Tuesday, 16 December 2014

That time I experienced a Protoje/reggae show in France

As much as I'd love to tell you all the stories and things I witnessed on my travels to a reggae show in Europe (except UK obviously) for the first time, please remember I have a biography to sell in a few decades. I hope you understand my rights to withhold certain aspects of my life until then. If not, tough innit. You won't know now.

So anyway, went to Boulogne for the first time in my life apart from those times I got dragged along on coach trips to stock up the alcohol in time for Christmas. And I'd like to add, none of the alcohol was bought for or by me nor consumed by me. My sole purpose was extra hand to carry bags. Some might call this child slavery, I just know it as "You ah di bwoy, ih!" as another carrier bag is shoved into my hands. Bearing in mind, I'm short and slight, I'm definitely not a contender for "People you can depend on when you need bag carriers" lists.

But we digress. So yeah, Boulogne. I don't recall meeting anybody that spoke English for starters - apart from security in the venue (not even the guest list person) - so for someone who learnt Spanish and says "gracias" before correcting himself to say "merci", this was a slight issue. Like, when asking for directions to the venue! Found it eventually, after walking around for about 45 mins. These times, it was about a 10mins walk from the train station.

So the sold-out show featured Protoje sandwiched between two French-speaking acts, Yaniss Odua - who's from Martinique (and everything else you can make out on this French wikipedia page) - and Parisian band, Danakil, who closed the show. It was proper interesting because I couldn't understand the artists either side, so it mainly the feeling of the songs, style of riddims and crowd reaction. I'm sure there were people in the building who didn't understand Protoje, so we were all together as one on that.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

RIPower Garnett Silk - 20 years today

One of Jamaica's greatest talents left earth in physical form on this day 20 years ago today aged just 28. It is reported that the fire started after a gun hit a canister in the house causing a fire. Dunno who or why the gun was fired, however, all that matters to me is he tried to rescue his mum from said fire in the house and they both died.

I was only young when he died so most of what I know about Garnett Silk are how his songs made me feel. And on that note, I'm just gonna post some of my favourite tunes.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

reasoning with Maxi Priest on 'Easy To Love', losing our culture, major vs indie, Shabba Ranks + more

"I'm on top of the world. I'm on fire right now," exclaims Maxi Priest when asked about his re-emergence. "I've been doing this thing for a while now and to have the opportunity to go around again... I am really appreciative, because at the end of the day we can't do this without the support of the people. Words fail me. I am on such a high with this album, the appreciation and support that we've been getting on this is just - thank God."

The famed reggae and lovers rock singer rose from the world famous London crew Saxon Sound International to transatlantic chart-topper - a rare feat for any reggae artist, let alone one from Lewisham, south-east London. Songs such as the aforementioned US #1 "Close To You" (produced by Soul II Soul),  (Cat Stevens cover) "Wild World".

2013 saw Maxi return on the scene in a big way via the Bulby-produced "Easy To Love". An album of the same name followed this year, and the domination of pirate radio stations has continued - you can expect to hear at least five cuts from the album blessing the airwaves at any given time. Maxi Priest is revered by the core reggae market for the first time in a very long time.

Marvin Sparks caught up with the Lewisham-born legend, Maxi Priest, about not getting his dues from black British music institutes, not liking the "lovers artist" label, major label albums feeling like foreign land and whether we'll get another Shabba Ranks collaboration.

You can catch where I spoke to him about Saxon Sound and their (under-stated) impact and importance here

Marvin Sparks: Easy To Love began hitting the airwaves last year. Beres Hammond "In My Arms" was first to hit off the riddim…

Maxi Priest: I wasn't really aware of the other track when I done "Easy To Love". The riddim was brought to me by Big Dread from out of Wolverhampton. He came to the studio for dub plates and stuff but when he played the riddim track, I was like "Yo, I love this riddim track!" I wanted to write a song for it. I wrote the song, he told me the riddim belonged to Bulby from Jamaica.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Dancehall > Jungle > Garage > Grime: The Rewind Is Everything [1Xtra sets]

Just gonna drop these videos here to show the line of UK mic chatting music.

Cos sets from these Jamaican's - Wayne Wonder, Frisco Kid and Lady Saw

And UK ragga deejay's: Tippa Irie (from Saxon Sound a.k.a. the first UK mic chatters to chart in UK top 40 a.k.a. the sound that popularised fast-chat/double-time "rapping"), Sweetie Irie and General Levy. Please note this is the foundation of UK mic chatting culture. Accept no rewording of our history. Thanks in advance.

UK garage MC's from So Solid, Pays As U Go and Heartless Crew

Grime MCs Lethal Bizzle, Dizzee Rascal, BBK, Tempa T, Footsie

Look pretty familiar, alie?

To quote this Skepta interview:
Hypetrak: Were people in Jamaica aware of grime? What’s their perception of the genre?Skepta: When we got to the airport, kids were outside welcoming us screaming "Boy Better Know." The internet has made everything so small. They understand of the grime beats because it’s similar to dancehall while other instrumentals are a bit too fast. Overall I think they like the lyrics more because we rap like dancehall artists in the way we formulate our lyrics to build the crowd. We work it to get that rewind, that encore. American rappers don’t really want that. They just want people to dance, they don’t want the interruption, the reload. In grime and dancehall, the rewind is everything!
 As we saw the difference between A$AP Flop and BBK at the Red Bull Culture Clash. Speaking of which, none of the above would be possible if not for Jamaican sound systems.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Culture Clash in my opinion [with first round vids/rest rounds audio]

First off, big up Red Bull. Bigging up the sponsors usually means this is a sponsored post. However, this isn't a sponsored post. They put on a big show and shoved 20,000 people into one place to experience Jamaican culture even if the music wasn't explicitly Jamaican. So big up Jamaica cos none of the music yesterday would exist in the way it does without it and there wouldn't be a format. Jamaica changed the way music was made and consumed. Both were on full display yesterday.


Dub/dubplate/special = song cut specially to either big up your sound, kill another sound or both. Most "dub plates" are pretty much extinct - they're just specials - but everyone understands the term dubs.
A$AP Flop = A$AP Mob

First round = normal juggling/playing music
Second round = hosting
Third round = Sleeping with the enemy (playing other teams genres of music)
Fourth round = dub for dub/five minutes to play songs

I will update the post with videos as and when they come through.

Anyway, no real long talking. Just gonna summarise my thoughts on the sounds performances. Hindsight is a wonderful thing so obviously there will be a lot of that. But yeah.

p.s. my reading of it beforehand

So to the night...

First up the immortal Stone Love. Putting it out there from the beginning - we knew they were never going to compete let alone win. Some competitors (I mean "one competitor" but we'll get onto that) were there to expose it to a wider audience, Stone Love were there for credibility. There has to be a pure Jamaican music sound. Stone Love have a reputation for mixing the genres from day, but they're a Jamaican sound first and foremost. Plus, they are legends in sound system even though they aren't really a clashing sound.

Click "read more" to read more, innit!

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 herehttp://soulculture.com/features/interviews/sean-paul-dancehalls-influence-on-popular-music-culture-is-immense-interview/#ixzz3DgqXrFsL 

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