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Jamaican music from UK P.O.V. - 2012 edition

So, I've waited this long to post this entry. I apologise, hopefully you still enjoy it. Here's last years edition

If you wanna read a breakdown of reggae and dancehall from Jamaica, check Erin McLeod's breakdown here

Disclaimer: your favourite song may be missed. That's how it goes sometimes.

2012 was Jamaica's 50th year of independence from Britain, so it's only right I follow up last years post. I wrote a series of posts dedicated to how Jamaica has given back to "Mother Britain" since independence through various styles of Jamaican-infected UK music. You can check that out here. I also interviewed grime god father Wiley on how Jamaican and other Caribbean music influences him and shaped our scenes.

Click read more below to, er, read more.




Dub Phyzix and Skeptical feat. Strategy put out a song called Marka. Not gonna pretend like I knew who they were before or even go on like I'm any wiser now, so I'll just say this for what it is - a TUNE! Saw this tear into a lot of club nights.


DJ and producer duo Ras Kwame and Jnr. Tubby continued their Orange Hill Production outfit, dropping a few songs including a Sneakbo and Vybz Kartel collaboration "Pon Time". Dropped a cool CGI video too. p.s. you can check the interview I did with them for the good folks over at LargeUp[dot]com.



Recent comer Shakka set urban sites ablaze with beat-box + sung covers (or Shakkapella's) of popular mainstream songs. The West Londoner better known for more neo-soul sounding stuff released the best song of his career to my (and many others) ears. Clashing guitar rock stuff with reggae to create the fresh and pretty unique sounding "Sooner or Later" managing to find its way on BBC Radio 1Xtra playlist. The culture clash on the riddim matches the songs subject about identity being from Caribbean and living in a multicultural London.

He recently described his new sound as clashing alternative rock and reggae. We here at Marvin Sparks approve and are definitely excited. As you should know, we love when UK artists clash reggae with other genres to make fresh sounds. It's what we've been best at for the past 50 years.



There weren't as many rappers using dancehall influences in 2012 as 2011. Nah, they traded it for YMCMB auditions (stole that from Azealia Banks) also known as more USA geared stuff hoping to be spotted on YouTube by some American. I guess everything goes through cycles.

One of the frequent bashment riddim users Cashtastic told me (on Twitter) he'll return to bashment this year.  He did link up with old time collaborator Stylo G for "Swagga Don". Here's hoping none of his future songs sound as bad as this.



Remember those two cheesy Roll Deep UK singles chart number ones? Don't worry if you don't (very cheesy). Well anyway, a chick called Jodie Connor sings chorus on "Good Times". She hooked up with the UK bashment leader Stylo G to create Patois-laced, r&bashment single "Talk" where they encourage each other to confess their thoughts or "talk di tings!"



2011's biggest UK bashment track "Call Mi A Yardie" by Stylo G became the unofficial Jamaican national anthem during the track & field week of the London 2012 Olympics. As you should know, Jamaica celebrated their 50th year of "independence" from the British.

Bolt called the Jamaican-born, southeast London resident up to perform his anthem at the popular Puma Yard chill and/or party spot in Brick Lane (east London) the day the Jamaican men retained 4 x 100m Gold in a World Record time.

(Skip to 1:15)



He also performed it in Wembley Arena at the Red Bull Culture Clash as a special guest for the Major Lazer team alongside Usher, Rita Ora and Johnny Osborne. Probably was a bigger track in 2012 than the initial year it touched road.

And if that wasn't enough, he topped off the year by joining Skepta, Sway, Baby Blue and others signing a deal to 3 Beat record label. We'll see what material he brings forth this year. Who knows, UK bashment may have a chart hit by the end of the year. Sure to get the bandwagon going again...

Fellow British reggae artist, Gappy Ranks, dropped two notable bashment songs this year, both clocking play via BBC Radio 1Xtra playlist. "Wine Pon Di Edge" and the Wundah-produced, Busy Signal-assisted "Money Finger"



Randomly, Busy Signal Reggae Music Again was named 7th best album of 2012 by the BBC. Check the list here.

Onto another bashment frequenter, Brixton's own Sneakbo. Following a tumultuous 2011; highs of setting the streets ablaze with everything he put online (namely dancehall reworkings Vybz Kartel "Touch A Button", Jah Vinci "Money Dream" and Mavado "Warn Them") to lows of sitting in jail on a "threatening to kill someone" charge. The latter prevented him promoting and performing single "Wave" which charted just outside the UK top 40, however, 2012 saw him finally make it.

