Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Reggae & Dancehall in 2013 according to ME!

Artist of the Year - Vybz Kartel

Boy, I think this one is between dirty duo RDX, Mavado, Konshens and Vybz Kartel to me. RDX maintained momentum with the tunes that make girls skin out. Mavado returned hard this year, representing himself well on every riddim he touched after what was a half-baked year last year. Like RDX, Konshens maintained the skin out hype with party tunes like "Drink N Rave" and delivered on riddims.

I think Kartel's is the most impressive for me though. He managed to reinvent again, bring in some new styles, flows, delivery and concepts. And to top it off, he did it all while locked up in jail. Oh, and let's not forget he's the only thing good about Busta Rhymes' "Twerk It" - remix and original.

Favourite Dancehall Riddim - Money Box

This year has been extremely shallow for riddims. Last year, I pointed out that the biggest songs were mainly singles (for example Konshens - Gal A Bubble, RDX - Jump), the pendulum swung even more in favour to the singles over riddims. And girl tunes really ran the place. However, my personal favourite riddim has to be the Money Box riddim.

I'd just like to take this moment to say it was released in June 2012, but I don't remember it from 2012. Maybe the years are blurring, maybe I didn't like it or maybe it didn't buss 'til this year. Basically any riddim which doesn't buss in time for summer is a myth in real life. Anyway, it was my favourite of this year. Leading out with the main feature on it

Konshens "From Yuh See Me" and Aidonia's weed anthem "Kush Inna Mi Brain" were strong cuts on there too.

Dancehall single of the year - Vybz Kartel "Business" 

By far and away the most original song this year. Kartel manages to weave through the whole song ending each line on "business". Not only that, he rhymes the word before each business four times before finding a new rhyming word so in effect he's rhyming four syllables each line. And every single line makes sense. And there are at least seven wheel points. Wheel points are where the punchline is executed so well, you have to start the whole song again.

Runner-up is Vybz Kartel "Weed Smokers". Rvssian started off as he meant to go on.

Best Gal tune - Charly Black and J Capri "Whine & Kotch"

The bass and drum pattern is by far and away the most original in dancehall this year. Completely came out of nowhere. True essence of dancehall with a fresh spin. Definitely need more like this for next year. (Please note: this was championed by us here at Marvin Sparks as one to watch for 2013)

Producer of the year - Rvssian

I thought right now would be the best time to mention my favourite producer for the year. He did a whole lot this year. Every tune I can remember him doing brought a fresh vibe to a couple of years where dancehall has followed a couple patterns in terms of creativity of riddims. From "Hi" to "Whine & Kotch" to "Weed Smokers" and "Pull Up To Mi Bumper", all a brand-new vibe without straying from what we love about dancehall - sick drum patterns and heavy bass.

Most Memorable Gal tune of the year - QQ "One Drop"

Every single time this drops, the same thing happens. IT'S A MADNESS! The riddim is hundred percent based on Aidonia "Fi Di Jockey (radio edit)", but this owns the dance floor because it has a signature move. And I can recall nearly every time this song was played. Definitely is 2013's equivalent to 6:30.

Mentions to Macka Diamond "Dye Dye"

Reggae artist of the Year - Chronixx

My (and everyone else with sense's) tip for the year didn't fail to live up to the hype. Delivering with the singles, videos, riddim cuts and live shows. He toured Europe (festivals and debut headline tour) with his band for the first time this year. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness him live in action was enthralled with what they saw. Incredible. Read my review of his London show and watch the videos here.

My other tip, Kabaka Pyramid, also made forward strides. His first retail EP charted at something like number 3 on US reggae charts, plus topped Billboard magazine's Next Big Sound in May.

Reggae riddim of the Year - Honey Pot riddim

Big toss up between Tropical Escape by Jamaican producers Chimney and the eventual winner Honey Pot produced by German natives Silly Walks Discotheque. Tropical Escape is a summery, acoustic vibe which contains more big, breakout cuts, but Honey Pot wins simply because it had the big tunes and the riddim itself is a fresh take on the traditional reggae rhythm tracks. It's beautiful. The instrumental just transports you to somewhere tropical.

Torch "Good Reggae Music"

Ginjah "Sweet Killer"

Jah9 "Brothers"

Honourable mention to the Rootsman riddim by Overstand also representing Jamaica with an undeniable hit instrumental in the vein of militant reggae I've missed with two big cuts (Chronixx - Here Comes Trouble and Jesse Royal - Modern Day Judas).

Reggae song of the Year - Chronixx "Smile Jamaica"

Features on the above riddim track. This one song probably swung it in favour of this riddim being my favourite for the year. The more you listen to reggae and dancehall, the more you understand about the song and riddim meeting at the equilibrium. Chronixx definitely found it in the studio that day. A romantic tale about meeting a mistreated and unappreciated woman named Jamaica. Pretty simple concept executed to perfection.

New artist that impressed me the most/Artist I'm anticipating the most for 2014 - Jesse Royal

This youth is bad. A lot of songs about resistance and rebellion. Hope to hear more good lovers songs and unity next year moving forward, but from what I've heard, he's full up of talent.

Check out his In Comes The Small Axe mixtape here

Haven't heard much of him but Keznamdi (who's Jah Cure's brother-in-law and new reggae singer Kelissa's brother) has a song with Chronixx called "My Love For You" which is a banger.

Favourite Jamaican music inspired song - Major Lazer "Watch Out Fi Dis (Bumaye)"

This is up there with my favourite songs of the year. Hooked from the second time I heard it. There isn't anything wrong with this song; Busy drops catchy lines, finds a sick melody, the horns bit is sick, the drum pattern is hard, the builds and drops and leng… it's just perfection. Moombahton sound just crosses all boundaries, you can hear this song was destined to be a big hit in the Latin, Caribbean and European crowds instantly.

Runner-up is Shy FX & Ms Dynamite "Cloud 9". Drum & Bass and Lovers Rock combined. Sick tune ad equally sick video. Should've been released in April/May to maximise hit chance instead of a dreary October. Really wasn't an October song. Still a banger all the same.

This year we lost a lot of radio stations support in the UK, but burn fire on them anyway 'cos the people still care. Big up 1Xtra always supporting the ting though. And Stylo G scored UK bashment's first charting single in a decade.

And yeah, that's your lot. Big up everyone in 2013. Wishing you a blessed 2014. Ya

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Chronixx London concert/moment of a lifetime review + videos

There isn't even an ounce of hyperbole in the title. Not even a little bit. Sunday night will never happen again for two reasons: you can't have a first performance twice and the questions of how good or popular have been answered.

Where to start. Putting it into perspective, London is one of the closest to being Jamaica outside of Jamaica. Our love and appreciation for reggae, historically, surpasses everywhere in the world possibly even Jamaica. Scala was full to the brim. According to Wiki, Scala's capacity is 1,145. I spent at least 10mins trying to find a space where I could see the stage. Meant I spent most of Christopher Ellis' performance searching for this elusive magical spot. Sounded lively though.

Hold on, lemme try put into words how packed it was. Scala sold out three times (I'm guessing they gave access to different parts of the venue when they saw the demand) and tickets were still sold on the door. Each time we tried one of (about three/four) the entrances to the main room and balcony, someone bounced out upon opening the door because they were already squashed against the door. Come like Jack in the box. Or black in the box cos it was usually a black face. I can say that and not be classed as racist cos I'm black, nig... na, that's going to far.

Roadblock event (people were turned away after a while) was predominantly black ranging from old Rastas to male yout's in their 20s and females (in their body con dresses from the "raving outfits" side of the wardrobe). For a genre that supposedly doesn't attract young black people, there were a lot of young black folk in there.

So we finally find this spot behind the soundman (sound engineer. Although I did hear a Jamaican fella say "Yeah man, mi deh behind di selector".) DJ wasn't really playing the right tunes for me. Modern slow-tempo dancehall stuff (you know it when you hear it) when I wanted them big anthems to warm the place as opposed really new stuff (less than 2 months) vast majority of the crowd don't know. I could hear the DJ before Chris Ellis playing the classics when I was at the bar outside.

