Actually here are the links to interviews Sean Paul, Shaggy, Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor, Mavado, Lady Saw and dancehall artist Aidonia made a response interview to my explosive interview Vybz Kartel. Catch them both here. That has to be my highlight of the year. Knew it was explosive but never knew it would get around 100k views (over different accounts) on YouTube (the response has over 100k). I've actually done more interviews than that, you'll see those in due course. This year was a lot about beyond the scenes, but I still managed to follow up interview the twoo best hardcore artists of recent times (Vybz Kartel & Mavado) with the two most successful mainstream dancehall artists (Sean Paul & Shaggy). And most of the artists I interviewed were Grammy winners than not. I'm quite chuffed with that. (I also interviewed singer/songwriter Kandi and Grammy nominee J. Cole)
A big highlight is interviewing one of the I-Threes/Wailers, Marcia Griffiths to remember Bob Marley who died 30 years ago 11th May this year. You can check her speak about meeting Bob, greatest memories and find out how he was a person from someone that toured, recorded and spent a lot of time with him by clicking here.
Another personal highlight has to be mention in top urban magazine RWD for bringing Daniel Bedingfield's return to their attention. He released a banger on Overproof riddim called "Sometimes You Just Know" too.
Nigerian-Londonite Sneakbo carried on his wave from the success of Touch A Button freestyle which passed 1 million views (until removed for some unknown reason) and banger Wave Like Us ft. Political Peak. Funniest one has to be Freak ft. breakthrough loose bag of the year OG Niki, also continued with the bashment refixes, however unlike Touch Ah Button, these were more undercover gems Money Dream ft. Jah Vinci and "Warn Them" ft. Mavado. Mavado was basically the man to sample as you'll see throughout the rest of this post. Sneakbo's first official single probably would have faired better had he been out of prison. He's in talks with Mercury/Universal about a deal so hopefully they still keep him on dancehall sounding beats. Maybe with real dancehall producers.
West Londoner Ratlin made a breakthrough using the same template "Messiah" remix ft. Mavado, "Squeeze Di Trigger" and "My Life's Not Easy" ft I-Octane. Ard Adz & Shallow racked up YouTube hits the same wayMavado's "Thump Her Up" and "Every Gyal a Cheater" on Notice's 2009 riddim entitled Gallis, plus Ard's alongside Political Peak on "Trapped In Slavery". K.I.G. - Money Everyday, Belly ft. I-Octane "Bad Mind" Big Man Zest Ft Chan Dizzy & L's Hills - Hello Badmind are few more examples of the wave.
Young, uprising talent Cashtastic became teenage girls across London's fantasy boyfriend via "I Didn't Mean it" on Trinidadian-raised, London-based dancehall producer Wundah's Transition riddim. I'll refer to that riddim a little later. Definitely not trying to be one for the girls, "Talk About Pain" is one for the man dem on roads. I'm Stylo G has a song on this same riddim, but I'm convinced it's a Jamaican produced beat. Can't remember the song on it though. Definitely one of the stand out performers at the London leg of Glow in the Dark Bigga Fish tour this Autumn. p.s. he changed his name from Cash to Cashtastic, but I think he would have been better off adopting Cashanova. Still quite hmm but girls seem to love this guy.
One of the biggest bangers rocking clubs over the course of 2011 has been Chipmunk's "Every Gyal" featuring the unmistakable and unavoidable vocals of Mavado.The aforementioned Cashtastic did a remix alongside Stylo G ("Every Gyal" remix) as did a few others following Birmingham-raised producer Dready releasing the instrumental through his Twitter account. Despite no official release, it fared better than collaborations with "bigger" US artists Trey Songz and Keri Hilson in terms of popularity. Mavado broke news of the recording last year, but that wasn't to be Chipmunk's only venture to the dancehall this year as he teamed with fellow Play Hard bredrin Sneakbo to remix (can you guess who it is yet?) Mavado's Star Boy.
iTunes hip hop best selling single in the UK went to Wretch 32's surprise top 5 hit "Traktor" which despite my reservations, has been described as a "dancehall-infused" song by journalists and the artist himself. I guess, seeing him perform the lyrics over a foundation dancehall riddim at the BBC 1Xtra organised Saxon Sound reunion recorded at the legendary Maida Vale studios, helped me see there is a point. Whatever, I'll add it here anyway as it deserves to be.
