Reggae Review in 2007

Reggae and dancehall in 2007 national and locally lost steam. The riddim-driven albums by VP Records (USA) and Greensleeves (UK) that drove dancehall hits in past years seem to have come to a stand still this year. Creatively it was more of the same and that made room for the new sound of Tarrus Riley and Da’ville whose hits tunes were not riddim driven. Dave Stelfox from the London end to agrees arguing that “some of the best roots music of the year has been made by white people” and taps Alborosie, “a pale-faced Sicilian dude with even less Yard credentials than Collie Buddz or Gentleman” as the best artist of the year. NYC Irie Jam’s 93.5 FM, Chris, the Dubb-master are with many observers that was no monster hits tunes or hit riddims in 07.The volume of releases (mostly from Jamaica) for 07 was significantly less than previous years (too much volume tends to stifle some of the great riddims) though the quality of the some of releases remained quite high.

The momentum in 2006 created high expectations for reggae/dancehall for 07, it didn’t happen. Dance halls around the world remain rammed, from sound clashes to live concerts reggae, radio (especially pirate stations in NYC and Florida) and internet drew large numbers proving that the music still attracted and has huge audience appeal. A scan of the best compilations from Greensleeves’ Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems 2007, or VPs’ Strictly the Best Volume 35, 36, (2007) 37 & 38(2008) proves that despite both compilations despite having less songs than usual, they had some of wickedest tunes produced since 2000. There’s Ray Darwin’s People’s Choice, Tarrus Riley‘s Protect Yuh Neck and She’s Royal, Da’Ville’s Always on My Mind, Gyptian’s Beautiful Lady, Ritchie Spice’s Brown SkinAlaina’s Deeper or Munga’s These are the Days.

The hype and anticipation of Jah Cure’s release from prison (July) of engendered high expectations, those expectation faded fast despite several great releases by the artist. Cure-fest his three-day coming out celebration in Jamaica flopped. The public is still ambivalent about fully embracing Cure. He was blocked from performing in the UK, will not be allowed to legally enter the US. His management needs to figure out how to solve deal with this problem. Cultural singer I- Wayne who released a superb CD (VP) Book of Life in September, his growth and maturity as an artist can definitely be heard. Wayne along w/Bascom X (arrested on gun possession charges) and Gyptian faded from the lime light in 07after a promising 06. In many ways, 07 belonged to Junior Reid. Reid was the busiest reggae artist on the US national chart with chart topping collaboration/remixes like No One w/ Alicia Keys, Pom Pom w/Lil’ Wayne, This is why I am Hot w/Mimms, It’s Okay (One Blood) w/The Game, releases in Nov 06, it peaked at #10 on the Hip Hop/R&B billboard charts in 07, Hot Boys w/ Shade, More Moneyw/ Fat Joe and Common. His year career revival culminated in his cameo performance with Alicia Keyes on the American Music Award in November.

The breakout artists of 07.

Tarrus Riley
Tarrus Riley is the heavy favorite to take the Triple Crown for 07; Singer of the year, Album of the year (Parable) and Song of the year (She’s Royal). Dub-master, I and Shanio Webber, a Brooklyn dancehall buff agrees Riley had Breakout year. Shilo Evans, CEO of Til Shilo Promotions, Parable is a thoroughly enjoyable and edifying album XM Satellite Radio Director of Reggae Program Dermot Hussey argues that he’s the best new artist of the year. Parable (produced by Dean Frazer) his VP debut had four hit singles including She’s Royal, Stay with You (remixed w/Queen Ifrica) and Beware. But it was breakout singles like Life so Hard, Faraway, Trapsetter, Protect Yuh Neck and Pick up the Pieces that are receiving heavy rotation radio play and in the dancehall. Riley with his ubiquitous and uninhibited vocal style makes him a refreshing new sound as he burns dancehall in the US and the Caribbean. His solo set at Albany Manor in Brooklyn proves he’s capable of a packing a venue as a solo act.