Anyway, boom, we're there now catching a little vibe. Air's smelling nice, anticipation building, DJ plays couple dancehall tunes like Super Cat "Vineyard Party" and Buju Banton "Driver" much to the increasing crowds delight. Yes, increasing. No idea where these people were (still) coming from or where they ended up. Weren't near me so everything bless, uzeet?

Kelissa blessed the stage before Chronixx. Sang couple, couple tunes, lit a quick flame, big up Africa and left the stage. (Her performance is a lot more involved than that, still.) Her voice was a bit light, but the words them were potent. This was a nice warmer into the flipping forthcoming arson attack. No Dre Island by the way. Slightly disappointed cos I wanted to sing my heart out to Rastafari Way.

Big man time now. Robbo Ranx said there's been a fire burning in Jamaican reggae (as spoken about (by i & i) here) before boldly introducing the night's headline act as the future of reggae. (Big up Robbo, still, I first heard "Behind Curtain" on his show.) So, boom now, remember 1Xtra performance when Chronixx took to the stage real calm with "Smile Jamaica"? None of that this time. Right into the Start a Fyah tour wiiiiiith.... You guessed it, "Start A Fyah". Decked in full white and cream from suit to Clarks boot, the 21-year old began his assault quicker than I expected. Even took time out to give a special bu'n out to the Pope. Big forward for that.

Next song surprised the hell out of me. Until recently, I thought I was the only person that liked "Dread". Didn't expect it on the set list nor did I expect the huge reaction it received. Only 40k views on YouTube which is really small when you consider that's available to the world. Seemed like without the (around) 1,000 people (I'm guessing here) in there, it'd only be on 39,000. Everyone from the old Rasta's in attendance to the young bald head's sang the chorus as one united by the powers of the Rastafari.

Flashing new lyrics during "Dread", sounds like he sent a grenade under Snoop Lion on the night but wasn't too sure. He says "Man anuh Snoop Doggy Dizzle" just as the crowd goes wild so I can't make out the lyrics after

(p.s. I understand audio alone doesn't give you the right vibe. Best I can do, I'm afraid. Big man like me doesn't feel the spirit to stand with my arm in the air, worrying about camera angles and lighting 'cos I'm recording video. Long for that. I can close my eyes to be back there. Vibes mi seh.)

Another song I didn't realise the popularity of is "Modern Warfare". If the previous songs made us spiritual, this one sent a big Yoga flame to those in power sending people's pickney to fight their wars. Proper Occupy, fist in the air, "Bun Babylon" (we don't say "Fxxk the power" in reggae. They don't say it in hip hop anymore. Just realised) moment as the crowd cheered in agreement with Chronixx's speech about the powers that be taking us fi some little eedyat's on their mission to achieve one way of life - their way. (You can see the crowd in this video.)

Another early one, "They Don't Know" preceded recent uplifting anthem "Ain't No Giving In" sprinkled with Kabaka Pyramid's "No Capitalist". You can watch that performance below.

I've decided to stop breaking down the base. It's so much better when you don't know about it in minute-by-minute detail before you see them. He'll be back as soon as (they said next Summer at the end of the show). From now on, videos mi seh!

Fantastic tribute to the beautiful island "Smile Jamaica"

 including the speech of the night about inspiration to write the song followed by Tony Rebel's (unofficial national anthem) "Sweet Jamaica"

During the dub breakdown (common feature) on "Here Comes Trouble" the talented artist gives a little beat on the bongo drums.

"Behind Curtain" - probably the biggest moment of the night.

"Warrior" moved smoothly into "Odd Ras"

Ended with a medley over "Odd Ras" of dancehall toasting, Supercat's rude boy classic "Ghetto Red Hot" and finally "Rivers of Babylon" which we all sang along to. Obviously. Listen to the noise.

Every song was met with a crazy response. Two things I would've done differently are better entrance (walk out while singing "Start A Fyah") and an encore (leave stage after Behind Curtain, then "Warrior" and "Odd Ras" for encore). All in all the night proved there isn't a genre in the world that will give you lovers, political and spiritual music to dance to on the level of reggae.

 It is near-unbelivable that a reggae artist can headline a show with just over a year under his belt let alone draw out that many people. While the comparisons to Bob Marley's now legendary Lyceum Theatre performance may be slightly premature, we probably felt like they did at the Bob show back then that something special just happened.

His next show will be a bigger venue. Know that will sell even more now everyone's heard he can put on an incredible show.

Alternatively, you can listen to me talk about the monumental occasion on Joe Grime's Deja Vu show (Tuesday 2-4pm)

Listen to the show below. I enter the dance at around 1hr 21mins mark.

They're trying to wash out reggae, but so long as the spirit in people lives, reggae can't die. Chronixx proved why he is the man everyone is excited about. Big up Maverick Sabre in the place. Hold tight the big wigs also present in the place. Do the right thing.

Look out for his forthcoming EP. You can buy his singles on iTunes, Amazon and all them ones.

Big up Danny Pepperseed, WorldAReggae.com and whoever uploaded ones from their phones for the videos.


Hoooo my days, this champion uploaded 20mins worth of London footage


"Smile Jamaica" x "Selassie Soljahz"


"Selassie Souljahz" x Sizzla medley x dub x "Here Comes Trouble"

Friday, 11 October 2013

Watch Chronixx live at 1Xtra Live [First UK performance]

Scala say they're sold out but more tickets will become available. Not sure when but yeah.

I personally think he started it off with the wrong songs. Should've entered with a bang "Here Comes Trouble" and "Behind Curtain" then mid-tempos "Smile Jamaica" and "Ain't No Giving In" followed by "Warrior" ending on "Odd Ras" as he did. Based on what actually happened, it started calm before building to a big end even receiving a forward. He looked a lot more comfortable towards the end too. Big stage for your first performance in a new country though.

And on his birthday too. Watch the crowd sing happy birthday

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Hey Marvin, what are your thoughts on "Reggae Revival"?

To give a bit of background, the most exciting thing in music is currently happening in Jamaica. Never mind what everyone else is going on about, their talking about something old, something that's here or something that isn't worth talking about cos it's just forced hype. We're not talking about forced hype movement, we're talking about organic music for the soul coming from one of the forefathers of modern day music. A familiar guardian around these parts of the web, Reggae.

One thing I don't like about journalistic definitions of reggae and dancehall is they're very lazy, therefore inaccurate and commit an injustice to both sides. It is said reggae is conscious and dancehall is slack which isn't strictly true. Conscious songs are always present amongst the biggest songs in dancehall. And with reggae being known as conscious, people forget many greats from John Holt and Beres Hammond  to Jah Cure are better known for their lovers collection. (They also say that reggae is live instrumentation which is also incorrect. Some great ones are digital without an ounce of real instrumentation. Oh, and not all reggae is "one drop".)

To me, you know the difference when you hear (or feel) it. And if you don't, well, it's rough on you. Get acquainted with both then make your own description. A quick one that gives credit, dancehall is made primarily for dance floors, reggae not as much. Used to, but not as much anymore. Dancehall is where the music was played, morphed into sound system culture, then became what it is today.

So anyway, back to why we are gathered here today, "reggae revival". Where to start. Ok, what I love about it. I love that they're a set of youths working together with the same meditation. And there's a shed load of them. Literally always finding about a new one in the gang. It is said the core members of the group met and made music down at Jamnesia, located down the road from where I stay in Jamaica, Bull Bay.

They're coming to the forefront at the right time. The world needs this movement almost as much as Jamaica does for a few reasons. Reggae isn't something you hear as frequently on Jamaica's most popular youth radio station, Zip 103FM. You're more likely to hear Billboard Hot 100 songs by the likes of David Guetta and Katy Perry than reggae in many places around the Jamaican capital, Kingston. The perception is the youths in Jamaica don't care about reggae, favouring dancehall or sounds imported via American propaganda. While I have no problem with the former, the latter would be a disaster.

Dancehall hasn't been as exciting in the past couple years due to many jumping on established popular trends sonically and subject instead of expressing themselves.

The debate about whether European artists currently wave the reggae flag has been raging for the last 4/5 years. Alborosie and Gentleman lead the way as the stars of Europe, reggae festival line-ups filled up by European acts ever since the economical crash (dutty babylon). American reggae artists like Soja and J Boog capitalise off the demand for reggae and lack of US visa's for their Jamaican counterparts.

