Thursday, 18 September 2014

#tbt Summer 2004 Appreciation a.k.a When Dancehall RAN "Urb*n-Pop" Music

Came across this tweet today, (big up @MervinMartin_)

Memories. The date was week commencing 20/August/2004. I remember these times because I was in New York when these songs were everywhere. Took me back to the year Sean Paul was nominated for Best New Artist Grammy. When dancehall videos by the likes of Elephant Man, TOK, Wayne Marshall etc., were all over MTV Base and Channel U. When Elephant Man was on every remix. When hip hop videos had dancehall dances and dancers. When r&b songs had a  dancehall groove.

Number 1 on the US chart as pictured above, Fat Joe "Lean Back"

Dancehall-friendly groove + dancehall dance (the rockaway).

Elephant Man said "Them thief all me rockaway... cos we just dance it down [here]" referring to the above on "Father Elephant"

Number 4: Kevin Lyttle "Turn Me On"

This song is extremely high in the greatest Caribbean one-hit wonder ranks. Groovy soca with a dancehall groove is always a winner.

LargeUp spoke to Kevin about creation of the song: "I said to the producer Adrian Bailey, I want that sound from those old dancehall records by people like Little Lenny and Beenie Man, on the old Punanny riddim (sings) choon-choonk-a-choonk, choon-choonk-a-choonk." Can read the rest here

Number 5: Christina Milian - "Dip It Low"

Her highest charting single ever (written by Teedra Moses). Dancehall beat through and through with Chinese-sounding strings running on top. Peaked at #2 in the UK.

Number 6: Ciara "Goodies"

More of an honorary mention to be honest. This song isn't dancehall but I'm putting it here because I believe Lil Jon used techniques he learnt from dancehall - emphasis on drum and bass, and minimal production, plus versioning. For those who don't know, Lil' Jon was a dancehall radio DJ in Atlanta and made hip hop remixes of reggae songs like Capleton "Tour". And regarding the versioning, this was essentially the third hit off the same riddim; Usher "Yeah" (video included dancehall dances Rockaway and Thunda Clap, remember?) and Petey Pablo "Freek-A-Leek".

But ultimately, it's a snap song. And it eventually peaked at #1

Sorry, but can we take a moment to watch "Get Low (remix)" (from the year before)? Elephant Man murdered this. He made the ever-animated Busta Rhymes sound tame.

Also, you know Pitbull? His first charting single was a Lil Jon-assisted/produced dancehall song "Culo". It's on the Skatta-produced Coolie Dance riddim, which leads me on to the last entry…

Number 8: Nina Sky "Move Your Body"

The Puerto Rican twins delivered the biggest commercial cut on the Coolie Dance riddim. Peaked at #4 in US, #6 in UK.

Another song running television that summer was Elephant Man + guests "Jook Gal" peaked at #57.

So was Beenie Man "King of the Dancehall", peaked at #22 in the US rap chart, #14 in UK. "Dude" reached #26 in the US Hot 100 pop chart earlier that year.

Couple years later, we were brought and NeYo on dancehall-flavoured "So Sick" and "Sexy Love" followed by future pop superstar Rihanna on dancehall-flavoured"Pon De Replay".

A while ago, I spoke with Sean Paul about these times. He said: “Don’t forget people like R. Kelly. He did stuff that sounded like dancehall [editors note: "Thoia Thoing,, "Snake," "Fiesta"...] and they gave him best R&B album. I was like wow. I respect his musicianship, but when we hear that it is straight dancehall. When Stargate hit with Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent”, that’s a dancehall track; it’s just that Vybz Kartel and Spicestole it and did their thing.” Can read the rest here 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Bob Marley 30 year old Legend is top ten in US & UK right now

Yep, you read correctly. Bob Marley's thirty year old greatest hits collection, Legend, sits in the top ten both sides of the Atlantic.

"How?" I hear you ask. Well, that's mainly down to Google Play selling the album for 99¢ in US. Not sure what happen but I'm guessing 99p in England? "Oh, that's obvious then," well, kinda but not really. Two questions I ask, why Bob Marley's album and why now? Is it the "Rude" effect?

"We love to celebrate artists like Bob Marley whose music is timeless and beloved," says Google Play head of global music partner management Gwen Shen. "Our hope is that this promotion ... will introduce his music to the next generation of fans and continue his legacy."
For the record (pun intended), the set already peaked at #29 over here in the UK without any such promotion and has spent the last couple months in the top 75 (as it does every April to Sept/Oct when big guns come out). It is the 5th longest running album in the UK chart of all time. This is an album that costs £7.99 on UK iTunes. Most albums over 3 months old are lucky to be £5.99.

