Sunday, 28 January 2018

A win for Damian Marley is another L for Reggae Grammy

Yeah, i said it. Damian Marley does not deserve to win the best Reggae Grammy. Everyone’s sitting on the fence, not me. It’s cut and dry to me. 

I’d have bet my last penny he will win if I were a betting man. In fact, I’ve been calling Stony Hill a Grammy-winning album since he finally announced the release date. The much-delayed album, pushed back maybe three times, “conveniently” dropped less than a month after Chronixx’s much-anticipated Chronology. If I thought it was a bit too much of a coincidence, I wasn't any less convinced when I heard the second track “Here We Go” where he says “no punk can’t finish what Bob Marley started”. Who was that aimed at then?

And the way I feel about that song and album is basically how the Grammy’s will be represented this year if they give it to Damian Marley. Regressive. Elitist. Or is they say in Jamaica a "Fight 'gainst the youths!"

Chronixx made a far more innovative and cohesive body of work, one that expands on what reggae is and a reggae artist can be. He produced or co-produced about 7 songs too. He stood for the marginalised on songs (Black is Beautiful and Selassie Children), gave us both light and dark sides of Jamaica (Smile Jamaica and Ghetto Paradise), an uplifting and a honest love songs (Majesty and Loneliness) and tear-jerker moments like Legend and Tell Me Now encouraging us to appreciate each other. He had string arrangements, hip hop, EDM alongside dancehall and reggae. Spanish Town Rocking and Majesty were already popular in 2016 and Smile Jamaica is one of the Chronixx classics from his breakout period. He added with dancehall banger Likes and uplifting reggae jam Skankin Sweet to his running the radio and dance side of the catalogue. 

Damian Marley on the other hand made a soft, easy listening, fence-sitting (read boring, predictable, bland, generic, uninspired) album. Everyone is scared to call it for what it is because his reputation as a top class artist who has provided some of reggae's best work precedes him. He made one of the greatest song’s and album both called Welcome To Jamrock. His album Distant Relatives with Nas is an unappreciated classic released years before woke began trending. But be honest, what standout songs are on there? Medication is your typical west coast surfer and European hipster idea of reggae. I’ve never heard it on the radio or in a dance. All the other singles released before the album flopped too. 

Nobody calls someone washed up in the initial stages of the fall off. Mainly because they have form is temporary, class is permanent, but people will catch up in due course and see he isn't what he was. Anywhere near. 

Chronixx should be rewarded for being the current reflection of reggae. He has helped push reggae forward. He is from the reggae revival generation who are inspired by Damian Marley, another reason why it would be regressive to give to Damian. Chronixx did a 40-something date tour of US, then returned to support Lauryn Hill and Nas on tour. He returned to Jimmy Fallon’s show. He did a brand partnership with Adidas. He sold out two highly-praised shows in Jamaica’s main cities, Kingston and Montego Bay (something nobody else has done). Damian Marley hasn't done anything except pop-up with Damian Marley on SNL, a small tour and his very necessary Welcome To Jamrock cruise.

Chronology has been voted number one album by all reggae outlets across the board whether fan or journo created, top 50 on Rolling Stone, Mass Appeal, Noisey’s underrated and more. Damian’s album hasn’t topped any. I repeat, he doesn’t have any breakout songs. That says everything. It’s a calm album. Not too far from what you expected but nothing you remember or really want to revisit. He delivered the bare minimum. And Grammy’s will probably reward him because he’s a Marley with a track record. And that’s why the Reggae Grammy doesn’t mean anything seriously. 

In fact, I think Welcome To Jamrock and Sean Paul's Dutty Rock are probably the only time they’ve rewarded something that deserved it. Buju never got it for a culturally relevant album that had any songs anyone cares for. Morgan Heritage too. And Beenie Man. Shabba had three songs people care for. Black Uhuru's had two. They all won it because their names were up there. Nearly every other winner has a Marley name, was in the Wailers, appeared in The Harder They Come or had a massive crossover single.

Sizzla’s never won. I-Wayne never won for Lava Ground. Luciano hasn’t won. Not even sure if either have been nominated. Protoje has never been nominated despite being one of the most exciting and innovative for the past ten years. I mean, I could go on and on, 'cause as Buju said "The full has never been told". 

The best Reggae Grammy award is the most overrated thing about reggae after the Billboard Reggae chart. It’s great to put in the press release and cabinet but its track record shows it doesn’t really mean anything beyond popularity or time put in (or connections you’ve made). If Damian Marley wins, it’s still bun the Grammy’s. If Chronixx wins, it's well-deserved. Straight.