"Marmite man dem" (it seems you either love or despise their existence) Rizzle Kicks sprung a surprise on everyone this year, especially being nominated for a MOBO Award in the best hip hop/grime category because nobody really knew who they were. Anyway, their single "When I Was A Youngster" sampled English punk band The Clash (who were influenced by reggae) for a ska-infused single which reached top ten.
Still riding off the success of dancehall-fusion SMASH "What's My Name?", the sexiest woman on earth otherwise known as Rihanna released her most explicit reggae cut since "Pon Di Replay" a.k.a. the urbanite's favourite song "Man Down". Shot on location in Jamaica. Did you spot the pun? Good innit? She also collaborated with Drake again, on his album this time for the pounding double-kick dancehall drum "Take Care".
Even Latina queen Jennifer Lopez got in on the dancehall act with the Taio Cruz-penned, Norwegian-raised Stargate produced I'm Into You ft. Lil Wayne the disgrace to dreadlocks. Nicole "probably couldn't spell her surname until the age of 12" Scherzinger twanged Patois on the 50 Cent featured cut, "Right There". If Rihanna made Kelly Rowland's (or if Kelly did the bogle to) "Lay It On Me" there's a chance we'd class it as reggae-fusion.
Back on this side of the pond, another breakout hit, this time courtesy of everyone's favourite
Third breakout UK artist in this post, Jessie J enlisted help from renowned UK-based dancehall/reggae producer Curtis Lynch and femcee Lady Chann for a bashment remix to her debut single "Do It Like A Dude".
Bruno Mars topped the UK charts with "The Lazy Song". Also, digitally released "Liquor Store Blues" ft. Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. In an interview with MTV The Wrap Up he's quoted saying "I’m really excited about my album because I got Damian Marley on a song and like I said, the Marley’s are God’s in Hawaii, especially Damian, he’s my favourite, he’s just so dope. We did a reggae song called, ‘Liquor Store Blues’ and its just kind of this jammin’ funky dark, the darker side of Bruno Mars. I was just like, ‘Man, this would be a dream come true if we could get him,’ so we just make this phone call and he came in with open arms and got down." source. Last reggae song from the one like Bruno Mars is album cut "Our First Time".
Last year, Travie McCoy stepped out with "Billionaire", determined to join his chum Bruno on the acoustic reggae wave this year, he reunited with bandmates GCH, featured Maroon 5's Adam Levine for "Stereo Hearts". Even Justin Bieber got in on the act for the UK top 40 lead single from Christmas album of pretty much the same name, "Mistletoe".
Some english girl group called SoundGirl hopped on the wagon with "Don't Know Why", Dionne Reid received Radio 1 playlist support for "Daddy", which is originally an under rated reggae rhythm track "Tears" from 2006 (see I-Octane "Stab Vampire")
2012 kicks off with two releases in as many weeks: Yasmin ft. Ms. Dynamite - Light Up The World (15th January) followed y Barbadian/Bajan reggae/pop group Cover Drive "Twilight" (22nd January). Really like Yasmin's riddim and think the Cover Drive song should perform a whole lot better than their first. Yeah, it went top ten but it dropped right out, I hope this hangs around for them. Quality song. And how hot does lead singer Amanda look? Maaannnn
Speaking of Ms Dynamite, she bounced back in a big way with dancehall-influenced UK top 40 "Neva Soft". Single also featured a more explicit dancehall remix courtesy of leading Jamaican producer Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor.
Cleo Sol, a recent signing to Island/Universal, should have scored a big chart hit with "High" ft. Gappy Ranks. Hopefully, this sees a re-release with new support and gets the dues it deserves. Gappy Ranks himself released a new album and appeared on industry's favourite TV show Jools Holland earlier this year performing big hit "Heaven In Her Eyes" alongside Jools on piano and personal fave "Longtime". It was so good to see reggae finally back on Jools.
Sean Paul scored a top 20 with the Alexis Jordan-assisted "Got 2 Luv U". New album "Tomahawk Technique" is slated to hit stores early February.