It also averages at around "3,000 and 5,000 copies per week, and has sold 11.6 million copies in the United States since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales."

Bob Marley's legacy is one of, if not the strongest of any recording artist worldwide. His impact on music, life and culture is unrivalled. People across the world are inspired by the messages in his music to this day. Look at the amount of people wearing dreadlocks (whether their hair is made for it or not), even if they don't sight Rastafari, they're all aware of Bob Marley. And there isn't anybody in the world who listens to reggae and isn't familiar with Bob Marley. And reggae is a worldwide thing.

All of this from an artist who came from the ghettoes in Jamaica without assistance of mainstream media telling you it is what you need, or constantly reminding you of his legend like they do for rock and soul peers.

Source for UK album chart position

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Lucas DiPasquale performs with Popcaan in Jamaica

Remember Lucas DiPasquale "that white boy from Canada singing Popcaan songs" acoustically?

Well, he went to Jamaica earlier this summer on a promo trip but Popcaan was out of the country so they didn't get to meet. However, couple weekends ago, the dream came true at Dream Weekend. Popcaan brought him out to shell the Dream Live event.

So many artists still haven't got a reaction like this in their lives. Big up him. Look forward to hearing the official releases

Krishane ft. Melissa Steel & Beenie Man - "Drunk & Incapable" [audio]

As premiered last night by 1Xtra's don Mista Jam, "Drunk & Incapable" is the first official single by Krishane features Melissa Steel and dancehall legend, Beenie Man. Melissa's fresh off a top ten single of her own [click here to read more] and a dancehall legend in Beenie Man to seal it is a good look.

Little boy-girl singing duet and reggae-tinged vibes with the breakbeat. Hopefully this won't be judged on the summer season, but allowed to flourish in the post-summer settings.

FYI Krishane is the 20 year-old son of dancehall icon Barrington Levy. Born and raised in Jamaica, now living over here in UK. Harlesden a.k.a. Brixton if it was in northwest London to be precise. Recently signed to Atlantic so expect to see a proper roll out of this single in the not too distant future.

Check out the first song I posted last week, Typical. Lovers rock vibrations produced by KZ, nephew of Caron Wheeler (Soul II Soul)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Krishane - "Typical" [Barrington Levy's son]

New name on the scene to watch out for: Krishane, recently signed to Atlantic records over here in the UK. He's the son of one of dancehall/reggae's greatest singers, Barrington Levy, and he has a set of pipes on him too.

Oh, and the song is produced by Caron Wheeler's (of Soul II Soul fame) nephew, KZ. Nice little reggae lovers bubbler.

So, Chronixx shelled London again! [review + two, two vids]

Now you may remember I reviewed Chronixx's debut London performance last year. Well, it's that time again. He performed to a sold out crowd in Electric Brixton (formerly The Fridge). Oh, big up everyone who turned up on the door. Unlucky. Now everyone who is someone should know the history of Brixton and Jamaicans. It may not be that way anymore due to fassyoles and their gentrification, but we still associate Brixton with Jamaicans. Whereas last year was in north London, this felt more like where Chronixx was supposed to be.

My expectations were a lot different time around. Last year, was more apprehension. Will he deliver? Will the crowd be into him as much as I am? Will it be some stiff, lame out crowd? All of that was dispelled in the first song. This time was more a "Will I be underwhelmed because the last was an other-worldly experience?" one. How does one top the best debut performance I've ever seen?

Well, good news guys. He bettered my expectation. I don't know if I'd say this was a better concert, nor do I think it's something that matters, really. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Walked in as Rootikal were running tunes. Healthy warmers set for the headline DJ and living legend, David Rodigan. I haven't seen Rodigan play at that sort of function before. Either festivals or clubs full of people who aren't hardened reggae fans which means he usually mixes it up more. His set was class. Full of anthems, top quality interaction, specials, 45s and the famous Rodigan jumping.

Shortly before 10pm, following a couple Bob Marley sing along's ("Is This Love?" and "Could You Be Loved"), he introduces the man we were all there to see. Band begins playing "Alpha & Omega" from the Dread & Terrible EP - a tune I've been rinsing recently so I'm fully vibsing already. Eye's shut, invisible natty shaking, the whole shabang. Chronixx appears )I see him through the sea of glaring screens recording the entrance), the place erupts, the show begins.