In soulful singer Da’Ville, (son of old school DJ Jah Thomas) Reggae/dancehall/lovers’ rock may have found its first sex symbol and Lady Killer. He was very busy in 07; he released a CD on VP Records Always on My Mind, (the single was remixed w/Sean Paul and a more radio friendly remix in 08 is in the offing). With four hit singles on Mind Give Thanks for What You Got, In my Arms, Yesterday, and Always on My Mind, Mind spent 3weeks at #1 a top the 10 best selling reggae album in New York and #1 on the top 15 reggae albums in South Florida. All My Life, a love song w/ Marcia Griffiths burned up the airwaves while Fling It up Pon Me (Shanty Town riddim, the toughest tune on this riddim is Screechy Dan’s “Panty Town) and Weh She Want created a buzz in the dancehall. He won Most Improved Entertainer at the IRWM Awards at the Apollo Theatre, performed at Madison Square Garden, Irie Jamboree in NYC and Miyazaky Reggae Festival in Japan. He is hugely popular in the Caribbean, Japan, and Europe where toured extensively.

New comer Pressure (buss pipe) made his presence felt with his big tune Love and Affection also with Ghetto Life and So Appealing. Ritchie Spice release In the Streets in Feb w/ hit tune Brown Skin. He toured Africa while Wayne Wonder and Duane Stephenson released CDs Foreva and From August Town respectively on VP.

Another noteworthy development was, for the first time the large number female artists who made their presence felt with tunes burning up the air waves and in the dancehall. There was Alaine, with hits Deeper, Wine, Far Away, Rise in Love (Guardian Angel Riddim) and Sacrifice. She’s the heavy favorite female singer of the year, Etana, who filled the void of cultural female singer with her roots appeal with hits Wrong Address, Money and Roots. Her live act debut at Reggae Winter Fest and Irie Jamboree (NYC) and served notice she will be a force to be recon with 08. Tami Chynn, though relatively quiet she hit with Over and Over Again and Sweet Love while Tessanne Chin, hit with Hideaway her single on VP Records Strictly the Best 35 compilation and Conversation w/Kymani Marley on his “Radio” CD. Tessanne did spot show dates in the US and Caribbean. This rock reggae powerhouse made her presence felt on front line and should be force in 08. Cherine Anderson established her bonafides in the dancehall as the sultry soul reggae singer. She showed maturity on hits like You and Me against the World, (sounding like young Judy Mowatt) and Kingston State of Mind. Veteran Nadine Sutherland dropped a CD but kept her limelight presence as a judge in the digicel Raising Star competition. Irie Love signed with Gedion Music, Morgan Heritage’s Production Company, and toured with the group. The producers on Love’s debut CD include Saalam Remi, Christopher Birch, Stephen McGregor, Mario Lawrence, Bobby Digital and Riff Raff.

Queen Ifrica Lady Saw
Macka-Diamond, publish a novel ‘Bun Him’ she released her CD ‘Money Oh along singles Dandy Sandy (madness riddim) her biggest hit Hoola Hoop, Gangsta Wife and Some Gal Nuh No. D’Angel inauspicious entrance to the public stage by using her public split from husband Beenie Man to jumpstart her career, Tanya Stephens who has been raising the lyrical bar for some time started 07 with Rebelution, it showed promise of great year however she faded from the limelight. Lady Saw dropped Walk Out, her finale CD on VP Records. It is her most mature album to date. However Tanya’s lyrical upgrade paved the way for Lady Saw’s single Infertility (Walk Out) to gained traction with the public and mainstream resulting in her visiting the Howard Stern show. Queen Ifrica, ‘Fyah Mumma’ who’s been around for a while is red hot, she buss’ out with several hit singles including controversial Daddy Don’t Touch Me There’, about pedophilia and incest, Genocide, Story of My Life and ‘Below the Waist. With her high energy performance Queen continue burning up stages across the US, the

Caribbean and Europe while creating new fans and garnering respect. She should definitely continue her dominance in ’08.