Representing dancehall from the UK in a big way in 2011 was Stylo G. Following up success of "Boasy" (remix ft. Cashtastic, Rascals & Maxx) and "Swagger Dem" but the biggest thing has been "Call Mi A Yardie". Recently released a video with freshly released Sneakbo for the Nigerian remix "Call Mi A Yardie/Naija" and even a Canadian remix by Kardinall Offishall. Set up nicely for 2012.
2010 saw a new singer, Lea-Anna, grace our ears who had a potential hit with "Kisses", returns with the Robbo Ranx produced banger for the ladies, "Murda". Boasts a remix with some fire females Jamaican queen Ce'Cile plus UK femcees Lioness & Lady Leshurr. Another one set-up nicely for 2012.
Nigerian youngster Wizkid dropped a banger in "Tease Me" which struck a resemblence to Birch's Roof Top riddim from 2010. Likewise, "U Go Kill Me" a.k.a. the Azonto song by Ghanaian Sarkodie sounds very similar to Equinoxx's Sky Daggering riddim which features Aidonia "Hundred Stab" (very explicit. Marvin Sparks warning is advised).
Equinoxx built the riddim that brought Missy Elliott out of hiding on a track with Spice called "Fun". And another artist appearing out of hiding is Mya who spent a good few weeks in Jamaica this summer. She recently leaked a new song "Take Him Out" featuring Spice.
Aloe Blacc scored a big hit with "I Need A Dollar". Wasn't reggae, but he paid tribute to reggae during his main stage Glastonbury performance. "Soul music comes in a lot of different forms and to me reggae is one of the best forms of soul music". Watch here (skip to 28:15). Damian Marley & Nas brought the Distant Relatives show back to England this year for an arena tour. Video for "Dispear" recorded at the Wembley show I attended. Crazy!!!
We said "See you another day" to Miss Amy Winehouse in July. A big fan of reggae music (although they never tell you that), her first posthumous hit lifted from album Lioness is a lovers rock/reggae cover version of Ruby & The Romantics "Our Day Will Come". We also waved "see you soon" to Smiley Culture, a man credited as the first black UK artist who made it cool to rap in an English accent.
Yet another vital record shop left our high street, this time Dub Vendor. They still operate online through mail orders, but it isn't the same. They will be missed.
Rinse FM bashment DJ's The Heatwave paid trubute to him at their once-in-a-lifetime, had-to-be-there event Showtime. They had jungle, grime, UK-based dancehall, garage legends from past and present (Wiley, Glamma Kid, General Levy, Skibadee etc.) alongside upcoming talents like Stylo G, Mr Williamz and Lady Leshurr. If you weren't in attendance, you can read the review and buy the insightful documentary/performance.
Big up The Heatwave noticing the dancehall influence on Jamie XX's remix of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" then dropping vocals on it for a hot remix that Jamie xx himself plays. Diplo of Major Lazor fame regularly drops it in sets too.
BBC Radio 1Xtra had a day of programming dedicated to dancehall culminating in a Maida Vale session with UK dancehall legends Saxon Sound (Tippa Irie, Papa Levi, Muscle Head etc.) alongside Wretch 32, Scrufizzer, Stylo G and a few others. I attended that. Wicked.
R&B singer Neyo launched Compound Islands, a label designed to find Jamaican artists and remixed a underrated gem of Mavado's, "I Know You Want Me". Oh, and Mavado signed to DJ Khaled's We The Best Music Group. Look forward to seeing what that produces next year. To me, he reclaimed his spot as the leader of the pack this year, dropping a bag of big tunes throughout.
Hottest riddim for the summer in Jamaica, Summer Time, is produced by a Swedish producer (Adde) that has never stepped foot on Jamaican land. Every car had the now incarcerated Vybz Kartel's song of the same name or potential artist of the year, Popcaan's "Raving" blasting from their car.
Enough with all the other stuff, now for what you've all been waiting for... You may or may not know that I have been gifted with great ears. Not physically, listen ally (think I made that word up, not sure). I'm not being big-headed, it's just something people tell me and can be proven with facts (I should add a "LOL" to show humility, shouldn't I?). p.s. I don't take program, so it isn't a list of the top 5 biggest, they are just my favourites.