The world needs this because there isn't a movement quite like it currently from a major music market. It represents an alternative to the flashy, Mandy/Molly-popping and champagne-toasting music currently out there. With all that's going on in the world currently, they are saying the right things, acting as a voice for the disenfranchised youths around the world annoyed frustrated at the moves politicians pull, lack of jobs and youths facing a dimmer future than the previous generation.

The history attached to reggae in terms of rebellion and upliftment is unrivalled making it an advanced position compared to most other genres. Also, reggae isn't dependent on radio pluggers, PR companies and corporate sponsorship to push the music, meaning it's harder to suppress. I mean, it's as suppressed as it is, yet the message still travels.

While I understand it, I don't like the branding term. Great term  for marketing, PR and journalistic reasons yet short-sighted. Jamaican Reggae never died. Jamaican reggae artists still tour and are very present on festival circuit. Jamaican reggae did get very monotonous and stale; similar tempo, subjects and sounding riddims (living in the Don Corleon sound). Almost too Americanised, on the soulful side of life. There wasn't any sound of defiance or rebellion either, probably because the artists were living the good life, travelling a lot and not as aware or effected by the issues at street level.

Calling it a revival turns what is essential a cultural cycle into something trendy. Trends don't last long. Trivialising an organic movement. It's just a new generation of artists. Last major cycle introduced artists such as the incarcerated Jah Cure, I-Wayne, Fanton Mojah, Gyptian, Turbulence, Lutan Fyah, Natural Black and others possibly ushered in by Sizzla's classic album, Da Real Thing (2003) and shortly after the death of the man who put dance into dancehall, Mr. Bogle (2005). (Tarrus Riley rose to prominence near the end, along with Queen Ifrica, Romain Virgo, Busy Signal's transformation etc. etc.)

I guess like that time in mid-'00s and the big mid-'90s movement (Tony Rebel, Capleton, Anthony B, Luciano, Sizzla, Buju Banton et al), there were a series of incidents lead to more attention for an alternative to contemporary music in Jamaica. Frequent complaints about the face of dancehall - Vybz Kartel - and his peers' output; Too slack, lacking substance, association to crime, not staying true to the Jamaican sounds and traditions, and the likes. Oh, and good music from the reggae artists.

I personally refer to them simply as the new generation of Jamaican reggae artists. Flippin creative, ay?! Don't sit there wondering how I came up with such genius. Some people are born with it. More of a mouthful and less ear-catching than "Reggae Revival", but it is what it is.

So after all that, who are we talking about?

This is the fun bit. Here's where I write a bit about each artist I like and why:

Protoje (@Protoje)

Let's start with the most obvious name in the movement, breakout star Protoje. Born Oje Ollivierre, the son of Lorna Bennett (famous for UK charting single "Breakfast In Bed") burst on the scene with a flurry of singles including personal favourite "Dread", before eventually capturing the genre's attention in 2011 with debut album 7 Year Itch. Big single on the project

"Rasta Love" garnered 11 million views on YouTube and plenty of forwards in his homeland. Festival tour last year was bettered this year when he performed at approximately 30 performances this year with a tour scheduled later in the month.

"Kingston Be Wise" lifted from follow-up album, 8 Year Affair, features on GTA V's reggae station, Blue Ark. The sophomore effort is more '80s rub-a-dub sounding than the first as the single suggests.

Check out Protoje "Music From My Heart" mixtape below

Chronixx (@IamChronixx)

If Protoje is the breakout star, Chronixx is the man of the moment. To me, he's en route to the truth. Excuse me while I get the brass section, I reckoned big things were in the pipeline for him (and us) from the first time I heard "Behind Curtain" back in extremely late 2011.

Heard "Warrior", "They Don't Know" and "Rain Music" around that time and thought, "Yeah, this guy's got a little catalogue building there". Recognition in Jamaica began late last year following an appearance at a rammed Tracks & Records (Usain Bolt's sports bar) following "Behind Curtain" rising to one of the big tunes of the summer. Material released at the latter end of the last year to now has been sublime be it love songs like "Access Granted", songs of defiance "Ain't No Giving In" or ode to his homeland "Smile Jamaica", everything is gold.

"Smile Jamaica" features on Silly Walks Discotheque's Honey Pot riddim. The production crew are from Germany, demonstrating the numerous continents crossing to produce reggae at the moment.

Latest single, "Here Comes Trouble" sounds like a statement of intent on behalf of the crew. The video demonstrates it too, boasting nuff features from his mates.

Kabaka Pyramid (@KabakaPyramid)

First appeared on the radar last year with his breakout reggae single "Free From Chains". He was doing Jamaican hip hop which I hate, so no surprise the reggae set him free from the chains. The thing that attracted me to him is it is what he says: "this a rebel music don't you confuse it with the crap that the buggers them producing".

"Mi used to bun the weed a lot/ Now me start to read a lot", then "The system want to want fi keep us locked up in the prison, mentally them want defeat us..." a little "Cah the school them never teach us nothing 'bout we African features..." and "Officers, preachers, doctors and lawyers are liars..." Yoooooo, had to wheel every line. Hadn't heard anything that rebellious from a contemporary artist in a very long time. And the way he puts his words together with meaning. Sounds hip hoppy and reggae at the same time therefore sounding fresh over the rootsy dancehall beat. Perfect introduction.

"Free From Chains"

"No Capitalist" is what it says on the tin. Burning a fire on those in power who oppress and exploit the poor. Very apt considering not only the turmoil Jamaica is going through with regards to the IMF loans and increase in tax, water and electricity rates, but what's going on in many places across the world - both developed and developing countries.

"Worldwide Love", once again, is what it says on the tin. Unity amongst one and all. Cool video too. Features cameos from Kellissa, Chronixx

Batch of Kabaka Pyramid singles below

Jesse Royal (@JesseRoyal1)

Latest addition to the iPod from this generation. This guy is the truth/ Delivers a powerful message with melody and a style close to the history of reggae in time of peers using some hip hop styling.

"Modern Day Judas" features on the same Rootsman riddim as Chronixx's "Here Comes Trouble" and rivals it for best song on the riddim. Burning a fire on naysayers and non-believers.

"Warning To All" some '80s rub-a-dub sounding stuff in the locker too. Listen to how comfortably he floats on the riddim. Opening track on the In Comes The Small Axe mixtape

"Greedy Babylon" putting some fire under the Government  for the people on a riddim sampling John Holt's "Up Park Camp".

Listen to mixtape 'In Comes The Small Axe' below

Jah9 (@Jah9)

Yes, females time. No sexual discrimination around here. i-nity we seh! Although Janine Cunningham (you catch Jah9 is based on her forename?) only dropped her debut album this year, I first heard her back in 2011 on Protoje's debut album where she features on closing track "After I'm Gone".

Jah9's solo debut "New Name" is produced by Rory from the immortal sound system Stone Love. Her vocal style is pretty jazzy, init?

"Brothers" is an uplifting jam for the man dem that stand firm in the Gideon despite all the stresses and strains the system wants to bring upon us. Nah, but on a real, it's an appreciation song for the men that stand by women. So swap "system" with "women" in the first sentence. It's all the same innit.

"Preacher Man" questions the relevance and challenges hypocrisy of religion via an open letter to religious preachers.

Stream Jah 9's "New Name" album below and/or buy here

Dre Island (@Dre_Island1)

Andre Johnson, better known by stage name Dre Island, has a wicked vibe. Sings and singjay, sometimes sounds a bit Stephen and Damian Marley-ish (more an observation than criticism). The 25 year-old artist/producer ventures between reggae, Jamaican hip hop leaning stuff, and pop-reggae. Wicked voice, boom lyrics.

Self-produced "Rastafari Way" is the first song I heard earlier this year. Hip hop-leaning beat while retaining his Jamaican raggamuffin' vibe with rebellious Rastafarian conscious lyrics. Raspy voice is so emotive. Catchy much?

Latest release "Reggae Love" is more a pop-reggae sounding vibe. Displaying his versatility with a less raspy voice and one for the ladies.

