Laza Morgan - “Gimme Little” (2012)
I wasn’t expecting a track like this from my weekly roundup of new dance hall music. It’s a pleasant surprise because I’ve been listening to way too much Cameo and DeBarge lately, so this works for me.
Most of Laza’s other singles fits the formula for his biggest hit so far, ”This Girl” from the Step Up 3 soundtrack. “One by One” with Movado and “Ballerina” both have heavy elements of upbeat R&B with some rap and pop thrown in. I’m normally very skeptical of fusing Caribbean sounds with, well, anything really. But I’m not mad at the direction of Laza Morgan’s music. There’s a clear distinction that he’s a R&B artist essentially making pop music, but in songs like “Timber,” he executes the dance hall singjay style of combining rapping and singing pretty well.
I enjoy watching songs like “Hold Yuh” and “No Games” rise to the mainstream because they do so mysteriously since they were developed for the local dance hall scenes. From the riddims to the slang, nothing is obvious about these songs that says one would hear them in any of the major (and fickle) radio markets in the States. A refined version of Gyptian and Serani in the form of Laza Morgan breaking through is refreshing because it’s not rehashed dance hall turned into mindless pop.
A couple of bland attempts at a mainstream dance sound from Caribbean artists earlier this year turned out to be pretty disappointing. Fambo & Ricky Blaze’s effort “Pon Fire,” in which Fambo sounds more like what Flo Rida will sound like when he’s making rap-techno hits in his 70s (you know it’s going to happen), felt pretty lifeless. DJ Power’s “Fly So High” with Kardinal Offishall & Machel Montano is kind of a jam, mainly because of Machel Montano’s contribution. But it still lacks much of the “ragga-ragga” essence that gets people to dane to Caribbean dance tunes.
I have to admit I initially neglected this segment, but many Nigerian offerings seem to show exciting potential for purely danceable tunes. Jaywon’s “Why We Are Here” not only includes an uplifting message, but has part-chant, part-rap vocals gives me a vibe that doesn’t feel like it’s pandering. Davido’s “Dami Duro” has a clear rap influence in style and aesthetics, but the delivery and rhythms could easily be on a dance hall riddim circa 2007. This has been my jam of mine recently and explains why the only two images are from this video. One of the biggest sells of Davido’s song is just how much fun Davido has with the music. It’s a simple but very overlooked element.
Davido using a stack of money as a phone.
I’ve seen lots of blog posts, tags, etc for Tropical Bass, which annoys me about as much as the genre World music. It’s easy and convenient but is also bland and diminishes a lot from each music culture’s contributing sound. Also, “Bass” is not a genre either, hipsters.
The song stream at the top is Don Omar’s “Hasta Que Salga El Sol.” It’s a summer jam. It’s smooth. You are likely to see people grind to this sooner or later. Reggaeton might have an unfair advantage over West African rhythms, et al considering it’s development began around the same time as dance hall did, and probably has more iterations than the Jamaican art form. But for me it helps to demarcate an important point in the Caribbean’s influence in music across the world, and consequently on the way people party across the world.
Only goodness can come from music made with sincere and pure intentions to drive people to shake body parts to it’s rhythm.
Konshens - “So Mi Tan” (2012)
I wonder how many of today’s DJs could ride a riddim like this.
Nostalgia is pervades dance hall. Every year there are a couple of riddims that have an old school vibe that ends up being one of the most popular riddims. Daseca Productions successfully uses that very premise for “So Mi Tan”. The riddim is minimalist enough that it seems to give every instrument their own solo at different parts of the song.
Konshens builds the listener up with his throughout the chorus as he’s gets to the climax:
A true mi chat mi own part
that’s why mi boasy nuh bumbaclaat.
He uses a multitude of melodies to keep you listening throughout the song. It’s a great combination of the DJ working with the riddim and utilizing its rhythm to build a variety of different flows and styles.
Busy Signal - “Nuff Gyal” (Drummy Riddim) (2012)
PLEASE PUT MORE SOUNDS OF THINGS BANGING TOGETHER IN RIDDIMS. Thanks, Kirkledove.
Busy Signal will likely never run out of styles. He sweet talks the verses like he’s out of breath but goes into the “love gyal”/”nuff gyal” hook in a cough-like chant. This riddim is perfect for an artiste like Busy because if there’s not much going on in the beat he in turn delivers flat as well.
Freedom Shines Riddim (2012) (mixed by DJ Rob Ryder)
Freedom Shines is a remake by Truck Back Records of a mid-70s Coxsone riddim, “Freedom Blues”. It has been revamped many times since then, most notably in the mid 90s with artists like Buju Banton and Luciano voicing tunes on it. The newest incarnation of the riddim features a set of singers who all add unique dimensions to complement the riddim.
With the 90s retro digi-drum sound all over this, you wouldn’t expect Tarrus Riley to flow as comfortably as he does on this riddim. “Original Dancehall” demands a couple of pull ups in any dance. Turbulence sounds refined on the well-intentioned “Respect Woman”. There are even flashes some glimpses of his pure vocal abilities. If Tarrus Riley and Gyptian weren’t on this riddim his song would be the hit.
Gyptian comes with the full energy we’re accustomed to on “In My Arms”. Busy Signal doesn’t match up the others on the riddim, but it is good to get a DJ on the riddim nonetheless. Then at the end of this mix there’s one of my favorites, Warrior King, who seems to have lost just a tad of the youthfulness in his voice. But “Time & Wisdom” clearly show his songwriting skills are still in full effect.
Gappy Ranks - “Money Out Deh” (2012)
In this track I hear:
- internal rhyme schemes
- Capleton-esque sing-chanting half way through a bar
- old school DJ vocal pitch changes
- shout outs to several major market areas where this song can blow.
All of this contributes to a well made track, which might become an early year anthem, by London-based producer Wundah.
Sizzla - “Learn to Read” (2011)
I have no idea why Sizzla is rolling his r’s here. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t obscure the message Sizzla Kalonji puts forth. It seems straightforward enough: Jamaica’s literacy rates are just below average in world rankings (84.1% for males, 91.6% for females1), and trail most of the large Anglophone Caribbean islands (averages of 95.6% in the Bahamas2, 98.6% in Trinidad3)
More importantly, education might not be a respectable avenue within all groups on the island. The head of the Jamaican Teachers’ Association recently said that young males in Jamaica are “more interested in hustling […] rather than making the commitment to study.” This isn’t surprising but the suggested reasoning of speaking proper English, much less accepting educated, being feminine is troubling.
Frisco Kid - “Rubbers” (Joyride Riddim, 1996)
My Facebook feed told me it’s World AIDS Day. I’d urge you people to get tested but I’ll let Frisco Kid give you his perspective:
Mi want a jook off of Jackie-Lynn
but mi haffi draw for my rubbers, for my rubbers.
Sex nice but the AIDS sting [and]
will make you die like flowers, die out like flowers.