Each decade has stars that top the charts and sell out concerts all over the world. In the 60’s it was singers and vocal groups such as Slim Smith, Desmond Dekker, The Techniques and The Paragons.
In the 70’s reggae went truly global because of reggae icon Bob Marley. Big labels such as EMI, Capitol, Island and Virgin all took a great interest in reggae and signed artists such as Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals, Jacob Miller & Inner Circle, Third World, The Gladiators and The Mighty Diamonds.
In the 80’s reggae went digital – Wayne Smith voiced the immortal Sleng Teng riddim that was a huge success at least in the Jamaican dancehalls, and Barrington Levy dropped his anthemic Here I Come.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s several reggae artists were signed by major labels, and the smash reggae/pop hits started to invade the charts. Shaggy’s Oh Carolina, Shabba Ranks’ Mr. Loverman, Ini Kamoze’s Here Comes the Hotstepper and Chaka Demus & Pliers’ Murder She Wrote went gold and platinum around the world.
Sean Paul conquered the early 21th century with his second album Dutty Rock, an album that has sold more than six million copies and includes the successful singles Gimme the Light and the Billboard Hot 100 topper Get Busy, on the Diwali riddim. No other reggae artist comes close to Sean Paul’s success, even though there are other big sellers, such as Wayne Wonder’s No Letting Go, actually also on the Diwali riddim.
But who will carry the torch forward? Who will score the next worldwide smash hit? It’s of course impossible to know who will be the next big reggae thing, but there are several artists worth keeping an eye on.
The list below contains ten artists, known and comparatively unknown, that I always check out on riddim compilations because of their vocal abilities and styles. These artists also have in common that none have dropped more than one official full-length album.
The first time I heard her breezy voice was on Protoje’s debut album The Seven Year Itch. Since then she has dropped the single Warning featured on Solid Gold Vol. 1. I expect big things from her.
Has been rather quiet since she dropped her debut album Roads to Bliss in 2008, but has started to work with Xterminator Productions and recently put out the convincing Rock n Sway.
I-Octane has one foot in dancehall and the other in conscious reggae, and there has been a buzz around him for several years. In February he drops the highly anticipated debut album where he has hooked up with Shaggy’s former manager. Did anyone say hit potential?
Came to my attention in 2010 when he was featured on Vybz Kartel’s Clarks. He has recently started to work with contemporary dancehall masters Mixpak Records.
Such a talented singer, most of his material is worth picking up. His Paper Loving and Top a Top on the Cardiac Bass and Fairground riddims are sublime.
Dropped his self-titled debut album in 2010, an album where he had teamed up with acclaimed producer Donovan Germain alongside Shane Brown. It has been followed up by several strong singles, where of I am Rich in Love is a certified scorcher.
Probably the most unknown singer on the list, but nonetheless very talented and interesting. She has recorded mostly in the hip-hop/roots reggae vein. Crucial cuts include Work It on Eyes on My Purpose riddim and Outcry in the City on Stronga riddim.
Recently released his excellent debut album The Laboratory for Jamaican producer Don Corleon. He is a versatile singer that is as comfortable singing funky soul as gritty dancehall.
Hollie Cook has music in her veins and her debut album was produced by Prince Fatty – one of UK’s finest and most interesting producers. Her jazzy tone could probably produce a bona fide chart topper.
Has announced that his coming album will be heavier than his debut –a direction that may not lead to instant success. But his voice, delivery and melodies leave me longing for more.