Despite the failure of glossier, more radio/hip hop-sounding "Sing For Tomorrow", a trip back to the drawing board resulted in a song geared for dancefloors like "The Wave" called "Zim Zimma". Sneaky put the lyrics from his version of Vybz Kartel's "Touch A Button" on "The Wave", this time he chose to name-check the self-proclaimed King of Dancehall, Beenie Man. The housey-bashmenty single entered at  #35 in the UK top 40.



B-side to the above single was a deeper track on a more dancehall-sounding beat called "Still Breathing". The remix featured friends Ard Adz & Sho Shallow who featured in last years equivalent to this post.



Oh, and Sneakbo and chums Ard Adz, Sho Shallow, Ambush, Timbo and Depzman chatted lyrics over Mavado's "The Messiah" in Ibiza for leading youth broadcaster SBTV.



One-time Sneakbo collaborator on a dancehall refix (Mavado "Starboy remix"), Chip (artist formerly known as Chipmunk), delivered a couple dancehall collaborations to follow up from 2011's club mainstay "Every Gyal" featuring the Gully Gad, Mavado. The Grand Hustle rapper dropped the good "More Money, More Gyal" with Mavado on his London Boy mixtape (listen below), the not too bad "Starlife" by I-Octane's and the downright horrible "25" with Mavado and Chase Cross.



Most out-of-the-blue shout out of the year goes to Drake for biggin' up Sneakbo. That was the most random thing ever. Drake says Sneakbo's flows on dancehall beats helped him on his own dancehall-inspired single "Take Care". Most in the UK believe Sneakbo to be one of the lesser lyrical talents in the UK, so a lot couldn't comprehend Drake's appreciation. To me, he gets to the point and knows how to make people move.



Aaaaactually, I just remembered pop superstar JAHstin Bieber called J Boog "Let's Do It Again" a song he could listen to forever during an interview with Reggie Yates on BBC Radio 1. That is 100% the most random shout-out of 2012. Check out the piece I wrote on Hawaiian reggae singer J Boog here.



Speaking of Drake, as he confirmed pointed out in an interview with Kiss FM's Clara Amfo, "Take Care" uses a dancehall sound (drum pattern) because the typical 4x4 David Guetta euro-house vibe isn't his thing. Also says he looks forward to doing some more of that, so we'll see what happens with that. Anyway, the Rihanna-assisted single reached top 10 in the UK, his highest charting single lifted from the sophomore album of the same name.

Oh, and this guy quoted a whole load of dancehall songs this year. Mainly songs by his new mate, dancehall star Popcaan. Rihanna confessed her feelings for Chris Brown via Beres Hammond songs. Oh, and Drake RT'd that Beres has to sing at his wedding.



Speaking of chart success, Bajan pop band Cover Drive topped the charts with their second single "Twilight" - a pop take on dancehall. 75th best-selling single of 2012.



XFactor judge, 1/3 of multi-platinum (300k+ sales in UK) and fallen pop angel Tulisa dabbled in a bit, sampling Barrington Levi "Under Mi Sensi" on "Live It Up" with YMCMB rapper Tyga on guest duties. Peakeed at #11 on UK top 40. It's a dreadful song, so let's move on. Oh, and fellow bandmate and cousin Dappy (Ranks) released his dancehall-attempt "Yin Yang" as well as featuring on the above Bajan band Cover Drive "Explode". Not all that either, so click here if you don't mind a bit of mediocre jams.

Dancehall's most successful product, Sean Paul's second single "She Doesn't Mind" clocked three weeks in the second spot, held off top spot by Chris Brown's first #1 "Turn Up The Music" and Katy Perry's "Part of Me". Still hasn't notched a solo chart-topper in his career unless we count a hijack of Blu Cantrell's one-hit, 'cos lets be honest he stole the show. According to one thing I saw, it sold in excess of 330,000. Oh and he headlined BBC Radio 1Xtra's stage at Hackney Weekend.

Side note: this became his second video to surpass 100 million views (the first being the albums first single, "Got 2 Luv U". Doesn't mean it's a great song, does show reach though.



Wiley  dipped back into his Caribbean roots on #1 hit "Heatwave". Whilst it's more soca than Jamaican genres, I'm dashing it in the post because not many others credit the soca-influence. And you may wanna check my interview with Wiley about Caribbean music influences on him and our scenes here. Why you rolling your eyes? Have I mentioned the interview in this post before or something?



Reggae's share in the albums market ended at it's highest percentage since 2005 helped by Now Thats What I Call Reggae ranking 7th best-selling compilation of the year and Bob Marley's greatest hits Legend re-entered the top 40. Singles were highest in the last 5 years too with Sean Paul's hit Electro-dancehall single "She Doesn't Mind" (ranked 41st best-seller of 2012) playing a major role. Below are official stats complied by the Official Charts Company.


