Ever since Kool Herc brought Jamaican sound system culture to the Bronx and birthed a billion-dollar industry called hip-hop, dancehall reggae has been the ghost in the American urban music machine. From island-flavored beats to yardie slang, Jamaican music has always exerted a profound if under-recognized influence on genres ranging from rap to R&B, rock, and pop. EDM? That was invented in Jamaica too.
Whether it was Yellowman and Run-D.M.C., Shabba Ranks and KRS-ONE, or Super Cat and Biggie Smalls, collaborations between dancehall and hip-hop artists have been going on for a long while now. These things go in cycles—the last big explosion began around 2002 when Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and Wayne Wonder flooded the airwaves with raw uncut dancehall.
But in the past year there has been an explosion of something a little bit different. While a handful of Jamaican artists like Mr. Vegas and Konshens have enjoyed Stateside radio play, droves of international artists are incorporating elements of dancehall style into their own—a mountain of mash-up.
From Snoop Lion to Selena Gomez, reggae seems to be everywhere this summer. Even televised award shows are getting in on the act. In an effort to make sense of the trend and what it means for actual Jamaican music, we've rewound back through the past several months to separate the yardcore from the Ja-fakin'.