So a white American reggae band called Soja won the Best Reggae album award at the Grammy's? And you care because? You feel Jamaicans are losing reggae because the Grammy's (a white institution) gave their white American man award to a white American reggae band? You blame the Jamaican government for not showing enough love and support to the music because this is the result? But you don't realise you are giving the Grammy's that much power and don't see where the problem lies? Well let me tell you; the problem is within you.
I understand the outrage. Jamaicans built the music and are rarely compensated for all the hard graft. There have been countless examples of the music being used by someone else, often to better results because we live in an ignorant and racist Western world. Historically, white reggae artists like The Police or UB40 are able to achieve better results in the white man's world than reggae artists that are far superior to them. Bruno Mars, Jason Mraz and Magic! have been able to hit pop chart number one with songs Jamaicans wouldn't have achieved commercial radio airplay with, especially not in America.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1uNZ9OrqQfo" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
But the Reggae Grammy being a reflection of that because they've awarded a white band for the first time in history? They have got it wrong more often than not, but people still treat them as the highlight of the reggae calendar and see the award as the pinnacle of success as a reggae artist. Shall we list the classic reggae albums that never won? How about the great artists who haven't received a nomination? The system is the system; it isn't designed to reward the best. Newsflash: no award show rewards the best. Every genre complains about who wins awards.
You know what's more important? Supporting the artists, their projects and the shows. You know what puts food on artists table? Supporting the artists, their projects and their shows. You know what most of the people complaining about the award don't/rarely do? Support the artists, their projects or their shows.
A lot of people I saw tweeting weren't aware of Soja (they've been nominated before and been around for at least 10 years). I interviewed the lead singer Jacob Hemphill in 2013. He was a very good hearted guy with a passion for reggae music and what it stands for. It truly means a lot to him and his background helps explain it. I hope more people get to hear his story because it's a good example of the reach and power of reggae music. One I feel many in Jamaica neglect and brush to the side, but that's another point for another day.
Most didn't state which project they thought was the best. Many said they wanted Spice to win, which I find quite interesting and leads me to my next point. When the black British organisation Music of Black Origin, better known as the MOBO's, announce their Best Reggae category nominees, their social media is full of "They aren't reggae. You guys don't know the difference between reggae and dancehall" responses. Now, there's definitely an argument that dancehall should be recognised in the title, but there is also something to be said about the silence when Spice and Sean Paul are in the Best REGGAE at the Grammy's. Why don't people have the same strength for them? Is it because they are a prestigious white award and "we're" just happy to be recognised?
My thing is, why try to kill the credibility of something that is more for us? Why don't the artists share more love for something that is more geared towards us? A few of the nominees, including the eventual winner, didn't even post that they were nominated. The awards shows don't automatically generate power, we the people give the awards power. Our reggae artists make albums with a Grammy in mind as the measure of success. If we recognise it isn't for us, kiss our teeth and move on, but celebrate and support ones that are made by us and for us, we make our thing worthy. But no, we want outside acceptance because we're still looking for them to give us ratings more than we give to ourselves. It's a pointless relationship at this point. As white R&B singer Jojo sang: "Get out. Leave! Right now. It's the end of you and me."
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rvp9E12E4hQ" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
In other news, Koffee became the first ever Jamaican woman to hit a top ten chart placing in an international album chart. And where did it happen? In the United Kingdom. And it's the first solo Jamaican artist to be top ten in the UK album chart since Sean Paul's Dutty Rock. At this point, Jamaican artists and media only care about the Billboard chart in the United States. And it isn't even the actual main all-genres pop chart, it's the reggae chart. One where you make #2 with around 700+ sales and Bob Marley will almost always outsell the latest release. Now that isn't a cuss, Bob Marley is still consistently one of the best forty selling albums of the year in UK so I'm sure it still does well in America. But my point is, it's the reggae chart in America. A place that historically doesn't even like reggae that much.
Koffee's label put money into promotion, did an actual album release campaign like one I haven't seen for a Jamaican artist. She received support from Amazon (a huge advertising board she did a meet-and-greet by), Youtube Music put an advert on the Westfield shopping centre/mall (think they're still the largest in Europe), Spotify threw an event and she did a mini tour across the country and it paid off with a #9 placing. Many in the industry doubted whether her image and content would work as a female artist from Jamaica, but I knew from the start that if it worked anywhere, it would in the UK. We also appreciate female artists with substance and their clothes on.
I don't want to do the comparison thing because people can co-exist and I don't have to use another example to make a point... but I will. Shenseea dropped a good album with varied sounds, but the single choices were horrible and misleading. With "Lick" featuring Megan Thee Stallion, they turned what could have been a big crossover moment for a good artist into an almost embarrassment because she had to fit the narrow boxes American music formats and platforms place on art, especially black music.
Skillibeng, who recently announced signing to RCA in the UK, recently shut down the Kentish Town Forum! The show sold out in a few hours leaving many unhappy because they didn't get one. For someone who has been ridiculed a lot of late, now his haters seem to be put on ice now that they see how hot he is. If there's one thing that puts haters on airplane mode, it's when they see how many people actually appreciate you instead of the ones who speak negatively about you, and there are loads of the latter in this day and age.
And just last week it was announced that Popcaan signed up with industry stalwarts Since '93 for management. Over the course of his career, Riki Bleu has handled the music for multi-million sellers like Emeli Sande, Sam Smith and Naughty Boy to big selling rappers Aitch, Fredo and Loski. He's also someone that grew up listening to ragga alongside hip hop, because that is what we do over here. There isn't a black person in Britain who hasn't been impacted by dancehall and reggae. The same can't be said for America. Even a sizeable amount of white people love reggae. Reggae and dancehall artists' success stories have mostly begun here (see Bob Marley, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy to name a few), the first Jamaican song to hit number 1, Desmond Dekker - The Israelites, was in 1969 and we've had more songs from Jamaica hit number 1 than anywhere else in the world by far. Reggae/dancehall produced more number 1's in the '90s than any other black genre with 7 and that's not including the amount of top fives and top tens.
So to conclude, why keep having a one-way relationship to the Grammy's and America when the pound is stronger than the dollar? (Hold tight UK rapper Sway D'Safo.)
And on that note, you can support a black man who wrote a book about Jamaican music by purchasing the E-Book version of Run the Riddim: The Untold Story of '90s Dancehall to the World from here. The physicals will be back shortly (or may be by the time you read this) from here.
Lastly, these aren't new thoughts. You can check FAO JA music: Don't go chasing Cheerleader, Then why doesn't everyone know UK loves reggae?, Why Hasn't Jamaica Had A One Dance?, and Why I don't care if Snoop Lion wins the Best Reggae Grammy [a.k.a. shove yer Grammy].