Check out his mixtape here. Bit heavy on the hip hop-sounding stuff which is a shame because I feel he excels on the reggae stuff nor does it have the legs for festivals reggae does, but still:

There are others like Raging Fyah Ultimately, you can check out The Heatwave's reggae special podcast if the above is too much to digest (after all that).

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Shy FX & Ms Dynamie - Cloud 9 [Music Video]

Jungle legend Shy FX and female MC'ing empress Ms. Dynamite linked up to drop a Lovers Rock meets Jungle banger that actually equals the look on paper. The way this is the best song I've heard since about July, I pre-ordered it a month ago - almost 2 months before scheduled release. Ms. Dynamite actually performed it for the first time at David Rodigan's Ram Jam at Kentish Town Forum back in about May. Didn't sound nearly as great as the finished version does.

See this is what Black British music is missing, mix-and-blending our black culture sounds with contemporary British music. It's what always has and will work for us. All this re-hashing popular American sounds rarely works. Big up So Solid, Craig David, Shola Ama, Chip(munk), Tinie Tempah, Lemar... for showing us the blueprint on how to disappoint after establishing through British producers. Mix it a different, fresh way if you do it please. But yeah, long for that.

This is great British music. And if I sound xenophobic right now, it's because I sound it right now. I'm not though. The only letdown is this is an April-June song not October so may not get the Radio 1 love it deserves.

Banging video too.

Order it here

Obviously saw how well the Shy FX refix of DJ Fresh's "Gold Dust" worked. Ms Dynamite written, Ce'cill vocalled tune goes so hard DJ Fresh performs it instead of the original.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

thoughts on the station formerly known as Choice FM + no reggae? Really?

I wasn't even going to write a post about the now defunct Choice FM as there wasn't anything for me to say that I hadn't said on Twitter or others (check Gentrification Killed Choice FM and Why We Should Mourn Choice FM). Howwwever, a few things caused this post. I listened to Dotun Adebayo's show on BBC Radio London last night and a tweet by one of the formerly known as Choice FM's DJ, Max.

Starting with the above tweet's... actually, let me start off by saying I have no problem with Max. I wouldn't say I know her, but we are cool. She made sure I got an interview with Trey Songz when the PR wasn't sure if they had time for me so I respect for her. Also respect what she's achieved in the industry. Doesn't mean her tweets can't be contested though. And I'd say everything I'm about to write to her. Lastly, I mean no disrespect to her as a person. (I hate doing these disclaimers, but I feel I have to cos things don't get blown out of proportion. Text is easy to misinterpret.)

Now that's out the way, first off, she's from midlands. Choice FM's history is primarily London so I don't think she has the same attachment to the station us Londoners do. Easy to understand. But she's tweeted sentiments quite few others have. "Oh, it's just a name change. It'll be urban business as usual but on a bigger scale." Except it isn't. You see this is what happens when people forget, don't know or don't acknowledge the roots.

This, ladies and gentleman, is proof the "urbxn" word is the devil. Accepting the word urban as a substitute for black music was the worst thing ever. We don't have rural music or suburban music for ethnic majorities, why urban? Asian's have Asian station, why can't we have a black or African and Caribbean one(s)? Choice FM was built on the foundations of providing music to the black population, a predominantly Caribbean. That isn't to say only black people should listen to it, but it was there to cater to those needs and interests.

This new guise of "urban dance", adding EDM DJ, Avicii, and cutting off the Caribbean links feels like a slap in the face to the community that are responsible for building the brand. Admittedly, I'm one of many who switched off years ago once able to source and control my own music mainly down to Choice no longer catering for people like me who don't want to hear the same twelve similar pop (be it hip hop or r&b) songs on repeat shuffle - my iPod does a better job. They forced me to leave.

Me switching over may have  some of you asking "What you complaining about then? You contributed to dwindling figures nor do you don't listen anyway so 'llow it, innit?" Thinking beyond myself, it allowed those who aren't as savvy to find the music or going raving but have an interest.

So, it's more than a name change. They aren't serving the culture they are meant to or what we know them to. Another one of our mediums bites the dust. don't forget MOBOs aka Brit Awards Xtra (stolen from @DJFiremanSam) is this month too.

Now to the statement Daddy Ernie says on the Dotun Adebayo show about what he was told by the station: "Afrobeats is more popular than reggae". I knew this day would come. I have no problem with afrobeats. It's mad, some people assume I hate it because I love reggae and Jamaican. I don't. But yeah, I would like to know what this is based on. Black clubs in London? Probably to some extent. There are loads of Africans in London so that's natural. But you can still attend clubs in London and not hear Afrobeats bar 3 songs. Outside the M25 is a different story too. Sales of reggae surpass Afrobeats nationwide factually.

But to the core of the issue, who are they to suggest its one or the other? Black people in London and England are mostly African and Caribbean. There's never a discussion of hip hop or r&b, so why for our cultures music? Reggae has gone from shows on every day on Choice to nothing in the space of a decade. There isn't a space on one of the weekends mix shows for a bashment, reggae and soca 2-hour show? Not even after the popular 11pm afrobeats show? I refuse to believe this. In times where reggae, dub and dancehall nights happen at universities across the land and pop acts are embracing it more than recent times? Not to mention the new wave of reggae artists coming through. If it takes off we'll see them jump back on the wagon.

I'm not naive to the fact reggae and dancehall don't warrant the prominent 5-days-a-week prime time slot it held down until about ten years ago or ignorant to the commercial properties involved in radio and that malark, but I'm definitely not stupid enough to believe it doesn't deserve even an hour on 24/7 radio schedule. (Graveyard shows aren't anywhere as bad as they were due to listen back features.)

Dotun kept saying/playing Devil's advocate (poorly) that reggae doesn't deserve a space. Sadly, his listeners weren't able to convey why themselves, especially not Daddy Ernie, but that's a story for another day. Dropping DJs isn't bad, dropping genres is. I'll tell you why it does. It's still one of the most popular forms of black music. Only hip hop and r&b sell more in this country. Rodigan's departure from Kiss FM caused uproar for good reason. He is now primetime Sunday on BBC Radio 1Xtra for a reason. Robbo Ranx still get's good listenership on 1Xtra. It still burns down clubs when played. It still contributes to pop music. Most recent example is Ellie Goulding's first UK #1 and international hit "Burn".

And if you didn't get my point, reggae won't die as long as it still a force in club nights across the nation. As it already is. The Heatwave sold out Koko in Camden (1.5k+ capacity) on their own. Rodigan host tents at festivals. The people raving matter much more than a small group who decide what plays on radio. They are the real tastemakers. Majority rules.

We know that Afrobeats will be gone in a few year if it doesn't continue to produce the goods and the station formerly known as Choice will sound like Kiss - unrecognisable from its black music pirate radio roots.

To sum it up, a top guy in the music industry, Lindsay Wesker, breaks down the death of black radio

(I'm in the process of writing a "When did we become urban?" and "Reggae Revival" post. Both would've made sense before this. They will come in the new few days.)

interviews Shaggy. Radio vs Reggae, rejecting pop music & more

I caught up with Mr. Lover, Lover aka Mr. Roooooo-mantic aka Shaggy ahead of Reggae Rollover at Wembley Arena 17th October and upon the release of latest collaborative effort with Sly & Robbie dubbed "Out of Many, One Music". Best album title in a while in a cheesy but "Why didn't I think of that?" way.

We spoke about the
  • reggae vs. (commercial) radio
  • rejecting pop music for authentic Jamaican styles 
  • Jamaica's lack of stars, rating Konshens and Chronixx, 
  • struggles pushing a reggae album independently, 
  • reaching the top against all odds with Diamond-selling (in excess of 10 million records sold) Hotshot, 
  • low first week sales of his album and why he doesn't give a fxck if he gets the credit he deserves. 
Basically, we had a right ol' chinwag. Surprised at how open and honest he was. Don't remember him being like that the last time I interviewed him. Will read again (you can read here).

First single lifted from the Sly & Robbie + Shaggy album is "Fight This Feeling" featuring the legend himself, Beres Hammond. Big tune doing a lot on the roads. No convenient hype because I'm posting an interview.