Judge Carol Gonzalez
Watch out in 08: Carol Gonzalez, she resigned her Judgeship in Jamaica to pursue being a successful singer. She released The Music in Me (produced by Dean Frazer) in September; her video is on the Caribbean Music Video chart. Tour dates for Europe, Asia and the USA are in the works for 08 also her second album Latin Classics, is being produced by Ervin “Allah” Lloyd from Chalice. Chalice reunion took place this year they are in the studios recording an album and schedule for Rebel Salute and Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in Jan 08. Also Kriss Kelli made her name touring Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) 07. She performed at the Reggae Festa Concert in Okinawa she signed an endorsement deal with GLAD NEWS and Tanya Mullings, a Canadian reggae songbird dropped her CD Music is my Life which climbed to # 16 on the top 20 Italian Chart.


Munga Honorable Mavado
The gangsta blood lust/ violence and graphic sex theme DJ’ pack was lead by Mavado with big tunes like Gangster for life, Gully Side, Amazing Grace, Doh Tek it fi Joke, Touch the Road & Brown Bottle. He was followed by gangsta rass Munga Honorable, with hits Bad from Me Born, Earthquake and Take my Place. (Blue tooth Riddim) Tony Matterhorn the graphic sex and ‘bad wud’ cussing DJ 06 momentum carried into 07 with smash hit Dutty Wine peaking at # 35 on Billboard R&B Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart, spent 13 weeks at # 1 on RETV Dancehall Chart and 11 weeks a top the UK’s BBC 1Xtra Dancehall chart. Goodas Fi Dem (Gully Slime rhythm) his follow-up single was also a # 1 spot on the chart. He had other notable releases Hot F***k w/ Mr. Easy (Show off Riddim) and Talk de Tings.

Sensation Collie Buddz
Collie Buddz, the new sensation led the mainstream (clean) DJ pack with his self-titled CD (Columbia Record) w/national hit, Come Around (ganja tune) on Last War Riddim. Come Around topped several charts including BBC 1Xtra. Dancehall chart and Choice FM 107.1 in the UK, #2 Countdown Reggae Chart in Japan and #1 for six weeks on Deutsche Trend Charts (Reggae)in Germany. Mamacita, his other release is in heavy rotation worldwide. Look out for him in 08.

Mr. Vegas@Irie Jamboree NYC
Mr. Vegas is one of a handful of Caribbean artists with consistent crossover appeal, he dropped Hot It Up, CD (Delicious Vinyl August. He made his presence felt on national and international top North American media markets and the Hip-Hop/R&B Hot 100 Billboard charts with hits Tek Whey Yu self, Hot Wuk, Raging Bull w/Overmars and Nuh Fren From Dem. He also played the biggest stages shows including Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest (Jamaica), HOT 97’s On The Reggae Tip (New York), Irie Jamboree and Miami Carnival (Florida). Sean Paul was busy w/ When You Gonna Give It up To Me“& Temperature on the Billboard chart. Busy Signal served notice w/ Nah go a Jail, Full Clip w/Mavado & Sex Time. Voice Mail, the biggest unintentional secret since Snow left a message after a successful tour of Japan, while the B’s Beenie Man, who hit w/Back it Up and What would You do will be remembered for his messy and ugly divorce from wife D’Angel, left his record label Shocking Vibes. Buju Banton earned a Grammy nomination for Too Bad and hit w/Driver despite pressure from the gay community. Bounty and his alliance had their share of public noise with Vybez Kartel splitting. Anthony B hit w/ Good Life, while Capleton and Sizzla dropped nuff tunes; they all kept the dancehall jumping.

The come back artist of the year is Shaggy w/ Church Heathen which was dancehall hit world wide. Heathen revived his presence in the U.K.and is making an impact in the US. A new Heathen video has been shot for the European market His CD Intoxication (VP/Big Yard) dropped in November but he was missing from national charts. Elephant Man created a buzz on his collaboration w/ Latin singer Kat Luna on Wine up and a remix of Rihanna’s platinum hit Under My Umbrella (Black Chiney’s remix w/ Vybz Kartel and an unreleased mp3 one-drop w/ Collie Buddz was also done). Ele drops his (Bad Boy/VP Records) CD Let’s Get Physical featuring P Diddy, Yung Joc, Swizz Beats, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Shaggy and Busta Rhymes on Jan. 29. The stand out producers of the year were Snow Cone, Stephen McGregor, (son of Freddie) Dean Frazer and Don Corleone