2012 SINGLES SALES BY TYPE OF MUSIC (% UNITS)

GENRE
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
Pop
28.1%
33.5%
38.3%
36.0%
38.5%
Rock
31.2%
24.5%
17.2%
18.0%
20.0%
Dance
13.2%
12.7%
12.6%
13.8%
13.8%
R&B
18.3%
18.9%
18.0%
17.2%
12.3%
Hip Hop
7.7%
8.8%
12.2%
10.2%
10.7%
MOR/Easy Listening
0.5%
0.7%
0.8%
1.4%
1.5%
Classical
0.0%
0.1%
0.1%
1.2%
0.9%
Reggae
0.2%
0.2%
0.3%
0.6%
0.9%
Country
0.3%
0.3%
0.2%
0.5%
0.5%
Folk
0.2%
0.1%
0.1%
0.6%
0.4%
Jazz
0.3%
0.3%
0.2%
0.3%
0.2%

2012 ALBUMS SALES BY TYPE OF MUSIC (% UNITS)
GENRE
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
Pop
25.3%
29.0%
30.9%
33.6%
33.5%
Rock
35.7%
31.0%
31.2%
29.4%
31.3%
MOR/Easy Listening
7.2%
8.2%
7.5%
7.9%
7.6%
R&B
10.5%
9.6%
10.4%
10.1%
7.2%
Dance
7.9%
7.3%
5.8%
4.9%
6.3%
Classical
3.7%
3.2%
3.5%
3.3%
3.7%
Hip Hop
2.2%
4.3%
4.2%
3.4%
3.5%
Country
1.8%
1.6%
1.4%
1.6%
1.5%
Folk
1.2%
1.4%
1.3%
1.6%
1.4%
Jazz
1.7%
1.5%
1.6%
1.5%
1.3%
Reggae
0.8%
0.9%
0.6%
0.7%
1.0%
Blues
0.5%
0.7%
0.6%
0.9%
0.9%
Children’s Audio
0.5%
0.4%
0.4%
0.4%
0.4%
World
0.5%
0.4%
0.4%
0.3%
0.3%
Spoken Word
0.2%
0.3%
0.1%
0.1%
0.1%
New Age
0.3%
0.2%
0.1%
0.1%
0.1%

2012 TOP SELLING ALBUMS BY GENRE
PopEmeli SandéOur Version Of Events
RockMumford & SonsBabel
MOR / Easy ListeningMichael BubléChristmas
R&BRihannaUnapologetic
DanceCalvin Harris18 Months
ClassicalAndre RieuMagic Of The Movies
Hip HopNicki MinajPink Friday: Roman Reloaded
CountryLady AntebellumNeed You Now
FolkThe Civil WarsBarton Hollow
JazzMichael BubléSings Totally Blonde
ReggaeVarious ArtistsNow That’s What I Call Reggae
BluesJools HollandThe Golden Age Of Swing


Rinse FM's The Heatwave crew turned up the fire on their remix game this year turning Mosca's garage monster "Bax" into "Pum Pum Bax", invited some friends to jump on RDX's, er, "Jump" and TNGHT - "Higher Ground" featuring Mr. Lexx and a soca whining bumper instructional vocal from Nikisha. Most popular and impressive is the numerous riddims under Stylo G "Call Mi A Yardie"



Young Lion lost his night shift dancehall slot on 1Xtra, in place of Toddla T's new show on simulcast from BBC Radio 1. Whilst it isn't strictly a dancehall show, there are inclusions of Jamaican music via guests Serocee and Robbo Ranks, plus interviews. Jamaica 50 tribute show was really good. I'll be honest, the whole 4-hr show after Robbo Ranx's 3 hours was a bit much, so lost the second specialist show like all the other genres.

David Rodigan became an MBE, won a world cup clash against top competitors on New York, defeated the other specialist DJ's on a  Kiss FM sound clash, toured the land then saw his 11pm Sunday Kiss 100 slot moved back an hour to the "twilight hours" of the broadcasting schedule in favour of Craig David. Yeah, the singer. Anyway, he jogged them on, everyone burnt a fire on Kiss FM's anti-specialist dictatorship (*plug in 3, 2...*) including myself before announcing he's to join 1Xtra from February 18th in the 7-9pm slot. Joy!

Jamaica 50th series of concerts at the indigo2 was the single greatest 12-day event for the whole year. I dare anyone to say any festival was better. Damian Marley delivered strong 2 sold-out dates. Beres Hammond was joined by Tarrus Riley and Romain Virgo for an awesome show at a packed out show in the prestigious Wembley Arena.