On the riddim track of Dennis Brown's "Sitting And Watching" produced by Sly & Robbie back in the 70s (I think. That or early 80s).

And here's the song with NeYo, "You Girl"

Get the album "Out of Many, One Music" and/or the singles from iTunes or Amazon for £5.99

Tickets to the show at Wembley Arena, 19th October with Shaggy, Sly & Robbie, Mykal Rose (aka 1/3 of Black Uhuru + Sly & Robbie is due to be an absolute madness), Agent Sasco/Assassin, Konshens and Tifa here

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Chronixx - Here Comes Trouble [Music Video]

One of the most anticipated videos from one of the most talked about artists finally makes it way onto the net for our eyes. Chronixx's Rasta political broadcast anthem "Here Comes Trouble" features the man himself with a bunch of Rasta recruits including many of his fellow next generation reggae artists, Dre Island, Kabaka Pyramid, Kelissa to name a few.

You can purchase the song here

And catch him performing live in UK at the following

10/10 - Leeds @ Leeds Arena BBC Radio 1xtra Live
11/10 - Bristol @ Malcom X Center
12/10 - Birmingham @ The Drum
13/10 - London @ Scala

Google for more info and tickets

Friday, 27 September 2013

interviews Wayne Marshall (@Wayne_Marshall) [Video]

I caught up with reggae and dancehall artist Wayne Marshall to discuss prevalent issues within the world of dancehall and the (controversial term alert) "Reggae revival".

We spoke about:
  • growing up in the business with the Bounty Killer-led Alliance to now moving with the Damian & Stephen Marley-led Ghetto Youths International, 
  • revival of both reggae and the '80s revival within that, 
  • whether he regrets partaking in the much criticised Island Pop era, 
  • Jamaican media's focus on Jamaican reggae's lack of commercial success in America to 
  • will he'll judge his forthcoming album, True Colors, success on sales.

Wobbly video, but ah so it go more time uzeet?

Couple songs for you to check which were mentioned in the video:

Latest single, "I Know". Can grab that on iTunes and others.

Wayne Marshall "My Heart" cover by Danish artist Klumben "Mit Hjerte"

Original video for Wayne Marshall's "My Heart" (Drake likes this song. I dunno, that may make some people like it a bit more, cos you know...)

(A pic from when they met. And this is a link to the video posted on his website)

And the last time I caught up with Wayne Marshall for UK's MTV (part 1 and part 2).

Also, cos I love this song, one of my favourite Wayne Marshall songs, "Overcome".

interviews Christopher Ellis

Member of the Damian and Stephen Marley-led Ghetto Youths International, Christopher Ellis headlines London's famous Jazz Café for the second time this Saturday (28th September) following a sell-out last year on the birthday of his late great, father, rocksteady icon Alton Ellis. Sidenote: Jazz Café is the last venue his father performed.

Marvin Sparks caught up with south Londoner, Christopher Ellis (@EllisMuzicChild), in a west London hotel lobby to talk challenges making a name as a singer in his own right, choosing authentic reggae despite its lack of pop chart presence in UK, disappointing reaction to last single and learning from the other Ghetto Youths members.

Marvin Sparks: Was music something you always wanted to do?

Christopher Ellis: I always imagined myself as a singer from ever since I could remember. I used to tell my school teachers that I don't have to do the work because I'm going to be a singer [laughs]. I was always a clever boy in class, but I didn't like doing the work.

From eleven years old, the first time I ever performed on stage with Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, John Holt at Hammersmith Palais. Big stage. Sold out 4,000 people, so from there I knew something was going to be great. I sang [Alton Ellis'] "I'm Still In Love" and shelled the whole place, so from there I knew.

MS: A lot of times singing parents don't want their children to follow their footsteps into a musical career as they know how hard it can be.

CE: Just because you have a parent who is an icon, you don't have to be a singer just because they are. My father has plenty of kids who don't sing, I just happen to be a singer. It's not really a bad thing if your kid doesn't follow your footsteps. My son is 5 years-old. If he doesn't want to be a singer, that's fine, I just want him to be good at what he does and put his head into gear in what he does. I just happen to be the one that sings and got the gift.

MS: Feel any pressure with the name?

CE: No. That's a very popular question, but no, I don't feel the pressure because I don't have to do this, I choose to do this - even though I say the business chose me. There's no pressure, really. I feel like I'll be okay if I be myself.

MS: I guess it's a popular question because people often unfairly compare children with their parents and the child will never be as good as the parent to some people.

CE: You have to remember, it's not about ability, the guy who came first will always get the glory. It's the root. There are players who probably have the ability of or better than Pele, but they will never get the title of being better than Pele because Pele was the first. You aren't going to beat that. I don't really think 'My dad did this so I've got to'. Just have to be me and be great and it'll work.

MS: I think it was brave of you to cover your father's songs so early in your career which some people would rather steer clear from.

CE: I wanted to and Stephen Marley said 'No, let's do it.' We did "Willow Tree" and it came out good. Even "End of Time", I used one line from that song. From there we moved on to songs like "English" and other songs that I wrote so it's all good. It's a challenge to find the balance to do those things because you can overdo it. Covering too many songs, to me anyway, is a bit karaoke-ish. Come out as an artist, people love originality.

MS: And as a British artist, not many black artists venture into making reggae. What made you stay true to reggae?

CE: It chose me and I like the sound. I love the sound. And my father is a great influence on me as well, so that pushed me into an area where I'm exposed to this and then the love grows for it.

MS: I think a lot of artists in the UK like reggae, but they don't pursuit it because it isn't in the pop charts so they don't really see a possibility of making a living from it. Didn't that thought cross your mind?

CE: No, because I didn't think I have to make a popular record. I just make songs I think sound good and hope they do well. I just make music, because we are going to make songs that are popular and radio-friendly, but you don't think 'Let's make a song now that's going to be top ten'. Just make music.

MS: Speaking of attempting popular sounding songs, you did make "Don't Change Your Number" with Bay-C from Ward 21.

CE: Yeah, and even that came organically. We just went in the studio mucking about, a keyboard man was playing something and I started singing [melody of chorus]. It just came like that - it wasn't planned. He was just doing that [imitates piano from single], it's a doo-wop kind've sound and that's how we got the song.

MS: What did you think of the reaction when that came out?

CE: It wasn't too... The reggae crowd didn't warm to it to be honest with you. I understand, because of the sound, but it's on MTV Base now so that's doing something in that crowd which is always great. I have a new song named "Better Than Love" which is playing hard around the place. Damian Marley produced that one and it's getting a lot of love. That's our world now, the real rock[steady]. Soul meets rock[steady].

MS: Is that your lane then, soul and reggae?

CE: My lane is the songs you're hearing, "Don't Change Your Number", "English", "End of Time","Better Than Love"... It's not down to a certain sound like 'Oh, he sings rocksteady', you just hear songs from me and I hope the people like them.

MS: How did you get with the Ghetto Youths camp?

CE: My father passed away when I was in Jamaica. A man said to me 'Stephen Marley should be the man to produce you', then drove me to Stephen's house where Bob used to live.  We spoke, then the next day we made "End of Time". 24 hours after I met the man. What a great story.

MS: What have you learnt from being around those guys?

CE: So many things. I've learnt things subconsciously, I learnt so many things. I watch how Stephen, Damian, Wayne Marshall, Black Am I. It's just learning subconsciously.

MS: And I guess you get to see the power of reggae as you travel around to various continents on tour with them. You can see it's a worldwide thing, which many in England don't.

CE: Yeah, you can see it. [Mainland] Europe takes the thing very seriously. America, but Europe the thing is really there. England has a big reggae scene too. It's going really well, man.

MS: You're back headlining at the Jazz Café on Saturday 28th September. 

CE: You can get your tickets from Jazz Café website or Ticketmaster.

MS: The last one sold out...

CE: Yeah, that was a year ago. The last one sold out and we're looking for the same sort of turnout this time. We want to see people come out. And like I say, I don't want people to come out to support me, I want you to come out because you like the music.

Purchase tickets for the show by clicking this like right here. For more info, click here.