Stephen Marley stepped out as solo artist with debut album ‘Mind Control. He toured across the US and received a Grammy nomination. Ky-Mani Marley returned with a new album, ‘Radio’ on a new Label. He’s been on the Van Halen reunion tour since October and garnering favorable press. He also has a reality TV show on BET. Jr. Gong won the Reggae Grammy for /Welcome to Jamroc but remained quite except for One Loaf of Bread (Something for You)/ Gang War riddim by Trevor “Baby G” James.

The murder of World Music award winner Lucky Dube on the birthday of his mentor Peter Tosh was huge blow to reggae internationally. Lucky was one of the best live performers in the genre.

Reggae Grammy nominee for 07 are; Burning Spear -The Burning Spear Experience, Stephen Marley –Mind Control, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry –The End Of An American Dream, Sly and Robbie And The Taxi Gang (2 yrs in row) Anniversary and Toots and The Maytals –Light Your Light.

The Top Reggae/Dancehall Tunes

Daddy…Queen Ifrica (No Doubt Records)
Below the Waist…Queen Ifrica
Always on My Mind…Da’ville – (VP Records)
Brown Skin…Ritchie Spice in the Streets to Africa (VP Records
She’s Royal…Tarrus Riley – Parables (VP Records)
Bonafide Girl’…Shaggy feat.Rik Rok- (Big Yard)
Church Heathen… Shaggy – (Big Yard/VP Records)
Gully Side’…Movado – (VP Records)
Infertility… Lady Saw -Walk Out – (VP Records)
Sincerely …Alaine – (Don Coreleon)
Kingston State of Mind…Cherine Anderson
Smart Attack… I Wayne – Book of Life (VP Record)

Notable mentions:

Come Around Collie Buddz
Brown Skin Richie Spice
Love & Affection Pressure
Bad from Me Born –Munga Honorable
Nah go a Jail – Busy Signal
Hula Hoop -Macka-Diamond

Top Reggae-Dancehall CDs

Ritchie Spice, In the Streets to Africa [VP Records]
Various, The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2007 [Greensleeves]
Stephen Marley, Mind Control [Universal Republic/Ghetto Youth/Tuff Gong]
Various, Strictly The Best Vol.35 & 36 [VP Record]
Da’Ville, On My Mind [VP Records]
Kymani Marley, Radio [VOX Record]
Assassin, Gully Sitt’n [VP Records]
Mavado, Gangsta for Life: The Symphony of David Brooks [VP Records]
Jah Cure, True Reflections: A New Beginning [VP Records
Shaggy, Intoxication (Big Yard/VP Records)

Out Look
The reggae industry faces several challenges with an uncertain future in 08. The industry will have to adapt to technological realities like digital music formats, piracy, and file-sharing, even though these developments gives reggae artists exposure ( they are still locked out of mainstream media) if sales are to improve the industry will have find ways to make them pay dividends. But with plenty of great music, major stage shows and festivals in the offering, and sound systems clashes all over the world reggae and dancehall will do what it has always done survived and thrive.

Dennis Brown is arguably the greatest singer and, the most influential vocalist in the history of Jamaican music. Browns’ most important musical contribution, his vocal styling shaped and defined what singers, in reggae, imitated to achieve success. Peter Tosh is just as much an architect of reggae music as Bob Marley. Yet the government of Jamaica hasn’t awarded Peter Tosh and Dennis Brown with national honor for their monumental contribution to the development of Jamaican reggae music. This unfortunate situation should change in 2008.

Stan Evan Smith is Music critic, contributing Editor to Everybody’s Magazine, (NYC) Music critic for the Gleaner/Star NA. Staff writer-, (California) (Virginia) and Senior Music critic-Jamaicans. Com (Florida) and, contributing writer to POSH Magazine (Maryland). He can be reached [email protected].