The set includes three previously released singles, including hit songs Ganja Tea and Stand for Something.
Ebb & Flow is a tasty mix of cultural roots and blazing, yet thoughtful, dancehall. Keida is a talented lyricist with a conscious approach. She invites people to use ganja in a positive and meditative way and strives for social change and global love.
This fresh set shows a mature singer comfortable with both up-tempo and hard-edged dancehall as well slower roots. Keida sends an uplifting message encouraging people to change in a positive way.
So, it was a beautiful Saturday morning and I was having a coffee while writing a record review. When the piece was finished my hard-drive crashed. The story was written in Office Word and I didn’t save. Why? I don’t know. I should have. I know. But I didn’t. End of story.
So to make a long story short – here’s a brief and less informative review, but it will still hopefully whet the appetite for yet another solid scorcher from UK’s Hot Milk Records.
Jamaican singer-turned-producer Linval Thompson released his material via a variety of labels, but saved his hardest pieces for his own Strong Like Sampson label, an imprint active between 1979 and 1980.
And for the first time his productions on that particular label have been compiled and reissued. We are talking about 18 tracks on two discs. Nearly two hours of some of the most uncompromising early dancehall to be put on wax. The fearsome Roots Radics do not apologize for their sparse and heavy as lead riddims.
And singers and deejays like Barrington Levy, Anthony Johnson, Rod Taylor, Sammy Dread and Papa Tullo take it directly from the grim streets of Kingston. Their lyrics are a reality check on police brutality and oppression.
All vocal cuts come with its dub or deejay version. And the material collected on Strong Like Sampson brims with dread echoes and streetwise energy.
Sly & Robbie’s joint album with Japanese producer Spicy Chocolate was released in the U.S. last year and was nominated for a Grammy. The Reggae Power is an eclectic and contemporary album that is finally available throughout the world.
The Reggae Power is a various artist compilation brought together by Spicy Chocolate with support from legendary bass and drum duo Sly & Robbie. And they have invited a broad range of artists for this set – ranging from dancehall kings and queens like Ce’cile, Beenie Man and Mr. Vegas to the righteous ravings from Sizzla. On board the project is also a number of Japanese artists, including Crystal Kay, Thelma Aoyama, Miss Monday and Ryo the Skywalker.
It’s more dancehall than roots, and sometimes it’s more R&B-influenced pop than dancehall. Just listen to sweet songstress Alaine’s Wasn’t So Bad or Bitty McLean’s slick Anything and Everything. Two tracks directly aimed at the charts.
But then you also have rampant soca-fused cuts like Mr. Vegas & Chehon’s Dancing Time and Jason Sweetness & Future Fambo’s Party Time, a track where the title says it all.
You have to be seriously impressed by Sly & Robbie. Last year they dropped no less than three rough and tough dub albums and then they direct a set like this, which is nothing like dub. The Reggae Power is joyous, party-fuelled and should appeal to anyone fond of contemporary urban R&B and pop.
UK-based super producer Frenchie has teamed up with no other than the legendary King Jammy for a new scorching riddim titled Clash of the Titans, set for release on February 16.
This riddim is in the same blazing vein as the mighty Tin Mackerel riddim, released in 2013 with monster tunes like Konshens & Romain Virgo’s We No Worry Bout Them, Mr. Vegas & Natel & Major Mackerel’s Flash Up Unu Lighta and Tony Curtis’ Number One Sound.
Clash of the Titans is voiced by seven different artists – Ninjaman, Mr. Vegas, Ward 21, Major Mackerel, Shanty B, Vershon and Masicka – and comes with nine cuts, of which two are from Vershon and one is an instrumental.
More than a few sound bwoys were slayed by the Tin Mackerel riddim and with this one another dozen or two will face the same cruel fate.
It’s hard to keep up with album releases and when reading best of 2014 lists I have found a few gems. One of those is Back to Rub a Dub by singjay Sr. Wilson and producer Genis Trani. The album was selected by one of the best from last year by House of Reggae and that site also awarded Sr. Wilson the title artist of the year.
Sr. Wilson and Genis Trani are both from Barcelona. Genis Trani has previously produced and written a number of strong albums, for example Jahmali’s excellent We I Open from last year.
Sr. Wilson carries an old school flow and is heavily inspired by singers from the early 80s dancehall era and together with Genis Trani he has on Back to Rub a Dub embarked on an journey back to a time when Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Prince Jammy ruled the dancehalls and when Roots Radics pushed forward their taking no prisoners kind of riddims over at Channel One.
This 16 track album, or maybe mixtape is more accurate, is built on well-known and much versioned riddims. Sr. Wilson sings and deejays like he was Don Carlos, Sammy Dread or Barry Brown and Genis Trani has produced it with style and fashion.
Mixtapes like this has been done before, but this one superbly executed from start to finish. It’s currently available for free download over at Eternal Miusik. Check it here.
Legendary Jamaican singer John Holt died yesterday evening in a hospital in London. He was 69 years old and had been ill for some time according to Jamaica-Gleaner.
John Holt was the essence of smoothness and made lovers rock before the genre was invented. He started his career – just as many of his peers – at Studio One and Treasure Isle in the mid-60s. He was one of the founding members of the highly successful vocal trio The Paragons, a trio that made immortal gems like On the Beach, Happy Go Lucky Girl and The Tide if High, later covered by U.S. pop rockers Blondie.
He soon left The Paragons to pursue a solo career and he put out several classics, including A Love I Can Feel and Strange Things. He also dabbled with disco and strings, but later moved on to dancehall. And it was with Henry “Junjo” Lawes he scored one of his biggest hits – Police in Helicopter, taken from the album with the same name.
John Holt continued to tour and perform almost up until the time of his death and he will be greatly missed.