Second song is the song he began with last time, "Start A Fyah". Third song (I think) was "They Don't Know" followed "Ain't No Giving In" or vice-versa. A big sing-along ensues during "They Don't Know". All four songs are delivered without time for a breather so the intensity levels and vibes are high at this point just as any show is supposed to. Each song built the levels a bit higher than the one before.

Stripped back performances of "Rain Music" (the third song I heard by him) and "Somewhere" brought screams and sing along's from the ladies, before ending the chapter on "Smile Jamaica". Really clever part of the show. The stripped back songs brought energy levels down, showcased his vocals (while his vocals aren't pitch perfect, they're soaked in soul/emotion), "Smile Jamaica" turned the levels up a notch and is still a part of the lovers theme.

Chronixx then informs us that the performance is split into three chapters. I'd describe the first chapter as the uplifting segment, he says the second is about re-writing the distorted history we have been given, before launching into "Capture Land". Big forward in the second verse when he says "Now here comes the teefing [thieving] Queen from England."

Next up was a moment I wasn't I totally surprised by nor would I say I expected it. Protoje joined Chronixx on stage to perform probably the biggest reggae song in 2014, "Who Knows". Protoje's in Europe and said he'll appear at various things. Nobody wouldn't be interested in a sell-out show in Brixton, London. It was a great moment that produced the first wheel of the night. I think the two have only performed this twice before. See it below.

That took the night to another level. I'd say the levels had risen dramatically about four times so far. Right after that, he decided to raise the levels higher again. "Here Comes Trouble" went off tremendously well. Second wheel-up of the night.

 I know "Most I" and "Thanks and Praise" were in the mix somewhere too.

Introducing the final segment with a tribute to dancehall, he fired off "Spirulina", ska song "Rastaman Wheel Out" (sounded a lot better live then it does on record. Has a rougher sound) and getting lighters and phone torches in the air to "Like A Whistle" before ending on "Behind Curtain". The speech before "Behind Curtain" was real. Explained that dancehall and reggae are essentially one, but dancehall has been clouded by sensationalism and too many following the wrong aspect - insisting conscious lyrics has always had a place in dancehall. Third wheel-up came at this point.

Upon exit stage left, Rodigan said "History has been made" before asking if we want more. Obviously Rodi! "Eternal Fire" kicked off the encore, before "Warrior" which segued into "Nuff ah talk 'bout buss!" Yep, "Odd Ras" lifted the roof off again. The toasting, tribute to Super Cat via "Ghetto Red Hot" and other bits ended the show higher than the first. An encore is all that was missing first time. Glad it was included this time.

While I wouldn't say it was better than the first show (first shows have sentimental value), he proved it wasn't a fluke. He's grown in confidence, improved his command and vocal projection. I didn't mind it first time, but there weren't anywhere near as many dub-wise versions. And the set list was spot on. Numerous peaks and brought it down in the right places. Everyone left wowed again.

To gauge what I saw/what you missed, below is Chronixx performing to 5,000 in Central Park, New York a couple weeks ago. Big up the good dons over at for organising. We had singer Maverick Sabre, producers/DJ's Chase & Status + radio presenter Vanessa Feltz (lol!), NY had Mick Jagger and his family celebrating Mick's birthday.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

reasoning with Maxi Priest about Saxon Sound time

This is just a small section of a forthcoming reasoning I had with UK reggae legend, Maxi Priest. We spoke on a range of things including his time, the impact and importance of the world-renowned Saxon Sound. They're foundation to what many have unknowingly carried on in various MC-based scenes in England. Check out what he had to say below.

Marvin Sparks: I've heard so much about Saxon Sound. To me, I don't feel like people understand how big and the impact Saxon Sound had, and still have especially when considering the popularisation of the fast-chat style. What was it like being part of it? Could you sense what you were doing was special or were you just going along with the vibe?

Maxi Priest: Everything at that time was special. There wasn't a road map of what to do. You have to also imagine the climate at that time. We were cutting through racism. Just walking the streets, you had to walk with a crowd of people. Skinheads, greasers, NF's… All of these different people that thought we weren't supposed to be here. They just thought we were black and not supposed to be in this country.