If you missed last year's show, check out this video:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Chronixx UK tour info + video at New York SOBs and Negril, Jamaica

Reggae's biggest name at the moment, Chronixx, will appear at Scala in London Town in just over 2 weeks time. He'll also appear in Leeds to BBC Radio 1Xtra Live on the 10th October and Birmingham at The Drum on 12th October.

Catch couple clips below

"Never Give Up"

Barrington Levy and Chronixx sing each others songs before Mr. Levy fires off some classics then Chronixx carries on the medley of Jamaican classics with The Melodyans "Rivers of Babylon".

Sourced from Boomshots

And check out this acoustic session which took place in Negril, Jamaica. "They Don't Know", "Wall St.", Protoje's "JA" interpolated with his own "Smile Jamaica".

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Protoje OnStage interview

Big up Diggy talking the truth about the Jamaican government being ashamed of and shying away from reggae. Regarding the venue, I think Usain Bolt's Tracks & Records has proven that an indoor venue with live reggae music is valid. Also speaks on "reggae revival". Trust Winford to find an opportunity to slyly cuss dancehall impact in America. Good on Protoje saying he doesn't like the separation of dancehall and reggae. And you see the people at reggae festivals in Europe? Yeah.

One of my favourite reggae artists from about 2011. Check out this mixtape collection of a bunch of his songs

Monday, 9 September 2013

Shabba Ranks talks the tings about BET Awards "reggae" tribute

Emperor of dancehall, Shabba Ranks explains why he didn't take part in the BET Awards tribute to dancehall. The "Big Dutty Stinkin'" Shabba makes a good point regarding himself being too big to join in the festivities. He also explains why he has reservations about working the stage with former nemesis Ninja Man.

I understand the sentiments about artists from other genres getting treatment as a reason for himself. He's a legend. I can also see why the artists that did perform would jump at the opportunity. I also love that he points out they always side line dancehall then bring it out like it's a novelty. Yes, emperor, tell them! This is and culture that garners interest worldwide, in many cases, bigger than them.

"Dem no intellectual like Marcus Garvey all now! None ah dem nuh fast like Usain Bolt all now! None ah dem nuh great like Shabba Ranks all now! Dem nuh bad like Bob Marley all now!" Big speech. Future quotable.

Only clip I can find of Capleton and Shabba performing together at Irie Jamborie, Barclays Center, NY.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

106 & Park does dancehall, sorry "Caribbean"

Haven't watched it yet, but posting it. Will update once I've seen it. Ge'me. Beenie Man, Mr. Vegas and Wayne Wonder all on here.


All I'm saying is I'm not really feeling how these people seem to be taking dancehall for some fad. I'm hoping they get over it soon, because anything the Yanks get hold of dies soon thereafter. But anyway, I'll watch and return with my verdict. Let's just say the line-up suggests another throwback session. I'm hoping it isn't though. Would like them to bring through some of the newer acts.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Why hasn't dancehall produced another Sean Paul?

Welcome people them. Me again, obviously. Today we here at Marvin Sparks discuss possible theories on why we feel dancehall hasn't produced another of their greatest commercial experts. This post was originally going to be a response to this ignorant post on MTV Iggy, but I held it down because that's negative energy. So, I post it as 10 years ago to the week Sean Paul scored his first UK #1 alongside Blu Cantrell. Today Sean Paul is on the verge of a top ten having already taken The Saturday's to their first top spot earlier this year and scoring the 51st best-selling song in UK last year with "She Doesn't Mind", not forgetting "Got 2 Luv U" his topped 12 national charts across the world. Longevity. ("Other Side of Love" entered at #7.)

First off, let's talk about the man in question. What makes him worthy of this post like he's a great? In short, because he is. Too often he's on the receiving end of jokes and unfair criticism, it's about time people acknowledge his achievements and celebrate him. Sean's never been a credible dancehall artist; he's an uptown yout' (middle class) doing what is essentially music from and a vocal piece for the garrison's of Jamaica. Never going to get credibility when up against people from that environment.

He saw a bit of success early in his career with songs like "Infiltrate", "Deport Dem" and "Hot Gal Today" with Mr. Vegas (both of whom did a song with DMX for and appeared in that Hype Williams-directed movie, Belly), but all those paled in comparison with "Gimme The Light" onwards.

"Gimme The Light" wasn't even spun in authentic clubs or on radio. Cobra's "Press Trigger", Elephant Man "Haters Wanna War" and Sizzla's controversial "Pump Up Har..." were all in pecking order before Sean Paul's breakout hit. If memory serves correctly, DJ's in other Caribbean islands and Miami/NY Latino community picked up on it first. Debut mainstream album Dutty Rock took the world by storm, selling in excess of 8 million worldwide, Grammy winner, boasted a feature on Beyoncé's second-longest running #1 ("Baby Boy"), gave Blu Cantrell her only massive hit, chart-topper "Breathe", nominated for best new artist alongside 50 Cent, blah dah di, blah di dah...

More importantly for dancehall (in a pop music sense), he took authentic dancehall to the top of the pops, racking up top tens and number ones on charts across the globe with fresh-off-the-dancefloor dancehall riddims.  No one else has done this so consistently in the history of Jamaican music. Sean's predecessor, Shaggy, sold over 10 million copies of Hotshot with reggae-influenced songs, "It Wasn't Me" and "Angel".

Following the VP/Atlantic partnership, an influx of big money majors pumped funds into capitalising on the wave of credible dancehall songs (not dancehall-lite or dancehall-infused/inspired or whatever else people like to call it) and all seemed like it was ready to go full-blown mainstream. Virgin finally let Beenie Man release an authentic song, "Dude" and not to mention the amount of American artists doing dancehall songs (Lumidee, Nina Sky, Christina Milian to name a few), plus Def Jam's Def Jamaica compilation. And would Def Jam have ventured to the islands for their own princess, Rihanna, without this movement?

That was all until the plug was pulled when gay-rights group Outrage! launched an attack on the artists with homophobic lyrics. "Murder music" they dubbed it. A whole heap of headlines, concert pickets and that kinda thing. Their leader, Peter Tatchell, gave speeches on the news, outside concerts and wherever he could, really. It didn't matter whether an artist said a lyric yesterday or a decade before (in case of Buju Banton), they were all banned from performing. Literally, the whole dancehall scene came to a standstill from live performances to major labels. MOBO Awards removed artists that year from the reggae award. To this day, gay rights groups still lobby events despite artists signing a compassionate act which meant artists won't perform any of those lyrics. (Check Beenie Man's video last year.)

That's probably the biggest factor. Well, in my eyes anyway. Now every dancehall artist is homophobic until proven otherwise. You'll be hard pressed to find an article that doesn't mention it. And how do you prove otherwise? It's only those who are fully in tune with the goings on in dancehall and manage to keep up with the high amount of releases who can really say. How many of those type of people work in labels or media?

The internet also messed up dancehall immensely. Piracy lead to closure of most long standing independent record shops. Jamaican music forms across the decades have never been big sellers in major retailers like HMV, Our Price etc. The battle for shelf space was way too hard and probably not worth the hassle compared with the market stalls and black high street shops. Reggae sells over time as there isn't a massive marketing push for first week sales.

Also, DJ's that once upon a time had to buy the latest batch of dance floor fillers could rely on peer-to-peer or legal and illegal email blasts - even YouTube file converters. These methods are also used by average consumers. All of this had a tremendous knock-on effect in dancehall. Probably more than any of the other forefathers of modern music.

Unlike other forms of music, producers usually pay artists to record on their riddims. Long story short, producers made the money from sales (45s/singles) and licensing on compilations, artists got theirs from dubplates and bookings. Artists in the digital age still get theirs, producers don't. Producers weren't seeing the same money so the talent pool suffers.

Since Sean's breakthrough, the mainstream industry became a lot more corporate and less risks were taken as a result of the internet. Labels rarely sign anything that isn't already a hit, but how do you prove a hit without sales? In fact, labels cut back on signing dance floor fillers across the board, preferring to create their own based on graphs and equations. UK majors found the pen for floor-fillers a lot this year, so that's good. Shame they took so long or flopped on Gyptian "Hold You" and Serani "No Games" respectively.