Marvin Sparks'Top 5 dancehall songs of 2011
1. Mavado - Settle Down
On my life, you have no idea how much I love this song. Like, have to play it multiple times before moving on to the next. More time I think "Maybe it's about time I move to another song". That's absolutely nothing wrong with this song. Summery daydream keys, drums have a massive, drums pack a consistent kick perfect for a girl to manoeuvre her waistline (yes, I've been on the receiving end plenty times) and filled with more hooks than a Tyson fight. I sing every single word. I'm not afraid to say I sing. Drake made it cool for us. Such a shame it started bubbling in Jamaica as I was leaving. Would have been song of the summer. And Overproof is riddim of the year. Easily.
2. Popcaan - Only Man She Want
Much like the above. I love this song. I guess for it to be top 2, I have to love it really. Undoubtedly the surprise star in 2011. Everyone that knows me personally knows I've been endorsing Popcaan hard since last year. He's on about 5 tracks (2 features) from my best of mix last year, this year he has 6 cuts. Bouncy beat, hooks, melody, good (relatable) concept. p.s. "Tek Off" isn't far off "Benz Punany" in my opinion
3. Vybz Kartel - Real Badman
I guess with events that happened this year (charged with two murders) could make this song a bit too real to put here. But hear what, this is a banger!!! And this is a response to an Assassin song you'll probably never hear even though it was a good song. The flow on this is ridiculous. People began doubting whether Kartel could still DJ because he adopted a more singjay vibe, no questions needed. I buss the biggest gun finger to this. I don't condone gun violence, but there is a need for badman songs like we need action movies.
4. Laza Morgan ft. Mavado - "One By One"
Isn't the most conventional "reggae" song, it's more of a meeting of '80s funk and reggae. Once again, hooks all over the place, sassy, makes me think of male-female invading each others personal space in a club, up-close-and-personal vibes. Love in the club concept is tired... if it's on a euro-house x r&b song, not basement/dancehall for me. Soz.
5. Popcaan - Ravin
The most important riddim for 2011 has to be Summer Time. It changed the way people named and created riddims. Vybz Kartel's song didn't hit me straight away, Ravin on the other hand did. Plus, it changed how everyone else saw Popcaan, so it was more of an important song for him. Plus, plus, it was the biggest song of the summer bar none. I don't remember seeing any other song receive so many money pull ups (pay the DJ to start the song again). There has never been a clearer big summer song in Jamaica. In every summer that I've been.
Mavado - "Pepper" has been quoted so many times by me to not be mentioned as one of my faves. "Ketchup dem ah play man ah pepper"
Another special mention to Cham "Wine" 'cos if there's any justice in the world, this is gonna make girls go wild.
On the reggae side of life, top 5
1. Romain Virgo - "Rich In Love"
This is a vibes, sweet story, wicked riddim, clean video. Hampered by the skippy flow on the chorus to buss it up mainstream. I personally love this a lot. Rich girl, poor boy.
2. Protoje - JA
A cut from my favourite album of the year. Protoje has a refreshing style, good storytelling and top selection of beats. Diggy's ode to JA aka Jamaica is so relatable. If you've been to Jamaica, you can relate, if you haven't this is an honest account.
3. Ky-Mani Marley - Brave Ones
Son of Bob Marley and Shotta's actor Ky-Mani Marley delivered a solid song about the ignorance and fight that rasta's still have to face. As a soon-to-be bald head rasta, I can empathise with his struggle.
4. I-Octane - Mi Sorry
Probably the most under-rated I-Octane song of 2011. He's one of the biggest names in dancehall, but for me, his better works are on the often slept-on one-drop traditional reggae. This one is against people that hire hitmen to kill people. A practice frequent in gangland killings. Raises some real points and it's a good way to deliver an anti-gun message.
5. Richie Spice - Black Woman
I know some will think this is racist or whatever, but when you check it dark-skinned woman are probably the least represented as beautiful in the eyes of the media, hence bleaching products fly off shelves. Skimpy outfits and weave/relaxed hair is another thing that's prevalent. This is a great uplifting song representing for those who don't. That's all.