Damian and family



Beres and Tarrus



London's live circuit saw (at least) three major acts include reggae in their sets; Emeli Sande gave "Where I Sleep" a reggae flavour topped with a little Bob Marley's "One Love" and "No Woman, No Cry".



Jessie J also included a bit of Bob into her reggae-ish song "Stand Up", like Emeli choosing "One Love".



And Alicia Keys played the reggae remix of "You Don't Know My Name" at iTunes Festival and BBC 1Xtra Live. I always thought was unofficial, heard she likes it, guess this is proof. They sampled the riddim from Burning Spears' "Christopher Columbus" a.k.a. one of the greatest reggae songs ever! Oh, and she recorded a good deal of her latest album at GeeJam studios, Portland, Jamaica including a reggae song, "Limitedless"



Bruno Mars recorded a little session for BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra on promotional in the run up to new album, Jukebox Karaoke, performing the Supa Dups-produced "Show Me". Don't care if you wanna hurt me for this comment, he reminds me of Peter Andre circa "Mysterious Girl" on reggae songs. Won't tell you that I don't mind "Mysterious Girl" for what it is. That's my little secret.



Also performed a cover of "Part of Your World" followed by the reggae-flavoured "Under The Sea" by Sebastian the crab from Disney movie Little Mermaid. Check that here.

Top five songs in the world (according to Marvin Sparks' eyes in clubs and ears to radio and the people them) in no particular order were as follows:

1. Popcaan - "Party Shot (Ravin' pt. 2)"

Needs no real introduction. Popcaan may have lost steam to Gaza Sparta Tommy Lee in Jamaica, but that hype didn't translate over here or to me for that matter. I understand his appeal, like a couple songs, doesn't really mean anything more though.

This is a part starter. Anywhere I heard this play it had people singing out top of their lungs and dancing. Proper vibes. Same may complain about the lighter vibe of dancehall with crossover appeal, which is fair enough, but every song can't sound the same. Need some tunes to lighten the mood, toast a drink and enjoy life.

p.s. he recently hooked up with the same label as chart-topping UK rapper Wretch 32's, Levels Entertainment.



2. Konshens  - "Gal A Bubble" / "Stop Sign [Gal Bubble pt. 2]"

A few Konshens songs could have made this list. Definitely one of, if not the top artist of 2012. Set himself up right with badman anthem "Do Sum'n", "Gal A Bubble" followed it nicely soon after. To understand why the latter makes the list over the former quote, I'll man himself: "You play song fi gangsta buss blank, now ah di gal dem time, play song fi gal whine!" And I fell in love with a couple of the dancers. White shorts gal dem, maaaaaad!



And bun ("burn" en Ingles) it, I have to put the part two in there. "Stop Sign". What a riddim.



3. Vybz Kartel - "Party Me Say"

Yes, another lite-dancehall song in the top 5. Thing is, I'm even much a fan of dancehall-lite productions, but when it's nice, it's nice. I just wanna grab a Apple vodka and cranberry juice and live la vida loco/loca.

p.s. someone let me know how this song hit 2 million views on YouTube with just the audio? Yeah, people buy views/ads on music videos, but audios pointless. Actually, scrap that, it's because he's the world boss. Demand.



4. Cham - "Wine"

Another one you couldn't avoid at parties this year. Cham returned with more vengeance than a yet another Hollywood sequel dropping more bangers than your local pub (you know, bangers and mash? Rubbish, I know). Out of the many I could have selected, "Wine" is the one that kicked it all off.



5.  Mr. Vegas "Bruk It Down" / RDX "Jump"

Have to put these two in there, because they were inescapable. Unfortunately, I didn't experience Jamaica where I know they went down a storm. Many memories and faces (or should I say head and back) would have been attached to them when the girls them dash out and gwaan with bere tings.

"Bruk It Down" a.k.a Nicki Minaj's favourite dancehall song



"Jump"



Song/Riddim I feel shoulda/woulda done better

Loudspeaker. Machel Montano - "Go Down"

Soca artists represented themselves well on dancehall this year. Don't recall as many recording versions on dancehall riddims alongside established danehall artists on successful riddims in my lifetime (to my memory). Destra "Good Love" on the Worldwide riddim and Kes The Band "My Love" on the Summer Wave were pretty strong cuts. Machel stole the uptempo dancehall-soca-housey-futuristic Loudspeaker riddim.

Popcaan "The System" is on there too. Pretty cool video.