Radio stations are (or have become more) reliant on corporate money via adverts, so as listening figures dwindle due to people listening to music on various mediums they take less risks. The music pretty much serves as content to sell adverts meaning stations play songs they know hold listeners so they can sell advertising space at premium price. This is why they rely on playlist music than ever before and why most songs sound the same. They're the tried-and-tested songs that keep listeners tuned in even though one of the main complaints by former radio listeners is they play the same songs. But that's another post.

Dancehall isn't supported financially like other forms of music and it's foreign music (no subtitles on radio for the Patois), therefore takes longer to break. Radio isn't interested in breaking songs that may alienate some regular listeners for 3 minutes cos that's less people listening to adverts. (Big up BBC Radio 1Xtra. They are able to take risks, regularly making reggae and dancehall songs A-list on their playlist because they're publicly funded.)

As a result of all of the above, sales of reggae and dancehall haven't been good resulting in a myth that people don't care for Jamaican dancehall. I make a point of saying Jamaican dancehall because we know the dancehall sound is influential in many current international pop hits. Song below is on course for third week at #1 in UK and charted in numerous territories including Australia and accross Europe.

So when you consider dancehall isn't on corporate radio nor pushed, how are people meant to buy what they don't know is available? Current sales of reggae albums are always slated in Jamaican press. I always read these articles and think "Well, how much do you expect?" Answer is probably something closer to what mainstream artists, especially hip hop and r&b do. I understand wanting the best, but you have to be real and keep things in perspective.

People that compare dancehall to hip hop in terms of exposure, radio play and sales in US are absolute imbeciles. It isn't and (probably) never will be as big as hip hop in USA. And that's another thing, why do they only judge dancehall and reggae's by its presence in America like the rest of the world doesn't matter? But again, that's another post.

So onto how things will improve.

Let's start with my take on popular dancehall in-crowd complaints/theories:

Has to sound old skool = bullshit. Lack of enunciation = bullshit. Dancehall sounds too much like other forms of American music = to some extent. Too many riddims = bullshit.

The speech thing. Jamaicans don't speak English like Americans or English so it's harder for the untrained ear. That's never stopped people in the past - including Sean Paul. A quick read of comments on his videos will all have "Sean Paulish" - a creative term coined by fans for the language he speaks. Would it help? Yeah. Is it a necessity or holding songs back? No. People love the riddims and how the artists ride a riddim. Melodies and hooks run the club world.

Too many riddims is another stupid one said by stupid people that don't understand the music they speak of. Trust me, calling them stupid isn't rude, it's up there with the stupidest things to say. Dancehall's always had too many riddims. Too many rubbish cuts on riddims have been about for a long enough time too. Difference is radio DJ's filtered them back in the day. Either that or you told the man behind the counter to "Nah boss" when he played a waste cut. Now it's available on YouTube so we the consumer have to filter through.

The cream always rises to the top. Ask those same people "So, which riddims would you say didn't do well because of this 'Too many riddims' criticism?" They'll be dumbfounded. Try it, I've done it numerous times. Good songs and will always be the minority. Get over it. Yes, it's extremely hard to keep up, but hear what, feel free to listen to the radio that's catching dust in the corner like you did back in the day. They still filter it for you.

The '90s produced some really big songs, but hello, the '00s contributed more authentic dancehall riddims to chart hits. And how many '90s riddims still get played today? Usually the same one. It tends to be people from the older generation saying this or people that only know a song is good because it sounds like something that worked in the past. That regressive attitude prevalent attitude in the music industry.

Just because it worked then doesn't mean it'll work now. That's the thing with nostalgia, it clouds opinion. Neither of his Billboard #1's, "Temperature" or "Get Busy" sounded like '90s dancehall. "We Be Burnin'" kicked off The Trinity album campaign and was progressive dancehall.

This leads me to the "Dancehall sounds to much like other forms of American music". There's a point in here, but you have to go to the root of it. Jamaican music changed the way much of American urban music sounded in the '00s. It wasn't unusual for big name producers such as R. Kelly, Timbaland, The Neptunes, Swizz Beats, Lil' Jon (he was massive at one point) and StarGate to create their take on dancehall music. Sean Paul acknowledges it in an interview I conducted with him couple years ago.

Some Jamaican producers take that as a "Hey, you've mixed your sound with ours and made money. I must be able to do the same and get the same results." That isn't how it works when you don't have the machine. Jamaican radio needs to leggo the overwhelming hip hop stuff too. This is the first generation of Jamaican producers that have grown under the influence of American and hip hop propaganda, so they don't value the Jamaican sound and culture the same way previous did.

Are the current crop of artists really as bad as some dancehall detractors claim? This generation isn't standing on levels with previous. Many don't offer variety or consistency as previous stars have for many reasons. But here's another reason why those who criticise dancehall are hypocrites; how many of them were saying Sean Paul would become the breakout star he is today? Chances are not many. It was meant to be Beenie Man. There are some really good artists with potential to be big with guidance. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

In my opinion, dancehall can be a force today. It's still very relevant in clubs, songs hit over 1 million views based on word of mouth and clubs. All it needs is someone at a label to understand who to sign and what to do. Thing is, if this happens the elders will shut up and understand the music is still good. But they are too stupid to understand that it takes more than a good song to sell today. It's called the music business for a reason.

Who's to say there ever will be another Sean Paul? There wasn't one before him. And all four singles released from Dutty Rock are classic dance floor fillers to this day ("Gimme The Light", "Get Busy", "Like Glue" and "I'm Still In Love"). "Temperature" and "We Be Burnin'" are classics from The Trinity. "Baby Boy" and "Breathe" are classic collaborations. That's a lot of classics. Not easy for any artist in any genre.

But after writing all that, I'd like to say I'd hate for dancehall fully crossed over. I'd be happy with a few crossover hits and a healthy industry. I know a few commercial hits would open doors for the music to be promoted properly. There's a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed internally. I can't be bothered to disclose all I think. This post is already long. You can read this and read between lines for what I didn't say. Feel free to pay me for consultancy. Email's above. Let me know if there's stuff you don't agree with in the comments. As I said, these are just my theories.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Why I hope reggae never crosses over in USA (formerly "Why reggae doesn't need Snoop Lion")

That's right. We here at Marvin Sparks never want to see reggae succeed in mainstream USA. I began writing this in about March, so the Snoop Lion thing doesn't hit the way it should. Nor did the album, but hey, that's another post for another day. Excuse the delay. But anyway, let me explain why.

I questioned a US-based dancehall & reggae radio DJ on comments she made about Snoop Lion being good for reggae and hoping it crosses over to American masses so other Jamaicans can follow. Over the course of the Twitter conversation I said "reggae doesn't need Snoop Lion," before ending on "I hope reggae never crosses to mainstream America" to which she replied "You alone wish that". To be fair, she's pretty close to 100% correct so I didn't dispute the point lol.

However, I don't mind being alone if that's the case.

American mainstream has a great way of pumping money into something, taking ownership, manipulating the narrative, marginalising the authentic cultural (or in their eyes controversial) aspect original fans grew to love then spew out something barely recognisable. Bit like gentrification of residential areas; area becomes famous (or infamous for negative incidents), demonised by mainstream media which in turn makes it quite cool/edgy to some "normal" people. Government raise taxes to move out the "troublesome" folk that brought culture, move in new people who tell their friends they're associated with something cool that's now safe. The old folk see the area as "not what it used to be", but it makes a lot more money for those who own it, so who cares?

Her, like many others, see potential opportunity for money (investment and personal "success") and recognition. I totally hear that, I used to think the same. It's regarded as the elite market in the music field. But you have to question at what cost?

Eventually, it brings new fans whom in reality love it for the cool reputation it gained when it was edgy, but ultimately for what it isn't; usually soulless and tacky records for mass appeal. A few people make money from it until it becomes corny and people move on. If you aren't quite convinced ask yourself these questions; which current rock band is for the disenfranchised Sex Pistols, Nirvana or Linkin Park? Which rapper out there represents like Public Enemy, NWA, 2Pac? Reckon an album like Marvin Gaye "What's Going On?" would breathe today? Or Lauryn Hill's Miseducation...? Read this piece by rapper K'naan about self-censorship or this about M.I.A. who says the label blocked her album because it's too positive.