Honourable mention to Etana - People Talk with this uplifting song against gossipers, backbiters and naysayers.
And like how it's 31st December, another song that we here at Marvin Sparks must post is Demarco's anthem "Love My Life"
Everyone loves a mix, so here's my free dancehall/bashment mix I made for 2011 in September. Free download too.
Marvin Sparks 'Does (his) 2011 so far' by MiNameMarvinSparks
Press the arrow pointing down to download
Mavado - Love Mi Life
Chan Dizzy - Hello Badmind
I-Octane - Badmind Fi Di Year
Flippa Mafia - Star a Star
Lady Saw - Wife A Wife
Assassin - Run Di Place
Bounty Killer - Ready Fi Dem
Beenie Man - Nah Talk Too Long
Assassin - Nothing At All
Mavado - Pepper
Shabba Ranks - None A Dem
Stephen McGregor - Bounce A Gal
Daniel Bedingfield - Sometime You Just Know
Demarco - Nuff Gal
Kurup ft. Wayne Marshall - Give You Love
Khago - Tun Up Di Ting
Mavado - Settle Down
Gaza Slim - Always
Vybz Kartel - Summertime
Popcaan - Ravin
Tarrus Riley - Summer Fling
Munga, Supa Hype, Ding Dong - I'mma Need Security
Mavado - Final Destination
Assassin - Wife Material
Wayne Marshall - Good Old Wife
Sean Paul & Fambo - Wedding Crashers
Popcaan - Can't Believe
Popcaan - Middle Day
Chan Dizzy - Dat Mi Know
Vybz Kartel - Real Badman
Aidonia - Nuh Par Wid
Wizkid - Tease Me
Stylo G - Call Mi A Yardie
Vybz Kartel - Sick Head
Popcaan - Clean
Beenie Man - Go Go Club
Popcaan - Only Man She Want
Vybz Kartel & Russian - Get Gal Anywhere
Vybz Kartel - British Love
Aidonia - Touch You Tonight
Assassin aka Agent Sasco - Talk How Mi Feel
I-Octane - Nah Wash (Too Licky, Licky)
Popcaan - Nuh Box Pon Jaw
Vybz Kartel - Stronger We Get
I-Octane - Tell Some Bwoy
Bugle - Friend
Mavado - Do Road
Tony Matterhorn - Ugly
Gyptian - Wine Slow
Hyah Slice - Out My Head
I-Octane - Come Close
Tarrus Riley - Come Over
Wayne Marshall - Great Escape
Dj Powa ft Cliff Twang - Nobody Canna Cross It
Mavado - Star Bwoy (released in 2010 but shot in 2011)
Overmarz - Now You See Me, Now You Don't (see above)
Aidonia - Mek Her Say (and again, so don't try it)
Neyo & Mavado - I Know You Want Me
Laden - Come Mek Me Touch You
Ms Dynamite - Neva Soft
Aidonia - Bad People (2010 for the sake of it)
Laza Morgan ft. Mavado - One by One
Demarco - Love My Life
p.s. if you're wondering how a dude that isn't a DJ nor groupie has shout outs from Vybz Kartel, Busy Signal, Wayne Marshall, Popcaan and Gyptian, they are a few of the many artists I've interviewed. You can check those out here
You can download my 2010 equivalent "Product of My Ears" here
We here at Marvin Sparks dot Blog Spot dot Com would like to wish you all the very best for 2012. Thanks for sticking around even though there hasn't been much content. Thanks for all the great feedback I've received. And if you think I've been a reggae flag bearer in the past, I hope to increase that ten folds in 2012. New moves that I'll announce in due course. And (another sentence beginning with "and") I've seen people call another genre "the new reggae". I'd just like to say, there can only be a new something when the other thing is old. Judging by this post, reggae is well and truly alive. There's much more to reggae than just good beats. Remember that. Imitation is a sincere form of flattery too ;)
Oh, and Soul Culture dot Co do UK is the best non-dancehall/reggae site for content. Check there regularly. I do a lot of updates over there.
Your ever reliable dancehall correspondent