Commentary: Reggae/Dancehall 2009

By: Shilo Evans

NEW YORK – Late eighties, early nineties…man oh man did we love to party!!! Reggae / Dancehall music was all-a-dat back then. Riddim use to nice and artist use to vibe offa on another and all that mattered was the ‘crowd a people’.

Were we enjoying ourselves?

Party use to last from dusk till dawn. Remember Tiger, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Daddy Screw, Mad Cobra, Louie Culture, Baby Wayne, Terror Fabulous, a new artist name Buju Banton and our very own young superstar by the name of Moses Davis, aka Beenie Man?

These names are just a drop in the dancehall artist bucket. The list goes on. Those days, when we went to ‘dance’, that’s exactly what we did. Dance! Not model and watch and gang one another…we actually modeled and danced. But of course we modeled…linen suits, sequins and nuff gold jewelry! (oh no lol) Straight joy!

Afrique Soundsation, Stone Love, Gemini, King Addies, etc etc etc…Producers back then used to take time to produce one good riddim every few months or so. Artists use to get a riddim and damage it. Hit after hit. When a certain riddim would touch the turntable, the dancehall use to ‘bun dung’. Riddim use to nice and every artist on the riddim had a hit. We use to get confused as we could never choose a favorite.

Artist use to have dem little clique yes…Super Cat, Nicodemus, Shabba Ranks…Daddy Screw, Terror Fabulous… Shaggy, Rayvon…Wayne Wonder, Buju Banton etc etc etc.

However, never in my life did I see the kinda ting that I am seeing today.

Michelle (E2 Studio) gave us an assignment. A little end a year ting to sort out. She needs us (Publicists, journalists, etc) to write a piece on the current state of dancehall/reggae.

Our opinion, how we feel about things? Not just regarding the artists but the producers, management, fans, all of it. Everyone who knows me knows I am never scared to voice my opinions. Opinions are just what they are, opinions. No one has to agree that’s why it’s an opinion.

I am in love with our culture, our island, our music. I won’t go back to the origin of reggae/dancehall and what it has meant to many and how it has influenced others and how it is being embraced and appreciated by other cultures more that by our people. If I were to go there, 2010 would catch me sitting right here.

I’ll get straight to the point.

We have to lose the egos!!! Egos have no place in this industry. This is not what dancehall/ reggae is about. Too many egos and not enough education. Many of these ‘artists’ don’t even know the history of their chosen profession.

Unfortunately, some didn’t even take the time to learn to read and write. Many cannot conduct a proper interview and management can’t help them, as management first has to learn to manage.

Unfortunately, you can’t manage what you don’t comprehend. Majority of the lyrics are angry. What the hell are you so angry about?

We all face struggles as ghetto life is real. However, you have a chance now to eliminate ‘your ghetto’, how about working on that? All I hear from morning till night is complaints and anger. Hate and threats. Snap out of it now. It’s time to see what can be done to uplift some of these children whose futures are looking somewhat dim.

This is not the time to show off…it’s the time to show up.

This is not the time to model…it’s the time to be a POSITIVE role model.

This is not the time to divide and rule…this is the time to unite and conquer.

We are supposed to be uplifting Jamaica!!! I thought we were supposed to be thankful for a shot at super-stardom and financial freedom, so we would be able to help the communities we were from, one street at a time. If artists would adopt an issue, instead of embracing war amongst them, we’d see the poverty in the communities diminishing.

NOW, before anyone jumps down my throat, let me clarify. I am not saying that the artists are to carry the weight of the country on their shoulders and I am not saying that they aren’t doing, or haven’t done anything to aid their communities and we all know they do in their own way. Some up front with theirs and others are not. I am also aware that only the negative gets highlighted and that can be frustrating for an artist as well.

(Media…watch the hype). I am speaking to the artists now though. Focus on you, your career, your opportunity, your growth. When yu sort out yourself…focus on helping others.