Popcaan - "Wine Up"

Apart from the lazy chorus (and fact he probably had better similar songs out at the time), this tune shot! Proper up-close-and-personal whining gal tune.



Demarco - "411"

Burn out the haters and big up the thugs in the building song for me to buss a blank to on Supa Hype's Juicy riddim. Bouncy, vibesy warm up the dance tune/riddim



Aidonia - "Jook So"

ZJ Chrome's Wild Bubble riddim produced a couple bouncers. This is the best on there.



3 songs you better get used to for this 2013:

RDX - "Broad Out"

Steadily RINSED this since July 2012 when the audio was on 38k views, 4 months later there is a video on 300k views, so you know this is a warm one. Strong follow-up to the immense booty shaker, gal-dash-out-yuh-ting-like-yuh-nah-nuh-mannaz song of 2012 contender "Jump". Sitting up there in the soca regions will mean this turns over the soca season like nothing else from Jamaica.



Vybz Kartel - "Weed Smokers"

Kartel ensures that if he remains in jail for the whole of this year, there is at least one song for the roads to appreciate the incarcerated superstar. Weed appreciation songs always ring off to me even though I've never smoked it. I probably never will. Yeah, I've been banging this one since about November last year, but it still qualifies for this new year.

Rvssian's returned to the game with a new spelling and brought a new sound. Refreshing dancehall. Check the next song.



Charly Blacks & J Kapri - "Whine & Kotch"

I'm a man that likes to place money on outsiders. At least one outsider has to be present. This is that. Charly Black isn't an automatic play in the dance, hence him being the outsider. Vibe of this is dancehall with a retro 90s state of mind, yet manages to sound current. Male-to-female songs always add a different dimension. Once again another Rvssian produced banger.

Another song I've been endorsing since late November, however, it hasn't buss yet so it counts for 2013 consideration.



Stuff I look forward to hearing inna this ah new year are as follows:

Randy Valentine

Caught this fella down at a live show called Something for Sunday in London on a random one. Him and his guitar player were doing more soul sounding stuff, but my friend sensed he was more of a reggae guy. Low and behold, he flung Murder She Wrote. Anyway, long story short, he's on this reggae ting with a sick voice.

Check out "Poor Man's Loving" below.



Chronixx

20-year old reggae singer bringing back the rebellious vibe to reggae that's been missing for too long now. I'd say Queen Ifrica's slew of hits until about 2008 was the last we had something that wasn't about love or a soft social-commentary. I've been complaining about the lack of militant reggae for at least a year, so have been using Sizzla and Bob Marley to help fill the void.

Heard "Behind Curtain" over a year ago, so won't post it now. Check it out though, big tune. "Start A Fyah" is what I'm listening to these days. This one shot gone ah farrin (a.k.a Europe).



Kabaka Pyramid

And like a London bus, you wait a long time for something, two arrive at the same time. Similarly to Chronixx, Kabaka is a militant Rasta youth. Not saying they're anywhere near the level of, but he's the Peter Tosh to Chronixx's Bob Marley stylistically (Bob's delivery wasn't as harsh as Peter's), plus he's more a deejay/rapping style than singjay.

First appeared on my radar in the middle of last year through a song called "Free From Chains". Songs subject is pretty self-explanatory. Well, if you add "mental" before chains you've got it.



Gentleman's Dub Club

UK band, GDC, fuse dub and ska.  Definitely the type to burn up festivals. First grabbed my attention through their session backing grime MC, P Money, at Maida Vale. Feel quite a few of their songs, "High Grade" (below) is my favourite.



Snoop Dogg is now Lion and working on reggae. Interested to hear how the Major Lazer (Diplo) helmed project turns out. Interested/intrigued. Mainly for the riddims if I'm honest. Not sure about the sincerity. I know the features on there, one shocked me, but hey, life innit. No Doubt put out some dud reggae songs, but we won't dwell on that. Big up Busy Signal though. Oh and Major Lazer's new album.

"Here Comes The King"



Major Lazer "Free The Universe" trailer



Protojé  "The 8 Year Affair"

Protoje's 2011 debut "Seven Year Itch" ranks as one of my favourite reggae albums in recent times. Much is anticipated for the follow-up as he continues to certify himself as a leader of the new wave reggae artists including Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Iba Mahr, Jah 9, No Maddz, Raging Fyah and more. The project is lead by "This is NOT a Marijuana Song" (it definitely is one) and "Kingston Be Wise" (below).



I'm hoping for more songs about varied subjects (espesh street songs for the thugs in garrisons, as well as relationship wise), some more up tempos and less instructive "gal wine" songs. Here's to 2013.

Here's last years edition

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