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:


  1. O my friend you put a point across so well.. I love how you have facts to back what you say and say it in such an intellectual way.

    The Impact Bob had on the world is yet to be matched, if i asked my grandma & great grandma who Bob was she would know. That can't be said for many.

    Good post

  2. BRILLIANT in every way . You hit 14 nails on the head ALL AT ONCE ... lol

    Reggae & Dancehall ALWAYS seems to get a windown of opportunity to BUSS out in the USA at the beginning of EVERY decade (since 80's especially) and ....

    guess what .... there is ALWAYS something that hinders it ...
    In the 80s - the Music Video ++ Bob passed away ++ Yellowman's Jaw operation
    In the 90s - Gangsta rap v East Coast ++ Dub Plate phenonmenon
    In the 2000s _ Reggaton ++ Passa Passa DVD's
    In the 2010's _ efffin SNOOP on 1 level ++ Selectors who come and play Hip Hop and Soca when they SHOULD be playing One-Drop /Roots / Lover's tunes .

    - Junior Rodigan