Why aren't there artists that provide "alternative" commentary or a voice for the voiceless? Why is today's music so boring and disconnected from what we regular folk consider real life?

Is the capitalist marketing tool better known as hip hop is the best mainstream has to offer? What was once the voice of the silent majority plays right into the hands of the loud minority. Guitar music a.k.a. rock is a shadow of its former self. None of the new rock guys are rebels. Then you have dance music (known to Yanks as EDM) pop and corporate pop, be it pop-rock, pop-rnb or pop-hip-hop.

Don't get me wrong, they all produce good songs, but nothing like the reality, uplifting and spiritual themes we know and love reggae for. Reggae stands for everything America's rulers and corporations are against - unity amongst all, especially the working class. It is the sound of revolution. Bob Marley was invited to perform at the independence of Zimbabwe because his music inspired them. Sizzla invited to Zimbabwe 30 years later. Many South Africans love Peter Tosh for his support for them during apartheid. Recently relative newcomer Chronixx performed a peace concert in Kenya during their election. Those genres don't have that appeal.

If reggae were governing power in a country, news outlet's like Fox News would say it's run by dictators and friends with Cuba, Russia, North Korea and/or China. Probably launch an outrageous smear campaign against its politicians Sizzla, Buju Banton, Capleton, Vybz Kartel, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer saying their way is against the American modern way in attempt to annihilate the threat they pose, which in most cases is simply a truer alternative way of thinking. One that challenges status quo and raises questions about inequality and an unfair system (or in the words of the great Peter Tosh, "shitstem").

In short, reggae music is socialist, the US is capitalist. America will not give a mouth to those supporting a "leftist regime". Corporate pop music is about how great you're doing, boasting about your riches, sexual prowess and how great your life is.  You know, party, whores and hunks. Especially where black people are concerned. Anything that makes money for their machine in terms of sponsorship etc.

Another moment to have a little think: who would you say are black America's equivalent to Bob Marley in popularity on global scale? And out of the few you think are suitable candidates, think of their 3 most famous songs and what did/do they stand for? Now ask yourself, of all the money that American artists are assigned for marketing purposes to gain ears, how comes they haven't impacted on the world the same way Bob did? Remember Bob brought through a whole new faith, lifestyle and inspired revolutions while speaking for the people and came from a ghetto in a small Caribbean island he put on the world's map.

And being that reggae is supposed to be for Zion against Babylon, why would you desire validation of Zion music in Babylon?

So, yeah, if you support the commercialisation of reggae in USA, be prepared for the marginalisation of the essence of reggae music. The voice of revolution. Or what they'll call "terrorism". Let's keep it in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australasia/the Pacific. Those people judge music by what they feel not what's pumped in them.

So in a roundabout way, no reggae does not need Snoop Lion at all. It survives just fine in non-US markets as it always has done. Maybe Jamaican  media should stop focusing on one country and look at the world.

Gonna embed something others may think about reggae crossing over:

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Them dodgy US covers by UK artists there [The Risk - "Peaches & Cream" + more]

Maaaaaaaaaaate. Actually, let me tell you what (initially) inspired this post. JLS break up. "Devastating news I didn't see coming" - said no one. We knew it was curtains when we heard their "Hottest Girl In The World" song. You know the knock-off Justin Timberlake sounding song? Pretty rubbish, but all the urbanites like it because it sounded, like, an erm, Justin Timberlake song from back in the day. Worst thing is Justin Bieber pulled the exact same stunt a few months earlier ("Boyfriend") so it was a knock-off Justin Bieber, knocking off Justin Timberlake. New thing is "Just because it sounds familiar, doesn't mean it's good".

Pretty bad, isn't it? Problem is I can see a bunch of Sony a&r's, marketing dept. and general suits, (well they wear trendy gear now, but you know who I mean) sat bumping their heads slightly off-beat, slight foot tap before saying "This sounds really edgy and current for JLS. Justin Bieber released something just like this. R&B is coming back now." The points are kinda on point, except the song. The song is not good. That's what matters.

But anyway, the reason I post this today is because fellow X-Factor boy group contestants, The Risk, decided to cover 112's classic dancefloor filler "Peaches & Cream". Admittedly, it became a very predictable song in clubs. Always followed by Jagged Edge "Where The Party At?" alas a staple in the DJ box and definitely an untouchable song. Their first song "Missiles" flopped so this is definitely desperate times = "Hey, let's cover a song that's already been big. We'll get a hit"

Listen to their attempted murder take on the classic below.

Was it worth it? Really?

Anyway, thought I'd go on a journey of other "Who on your team said this was a good idea? Let me 'ave 'im?! C'mon!" covers. Sadly, most of them went to #1. It's times like those I despair for the British buying public's ears.

Stooshe - "Waterfalls" - #21 in November 2012

London girl group Stooshe covered the biggest TLC song ever. Thankfully, they were wise enough to hold their hands up and admit it wasn't good. Nothing more to say there. Oh the rap was pretty cool.

Mis-Teeq "Roll On/ This Is How We Do It" #7 in June 2002

 Then I remembered Mis-Teeq created a mash-up of Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It" and (dunno where the original comes from, but...) Big Pun ft. Joe "Still Not A Player"

Oh man. Why?! To be fair, worse is still to come. Thought I'd let you in with a gentle stroke.

Another Level - "Freak Me" #1 in July 1998

Next song I remembered, Another Level - "Freak Me". This song offended me, but not as much as other songs to follow. UK pop boyband covering a genuine classic '90s slow jam by Silk before it even left our conscious mind (originally released in 1992). Didn't know Keith Sweat co-wrote and co-produced it until now, but I'm not surprised. The chorus is him bang on. This second release by the equal opportunities abiding boy group's became their first #1 single. Original didn't chart in the UK. So, maybe it was a blessing for the song. I dunno.

I'm not gonna lie though, as I listen to it now it doesn't sound as bad as I remembered. Actually, I'm listening again, the chorus is decent, the verses are horrible.

Blue - "Too Close" #1 August 2001

Now, if the above was covered too early, this one takes the mick. The original by r&b group Next topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1998 - Blue covered it in 2001. And unlike Silk "Freak Me" it charted in the UK, peaking at #24. I wanted to punch someone for this. Hated Blue for a while due to this crime. They had no right.

Once again, second single produced their first chart-topper. Weird similarity to Another Level, but I've always kinda thought they were Another Level 2.0.

Blazing Squad - "Crossroads" #1 in August 2002

If the above made we want to punch someone, this one had me dreaming I'd catch members slipping. We used to have convo's in school about catching the slipping. I obviously didn't partake in the conversations about "eats" and "striping them puxxyholes" 'cos I'm not really that kinda guy.

These guys were serial classic killers. Let's not forget they sampled Zapp & Rodger "Computer Love" on "Reminisce"

Billie Piper - G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T - B-side on debut single "Because We Want To"

You probably didn't even know the former Doctor Who assistant's cover of this mid-90s r&b classic existed. Neither did I until I spotted it on Spotify last year when searching for the original. Bruv, who the hell let her cover this?! Total insult. I understand she was  young at the time, but someone should've been wise enough to know "Someone's tell me some boot is going down" isn't an acceptable radio edit of bullsh!t. "Bull" or nothing.

Just read this was the B-side on her debut single "Because We Want To" which went to #1 when she was younger than 16 (can't remember if she was 14 or 15 but she was the youngest female artist to debut at #1). I hope Changing Faces were compensated appropriately for this travesty.

She must cringe at her music now, boy lol.

Also, just seen she covered reggae vocal group's The Paragon's "The Tide Is High". This was scheduled to be her fourth single from second album. Thankfully it wasn't released as she took a break from music following court case against some stalker chick. Get in!

Sounds strangely similar to the Atomic Kitten song released a couple years later. Hmm...

If you can think of any I've missed, feel free to comment or @ me on Twitter (@MarvinSparks). That doesn't include all the UK Rap stuff over American hip hop beats or the numerous UK rappers using Meek Mill's flow. Singles only. Thanks in advance.