It makes no sense to be pre-occupied with lyrics that cause division, lyrics that get you kicked out of countries and off of stage shows. Lyrics that cause rivalry amongst your own. That’s just sad. Freedom of speech is our right, no doubt…however, a fisherman mostly talk bout fish. If someone asks your opinion on something, by all means, be truthful. Say how you feel.

However, don’t start things that can possibly take the bread and butter from your family. It nah guh change a ting, People are going to be who they are…only GOD can judge them. Be true to yourself and stand up for what you believe in…just be wise. Pick your battles.

Dancehall music as I see it now is basically a joke. All these artists want to do is have a bag a man and ooman a glorify dem like dem a GOD. There is only one GOD, no matter wha unnu a call unnu self now-a-days. No one wants to be around a dancehall venue anymore. Bullet and bottle proof vests might have to be a part of our attire. Who wants that? I don’t want to run unless I choose to run…so that alone makes some of these shows a turnoff.

The song dem anti joy…the riddim dem sound like crap…and to top it off…most of the artist dem can’t perform for more than 3 1/2 minutes. Let’s not even talk bout the bag a yes man and woman following behind them.

Pure hype!

No wonder everyone’s last name now is Hype. Get real. Unnu young…get with an elder and learn what warrants hype. Someone needs to start a forum called dancehall 101/102 and remedial. You should have to past a history test, watch videos from back in the days, answer questions and read editorials and learn about the sacrifices made by the artists of yester-year, (who are now rudely referred to as ‘ole boy and ole gal’ on some of these message boards), BEFORE you can have the right to call yourself a dancehall/reggae artist or producer. You have to know your history to appreciate your craft.

Countless sacrifices have been made to bring dancehall/reggae to the forefront.

Do you think that Hot 97, 106 & Park, BET, MTV, Vibe Magazine, VH1 etc etc etc just woke up on day and said, ‘oh look, dancehall/reggae, let’s feature them?’ Do you think it just happened like that???

The government got between the Gully and the Gaza recently…ok den…Mr Prime Minister…pass a law nuh…mek these ‘artiste’ have to pass some tests and learn some history before dem can be legally called a representative of our music.

Don’t you know the world is watching??? Each time dem keep up dem madness…Jamaica get the blame. Jamaica meaning US…all a wi.

I don’t know about you…but I don’t want anyone singing bout under woman…how fi buss gun…telling the kids it’s ok to bleach and to give a head to get ahead speaking for me.

Fans need to stop being fanatics and cut the crap to. You can rate and love an artist yes…however, if you love them, keep it real with them. Let them know the truth. Stop fighting with other supporters. Stop dividing our music. If you don’t like or rate an artist, leave that artist alone.

The disrespect towards artists and fans is ugly. The internet is a breeding grown for foolishness…everyone with a keyboard is a bad man or woman…not cute at all. Stop encouraging slackness. If you don’t support the almshouse, the almshouse can’t continue.

Media…why is your main focus negativity? Why is it you always want a scoop?
Where are all the ‘real’ journalists with the reputable media outlets? The outlets that can hold the interest of the reader or viewer without fertilizing the hype? If you don’t highlight the madness, if you don’t feed it, it will die out.

Kudos to the many hard working journalists out there fighting hard to ‘fix’ the industry ills. The many with TV shows and magazines, newspapers, blogs, radio shows and websites…the ones who care. Not the ones who care to exploit for advertising dollars.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

2010 will be here in less than 20 hours. A new decade is upon us. I wait and watch to see which artist will surface in 2010 to make that change. I applaud all the positive reggae artists and dancehall artists who are still carrying the torch. There are positive, intelligent dancehall artists out there…trust mi!

I look forward to a change though. New direction. Unity. Pride. Arrogance and ignorance is a deadly combination. Those two have no place in our music.

I look forward to a day when I can turn the radio on and hear a variety of music and not just the ‘pay for play’ ones. I look forward to positive lyrics being featured and quality over hype. I look forward with excitement because I feel way down deep that a change is coming. It has to!

GOD bless us all!


P.S…Terror Fabulous…boy do I miss you! Trust mi!

Your feedback is appreciated, send your comments to: [email protected] and Shilo Evans [email protected]

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