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"Out of many, one..." Jamaica inspires pop in 90s

Towards the latter stages of the 80s, a new movement occurring in Jamaica would later become the third and probably most influential generation of Jamaican music in the UK to this day. Not to discredit the previous two (ska and reggae), because there'd be no dancehall without them. Digital rhythms and re-licks of older riddims combined with the toasters of the day became sound of the youth. If ska is jovial, reggae is conscious Rasta, dancehall incorporated all those elements plus the rude boy. 

A Jamaican rude boy is different to the UK rudies of the 80s. Generally speaking, a Jamaican rude boy comes from a harsh ghetto and generally braggadocios (Jamaicans say "boasty"). Be it the best lyrics, toughest guy, gets the most girls or bedroom prowess, these guys had it in abundance. The competitive element from previous generations sound clashes both before and after the DJ (toaster) "killed each other" lyrically speaking came out in songs a lot more.

Dancehall's influence on the 90s, both under and overground, is probably still unmatched by any other genre. Jamaican dancehall hits in addition to cheesy dancehall-inspired pop songs regularly appeared high in the national charts. 

Here are a few songs you should already know:

Chaka DemusPliers were the first Jamaican acts to have three consecutive top 5's in the UK two of which shot to the top spot  for the singer & deejay combination. Believe it or not, neither of them were the omnipresent "Murder She Wrote", no, their number 1's came via "Tease Me" and a cover of The Beatles/Isley Brothers "Twist & Shout". 

Taking the record for most top 5's by a Jamaican act was actually a Jamerican (Jamaican-American). Former US marine-turned-Mr Lover-Lover, Shaggy became the most commercially successful artist from making dancehall-fusion. From first chart-topper "Oh Carolina" (based on the Folkes Brothers ska classic) to his eventual diamond success in the '00s, Shaggy's success was gradual even if a bit here and there.

Like Chaka Demus & Pliers (and numerous other acts) a cover is on the hit list, this time in form of Mungo Jerry's 70s hit "In The Summertime" (#5) before returning to top the pop charts with (this version of) "Boombastic" (not the "Sexual Healing" instrumental).

Here's said Levis advert credited for helping "Boombastic" become a hit. And it's a bloody good song.

I couldn't write about 90s dancehall without talking about the emperor, Shabba Ranks. Possibly the greatest dancehall artist to never have a #1, his credibility ranks higher than any of the aforementioned. Unlike the others, Rexton Gordon's adulation in Jamaica rivalled that internationally as we saw when the prodigal son returned to Jamaica after a decade.

Hits include "Housecall" featuring vocals from UK's own Maxi Priest, "Slow & Sexy" featuring soul singer Johnny Gill and the unforgettable "Mr. Loverman" which peaked at #2. Definitely a contender for best song to not reach #1

Saxon Sound (will talk about them in the next post) alumni Maxi Priest managed to nab a #1 on the US Billboard charts with "Close To You". The song hit #7 in UK.

I mentioned the UB40 - "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love" in a previous post. Now onto the cheesy pop dancehall-influenced tracks, of which there are many. Not all the cheesy songs are bad, in fact, I like a few that I will post.

Inner Circle - "Sweat (A La La Long) - #3 in 1993

Ace of Base - "All That She Wants" - UK #1 in 1993

Apache Indian - "Boom-Shak-A-Lack" - #5 in 1993 

Reel 2 Real - "I Like To Move It" - #5 in 1993

Remember the Chewits advert?

Then remember them presenter puppets Zig and Zag from Channel 4 breakfast show The Big Breakfast?

Even Outhere Brothers "Boom, Boom, Boom" had some Jamaican twang lol

UB40 featuring Pato Banton - "Baby Come Back" - #1 (4th best-selling single in 1994)

ChinaBlack - "Searching" - UK #4 in 1994

Big Mountain - "Baby, I Love Your Way" - UK #2 in 1994

Peter Andre - "Mysterious Girl" - #2 in 1996; #1 in 2004

T-Spoon - "Sex On The Beach" - #2 in 1997

Vengaboys - "We're Going To Ibiza" - #1 in 1999

Popular underground dancehall singles grew from radio stations, clubs and local record stores to the charts in a fashion for the first time in dancehall history.

Beenie Man - "Who Am I?" - #10 in 1998

Mr Vegas - "Heads High" - I think this was a top 20 in 1999. I know it charted top 40, not sure where

Oh yeah, this next one is a strange one. I never realised the reggae influence until I saw a documentary about Oasis. Lead guitarist and writer Noel Gallagher said lead singer Liam Gallagher's initial reaction to "Wonderwall" was (words to the effect of) "F**k off, I'm not singing reggae". It wasn't until I listened underneath the strings to hear the bassline that I could hear the influence. They worked it like The Police who had a reggae bass foundation with rock formula.

Strange one

And some hip hop songs

Fugees "Killing Me Softly" had the reggae bassline. Those who know properly will know the raggamuffin' vibe really set them apart from other hip hop acts at the time similarly to Soul II Soul. They worked a lot with Salaam Remi who produced Super Cat's first major label single "Ghetto Red Hot" and the Ini Kamoze "Here Come's The Hotstepper" (UK #4). "Fu-Gee-La" was probably the most explicit reggae single.

Another big crossover hip hop song with a similar raggamuffin' vibe mixed with hip hop was UK #2 Arrested Development "People Everyday".

And who wants to tell me Mark Morrison's delivery wasn't similar to ragga singjay's on the first number 1 hit by a black male soloist, "Return of the Mack"?

Can't forget the reggae MOBO award-winning Finley Quaye


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