End of the year means making lists and the usual way to do is to have editors and writers selecting their favorites throughout the year. This year United Reggae decided to do it another way, so we asked artists and producers around the globe to provide us with their top ten tunes from 2014.
We received lists from 16 different producers and artists, including Frenchie, Jah9, Duane Stephenson, Etana, Unga Barunga and Taj Weekes.
The lists include mostly reggae, but also R&B, hip-hop, pop, soca and house. Judging by the lists there are two standout tracks – Rock Stone by Stephen Marley & Capleton & Sizzla and Protoje & Chronixx’ Who Knows.
The lists also include a few surprises. Check all lists over at United Reggae and download a Spotify playlist with most of the songs here.
Earlier this year legendary Jamaican recording artist Frank Dowding, better known as Kiddus I, dropped a recently recorded album. Even though Kiddus I has been in the recording industry for almost 40 years Topsy Turvy World is only his third album, not including compilations.
Kiddus I is not a well-known singer outside hardcore reggae circles and is probably best known for his cameo in the cult motion picture Rockers from the 70s. His smooth Graduation in Zion was also included in the soundtrack. That particular tune is his trademark.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with Kiddus I. I reached him on the phone when he was in one of his homes in Jamaica. He was surprised when I called, even though his PR-agent had made the necessary arrangements. Happily enough he had a moment or two to give an interview.
It was a long interview and we covered a lot of issues and topics. What striked me was his spirituality and never-looking-back attitude. Read the full story over at United Reggae.
In the history of reggae music it’s often referred to labels and producers in the so-called golden era, i.e. the 70’s and Bob Marley’s heydays. Lee Perry at Black Ark, Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and Duke Reid at Tresure Isle regularly pops up.
But there are of course many, many other key labels and producers, and one of the most important ones in recent years is Frenchie, who operates and owns Maximum Sound and its subsidiaries Calabash, Pull Up My Selecta! and the most recent addition Maximum Sound Bwoy Killers.
He has run Maximum Sound for 20 years and has put out a truckload of hard-bouncing dancehall and spiritual and relentless roots and culture, including Junior Kelly’s Tough Life, Fantan Mojah’s Stronger and Sean Paul’s Back Off. He was also involved in the creation of the world famous Diwali riddim and served as executive producer for Mr. Vegas’ breakthrough album Heads High.
Since it’s Maximum Sound’s 20th anniversary this year I had a chat with Frenchie about his career, the music industry and a broken fridge. Check the full story over at United Reggae and be sure to keep an eye out for an anniversary compilation dropping on September 16.
King Lorenzo aka Lorenzo did a huge combination with Ras Mac Bean on the latter’s debut album Pack Up And Leave in 2004. Several strong singles followed and in 2009 his much anticipated debut album Movin’ Ahead was released. The album was an intense roots effort produced by reliable French crew Irie Ites.
Since that album not much was heard from Lorenzo. Until November last year when his sophomore album Stronger was released on digital platforms worldwide.
I had a chat with Lorenzo about Stronger, his relationship with European producers and musicians as well as his friendship with veteran deejay U Brown. Check the full story over at United Reggae.
Five Steez at ManifestoJamaica Festival 2011.
Jamaican hip-hop has recently started to get attention with several notable releases from the likes of Five Steez and Nomad Carlos along with some successful events in Kingston.
The scene is still however deeply underground and there are strong forces standing in the way of increasing the presence of hip-hop in Jamaica.
On behalf of United Reggae I interviewed Five Steez, Nomad Carlos and Inztinkz to find out more about the roots of Jamaican hip-hop, its future and why rap artists are feared by the local Jamaican music industry. Check this thorough story here.
During 2012 there have been several efforts to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence from British govern. Concerts, albums and songs are some of the events that have occurred.
Together with United Reggae I have asked a bunch of reggae artists, producers and label owners to share their view on the history and future of reggae music. We received many answers, ranging from acclaimed veterans such as BB Seaton, Sly Dunbar and Bunny Rugs, but also from more up and coming producers and singers, including Million Stylez, Mista Savona and Etana.
Most of the people we asked share the same view – reggae has had a huge impact on music makers around the world and that the future looks bright.
But you can find out for yourself and draw your own conclusions when checking the 20 stories over at United Reggae.
Jalani Horton is lead singer and front man in Bambú Station.
Bambú Station are part of the thriving reggae scene on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Earlier this year they put out their fourth full-length album Children of Exodus, a set packed with bubbling rhythms and conscious lyrics.
I had the opportunity to talk to Bambú Station’s Jalani Horton. He’s a praised and gifted lyricist as well as front man and lead singer in the band.
We talked about the new album, its references to Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Exodus and why he is determined to make a change in the world. Check the full story over at United Reggae.
Mike Pelanconi, better known as Prince Fatty, is a world-renowned producer and sound engineer from Brighton, UK. He has been praised for his vintage recording techniques and his work with artists such as Hollie Cook and Jamaican roots veteran Little Roy, with who he has recorded reggae renditions of Nirvana songs. He has also tried his hands on other genres as well working with rock and pop musicians such as Lily Allen and Graham Coxon from Blur.
His latest effort is Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler, an album described as a mix of hip hop fantasy and reggae reality. I had a chat with him about his inspirations, the new album and the artists featured on it. Check the full story over at United Reggae.
Prince Fatty artwork being painted in Brighton.
A few years back the family-based band Morgan Heritage temporarily split up and members Gramps, Lukes, Mojo, Peetah and Una ventured into their own solo careers.
Gramps has possibly been the most prolific of the members and has produced himself and other artists as well as released two albums – 2 Sides of My Heart in 2009 and Reggae Music Lives in April this year.
I got a chat with Gramps on his latest album and the return on Morgan Heritage over the phone from New York City where he hosts a radio show. Check the full story over at United Reggae.
You might recognize reggae band Inner Circle from hits such as Bad Boys and Sweat (A La La La La Long). Their catchy sing-a-long friendly pop influenced sound was met with great success in the early 90’s.
But the history of Inner Circle reaches further back than the 90’s. The band was formed in the early 70’s and with the late and great Jacob Miller onboard as lead vocalist they recorded deeply conscious tunes as well as disco-fused pop gems.
I got a chat with Ian Lewis – bassist and one of the group’s founding members – about reggae history, current dancehall and his view of Bob Marley. Check the full story over at United Reggae.