Dancehall music is a collaboration between a producer making a riddim and a deejay who sings or toasts over the beat. One could easily be inspired by the other; it really is a symbiotic relationship. Riddims are of African origin, and is the pronunciation of the English equivalent "rhythm" in Jamaican Patois. In Jamaican music, such as dancehall, soca, or dub, the groove you hear and feel is known as the riddim.
There are three different types of these instrumental backdrops, or riddims. One is in classical form which fundamentally influenced roots reggae, dub and lovers rock. This style is distinctive in the use of drum patterns and bass lines. Next is a ragga riddim, which is a sub-genre of dancehall-reggae. This style of riddim is created electronically, through sampling. The third is the digital riddim, which uses drum machines and synthesizers. Nowadays, most dancehall tracks are created digitally. Thus, most if not all could be considered digital riddims.
It is common in reggae and dancehall for many artists to perform over the same beat. Which is not the same for hiphop, where sharing the beat isn't as frequent. However, some hiphop songs can become riddims as well. Some riddims become more popular than others, breathing life into hundreds of songs. Riddims get their interesting names by being named after the first song that was recorded on it, or by the most popular song recorded over it. The Playground Riddim, made by producer Jeremy Harding in 1997, is a prime example of a riddim that has been used by numerous artists. It is also a good representation of the late 90s dancehall style. Playground was used by Beenie Man for his song Who Am I, Sean Paul's Infiltrate, and Mr. Vegas' Nike Air. Listen to the beat and see if you can imagine each song and possibly others.
Other popular riddims used in 90s dancehall songs are Bookshelf and Buzz. Recording artists are invited or paid to sing over the beat, or are just working with the producer at the time. The producers of these beats can make money if the song takes off and/or is attached to a hit song, such as the Diwali Riddim. Most famous for being the building block of Rihanna's Pon De Replay.
Notice the Diwali Riddim while listening to Pon De Replay. Dancehall can't stall.
The Diwali Riddim was also used for Lumidee's single Never Leave You.
Beyonce got her go at the Diwali Riddim for smash hit Single Ladies.
Riddims are made and re-released all the time. If it's a fire track, the riddim can get 20 artists to sing on the beat. One of the hottest ridims of 2015 was the Liquor Riddim, produced by Good Good Productions. First, Mavado recoded his hit song My League to the rythm, then Alkaline, Vybz Kartel and I-Octane. Each blessing the rhythm with their own unique style. Play the Liquor Riddim below.
One of the newest, more popular riddims to be recorded just a month ago, is the Swiss Phone Riddim, produced by Swiss Ivory Production. It was blessed by such artists as: Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Zion King, and a KingstonToLA favorite from Austria, Jami Dread. Listen to his cut Talkative below.
So next time you hear a dancehall, reggae, soca, reggaeton, hiphop or r&b tune you'll know that riddims are used (and re-used) as the building blocks for the amazing vibes.