I write a monthly column for New Zealand reggae website, www.niceup.org.nz which runs through all the new releases each month. I’ll post a copy here monthly.
The run up to Christmas is always an especially busy period even in the highly prolific culture of the Jamaican music industry. 2011 has proved no exception with a number of riddims and singles recently being released.
Dancehall has seen new releases at polar ends of the spectrum. Both the radio-friendly and more poppy riddims which tend to make their way swiftly up the charts as well as some harder war-tune-orientated riddims dropping in the past few weeks. In the former category, the ‘BBQ Riddim’ has elaborated on Mr. Vegas’ September single ‘Beautiful Life,’ with added cuts from Khago, Munga, Mr. Lexx, Sytlo G, Gyptian and Cali P amongst others. The standouts are undoubtedly from Mr. Lexx with ‘Wifee’ and the original cut from Vegas. Elsewhere the exciting new riddim from Washroom Entertainment, the ‘Bubblegum’ seems sure to be a hit when it is finally released in the coming weeks. Dancehall web-trawlers have been restricted to web promos of the exciting artist lineup which includes killers from Konshens and TOK as well as solid efforts from Demarco, Voicemail and Alaine. Given the anticipation of its release and the quality of production, it would seem likely that this roster may be added to once it finally reaches the inboxes and hard drives of dancehall selectors globally.
Romeich records have once again impressed with their ‘Steppings riddim’ the follow up to their big April release in the ‘Armagiddion riddim’. Steppings features a host of artists covering a range of lyrical subjects from Merciless’ war tune ‘Coast to Coast War,’ to Tarrus Riley’s insomniac love song ‘Can’t Sleep Without My Lady’ and a nice effort from newcomer Kush I Riley with ‘Duh Road From Birth’.
The intensification of war vibes in dancehall has continued, with Calims Records releasing their new ‘Darkness Riddim’ with an impressive lineup of artists. The title track comes from Mavado- who proves that he can still fire a lyrical shot- on the back of his hits this year, which have predominately consisted of gyal tunes such as ‘Delilah,’ and the collaboration with Lazo Morgan, ‘One by One’. The resurgence of the Bounty Killer/Beenie Man feud has continued with Bounty’s ‘Shut Up’ and Beenie’s counteraction ‘Shit Up’ both being voiced on the ‘Back to Basics riddim’.
November has also seen some impressive singles released from various studios in Jamaica. Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor continues his producer/artist double act with ‘Only God Can Judge Me’. Head Concussion Records artist Chan Dizzy has released ’21 Gun Salute’ in two different versions with one concentrating on slightly more lovers-orientated lyrical content. Jamaica’s current culture king of the dancehall, I Octane, has a new one with ‘Informer,’ while Dounsound Records artist Harry Toddler has released what may be his most impressive effort to date with ‘Jah Give I Strength’. A special mention also to JOP aligned artist, Deablo, whose new single ‘Mr. Death (Nuh Ready Yet)’ is sure to be a hit with fans of slower, hip-hop inspired dancehall.
On the roots and culture front, highly acclaimed producer Don Corleon has a new riddim, with the ‘Antique’ featuring cuts from Kymani Marley, Tarrus Riley, Protoje, Romain Virgo, Da Professa in a collaboration with the legendary Ken Boothe, and embattled deejay Vybz Kartel in a duet with Gaza Slim. Notice productions have made their first foray into producing reggae with the new ‘Heart and Soul’ riddim. Consisting mostly of lovers rock tunes, there is solid performances from Busy Signal, Jah Cure, Chevaughn and Chris Martin. Special mention has to be made of the best tune from Chuck Fenda for quite some time, with his track ‘Warning’ the pick of the cuts on the ‘Heart and Soul.’ Kemar “Flava” McGregor also has a new reggae riddim out with the ‘Cool and Deadly’ featuring Buju Banton (in a tune recorded prior to his incarceration) and Cecile, as well as veterans Maxi Priest and Marcia Griffiths. This is definitely one for fans of Euro-produced roots and the sounds of reggae from the turn of the century.
Finally, in chart news from JA, Mavado is occupying both the no. 1 and no. 2 sports with ‘Settle Down’ and ‘Final Destination’ respectively. Assassin’s ‘JPS’ is making steady progress skywards, this week coming in at no. 9, while Popcaan seems to be yet another winner in 2011 with his effort on the Lost Angel riddim, which is up four spots this week to no. 11. Former Digicel Rising Stars (Jamaican equivalent to Idol) contestant Jermaine Michael, is also receiving widespread radio-play in Jamaica with his debut hit single, ‘Cornerstone’.