Thank God we were able to cut through all of that racism stuff and still keep a focus. Or it helped us to stay somewhat focused, almost like I want to dig through this hole. It was dark, grey and cold. Home was the Caribbean. As soon as you stepped out the front door our neighbours were not into our culture. If the ball went over one side of the garden it would get cut up. If it went to the other side - there were some black people living there - the ball would come back.

It was silly things like that, and I say silly things like that now because we've passed that time, but we have to remember those times because if we don't remember those times we won't know where it is where supposed to be going. I think that's one of the problems now; they don't remember those times.

As you asked with the Saxon thing, we were writing the road. We were writing our way out of a situation because it was confusing. We were told we didn't belong here but Jamaica or the West Indies were saying 'You're English'. I remember sitting down thinking 'Well, what am I meant to be then?' We were always searching for a sense of belonging and that's the thing about the music and the sound system.

Music would - especially reggae music - gave us a direction or understanding of where we came from as black people. We would gravitate to the music to have a lifeline of a self-belief and belonging to something. When we would play the music it would create a gathering for us as a community. Even though we would bring our white friends into it, that was our refuge. Sound system was our refuge. This how our community moved. We could translate information. It wasn't about radio or TV.

The sound system was our haven. That was our sanctuary. That was our place. That was our church. That was our meeting ground. How we were gonna come together as a force and make people know we are somebodies. That's the foundation of sound system for me. What we created on top of that was a platform, a stage where we can now reinvent the wheel. 

We could create our own stage now with artists and performers. We created this live performance around spinning the b-sides of tracks and creating live entertainment in a party or a club. Now we became a unique situation because not only we were offering the sound system, we were offering a live  performance from a deejay standpoint or a singing standpoint. We created something that was blowing up north, south, east, west of England and then through cassettes would go back to Jamaica. From Jamaica into the United States. 

People were playing it in their cars just like how you hear pirate radio stations today is how we were playing cassettes. If you went to the frontline of Brixton it would be about the cassette you've got and he's got. A good six/seven times it would be about Saxon because we brought a live performance around the thing. 

From there we brought another page elevating sound thing to studio. I met up with a man called Barry Boom - Paul Robinson. My mum would always ask him to do something for me because I'd been singing from sound system. He then took me to the studio, taught me to write and structure songs. We produced 'Mi God, Mi King' with Papa Levi then we got major record company interest. We signed Levi to Island. That song took him to Jamaica for Sunsplash, 10-15mins standing ovation, number one in the reggae chart in Jamaica. Wow. I guess we thought we landed.

Giving us strength to say that we were somebody. We went through rioting and these things just for people to say we were somebody. After we achieved that success, various record companies were asking about me because I had a song on the b-side of that. I then chose to sign with Virgin records and stayed there for 17/18 years.

Marvin Sparks: Smiley Culture and Tippa Irie had UK hits, Papa Levi got the number one in Jamaica,  in addition to your UK success, you reached number one in America with "Close To You." I know you have American influences alongside Jamaican, so that must've been a really big deal for you back then.

Maxi Priest: Massive. I mean, before that, the success we had in the pop charts over here. We were Top of the Pops. Almost feeling at home on Top of the Pops because of the times we went there. It might be a little bit strange but I've always looked forward. Even to this very day, I look forward. I don't really look backwards until somebody asks me a question. That's just my nature, that's just the way I am. 

I'm very optimistic and I wanna look forward and keep going. Where there is hope, where there is life, where there is strength. I've always had an outlook that I'm not doing this for myself. There's a whole lot of people that have been brought up the same way I have. When you look at the teachings of Marcus Garvey and people like that, we're not here for ourselves, we're here for the generation that comes after. 

That's the way that I've always looked at it so I don't sit down glamourising myself about whatever success I've had. I appreciate what I've done. I appreciate whatever success I've had and I always remember that success wasn't just by me alone. There is a lot of people who are involved in the Maxi success. This wasn't done by me. There's a lot of people who have helped along the way and the fans who have gone out there and purchased the songs. Without the purchasing of the songs, we'll always be handed leaders and icons.

I've always been aware of that, whether it's through my mother's pentecostal teachings to Rasta, from being in a place that never really from like home and thinking there's better to come. That's just been my outlook. I walk with things like 'It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice'.

Rest of the interview will be posted soon. Buy Maxi's latest (banging) album, Easy To Love from here.

Smiley Culture - "Police Officer" UK top 20 in 1984.

Tippa Irie "Hello Darling" UK top 40 in 1986

Maxi Priest "Close To You" US #1 in 1990

Saxon Sound in north London, 1989