I’m gonna say this since we’re all friends. Everyone, at one point in their existence on this earth, who has grown up in this generation, has contemplated being Jamaican. Be honest. Check in with yourself. It happened. Whether it was when you first heard Bob, or maybe Grand Puba, Third World, Poor Righteous Teachers or went to a reggae festival, it has happened. You thought, what an amazing culture. A small island, with so much flare and soul. It’s okay to admit that here, we promise we won’t judge.
In all seriousness, Jamaican music has been a part of every music conscious person’s library. It is something that comes to you and stops you in your tracks. It sounds like power, celebration and dance, defined in spoken word. Not to mention the influence this music has had on American musical progression. This can be seen with talent such as Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc who is credited with the creation of Hip Hop music. In his music, the sounds can be traced to Hip-Hop’s lesser known cousin – Dancehall. Dancehall music began appearing on the scene in the late ’80s as locals began having street parties barricaded in by large sound systems. The music grew in popularity in ’90s with the rise of artists such as Shabba Ranks, Dawn Penn, Shaggy and Chaka Demus and Pliers. Popularity spanned to a worldwide audience as the taste for Dancehall began to grow with artists such as Buju Banton, Beenie Man and most recently Sean Paul. The more underground artists such as Konshens, Popcaan and Vybz Kartel have carried the torch to making it as enjoyable as it is today.
As Dancehall’s popularity exploded in Jamaica in the ’90s and early 2000’s sounds such as Killmanjaro, Coppershot, Stone Love and even Nemesis dominated the party scene. Dancehall grew to become the new music for Jamaican milennials as reggae took it’s place for the older generation.
With that sort of foundation it’s no mystery why many current musicians have began tapping into the island’s up tempo popular, dance music genre.
Dancehall has not caught on like roots reggae. Maybe it is the fact it did not have a spokesperson like Robert Nestor Marley, or maybe it is because it’s a little more brash. Yet, this brashness makes it now. It differentiates it as a relevant musical genre worth tapping into. Using it’s party vibe, it’s quick worded cadence, it’s expression of how the island is now. A tough place to live, filled with violence, corruption and beauty. All these factors mixed into a pot, with an underlying electric sexual chemistry has created the newest and most influential musical genre coming straight outta Kingston. As the genre begins to permeate the global airwaves, musicians have begun to sample lots of Dancehall’s most celebrated elements.
Dancehall’s Influence on Hip-Hop
Kanye. Kanye’s latest release was filled with dancehall grooves, moments, and artists. In particular, Kanye employed Assassin aka Agent Sasco, a veteran of the dancehall scene since 2002, to filling the hook for I’m in It. Kanye also used a lot of samples of Dancehall lyrics and tempos to spice up about 4 songs on Yeezus. You can sample this influence in the club jam, Send It Up, below:
Drake has been long time partner’s with Jamaica’s current Dancehall king, Popcaan. Drake and The Unruly Boss have been influencing each other , back and forth, for a few years now. This influence can be heard throughout Drake’s new record, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, as the cadence of his signing can favor a Dancehall’s artist cadence. Check this handwritten note that accompanied the release where he thanks Dancehall artists, Chromatic, Aidonia, producer and studio owner Jamie YVP, and the Unruly Boss himself Popcaan. Drake states that these Danceahall artists are among the “bad skoolys” who made the tape come to life.
Check out Popcaan’s minute long interlude on Drake’s hit “Know Yourself”
So, Dancehall has been the sleeper cell in American music for some time now. As our biggest American artists continue to tap into it’s influence to create new sounds, style and slang, we celebrate the small island’s continued ability to change music as we know it. Oh, and start listening to more Dancehall artists. It’s will be good for you. To get you started, listen to this freestyle by Gully Bop. He freestyled this song on someone’s camera phone, and now he is one of the hottest Dancehall artists on the island. A real old fashioned rags to riches story. What’s more American than that?
Featured image found on Unifinished Man.