Dancehall Artists Clean Up Their Act

Dancehall Artists Clean Up Their Act - A decade ago a gay rights group called for the arrest of several singers over lyrics they said incited violence.

Busy Signal - Dancehall artist


With Bruno Mars and Wyclef Jean guesting on Diplo's new Major Lazer album, Jamaican artist Busy Signal guesting on No Doubt's comeback record and bass-heavy tunes heard in Britain's hipster clubs, Jamaican dancehall seems to be enjoying a peak of influence on mainstream pop and underground dance.

And yet, a decade ago, the genre was mired in controversy.

As a musical term, dancehall has been used since the '80s to describe a distinct style emphasising rhythm over melody, with Sly & Robbie among its most famed producers.

A step-change came with the ditching of in-house bands for pure digital instrumentation, providing a platform for the high-energy ragga vocalists that emerged in the '90s and vied to provide the killer line over popular backing tracks, or riddims.

Much of the lyrical content, about guns and girls, was instantly familiar to hip-hop fans, though it was the occasional homophobic number that proved poisonous when dancehall artists started to achieve wider fame in the early 2000s.

An early warning shot came with Buju Banton's Boom Bye Bye, an especially vile example that seemed to call for the murder of gay men and helped lead to a campaign against homophobic content that gathered strength as a new wave of Jamaican artists began to cross over.

In 2003, gay rights group OutRage! called for the arrest of several dancehall singers because of lyrics they saw as inciting violence, including Elephant Man, who was gaining a UK foothold.

Tracks were pulled off iTunes, gigs cancelled and the Mobo awards withdrew nominations from targeted performers, among them the fierce Vybz Kartel.

At first, Jamaican artists defended their right to free speech, claiming the campaign was racist, but most have chosen to clean up their acts.

In 2007, Sizzla and Beenie Man were reported to have signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, an agreement condemning anti-gay violence. By then, though, dancehall's global push had run out of steam, though whether that is all down to OutRage! is hard to discern.

Certainly now the dancehall sound is sounding fresh to a new generation of pop and dance acts. Diplo, the American DJ and producer who has worked with everyone from MIA to Usher, embarked on his first dancehall-influenced project in 2009, the debut Major Lazer album Guns Don't Kill People Lazers Do.

It is best known for the bonkers, carnival-esque track Pon de Floor, sampled on Beyonce's 2011 mega-hit Run the World (Girls).

For its follow-up, Free the Universe, which came out in New Zealand recently, Diplo has called in a wider range of contacts. As well as Wyclef Jean and R'n'B crooner Bruno Mars, there are performances by female indie protagonists: the producer has called in left-field rapper and feminist artist Peaches plus Dirty Projectors' singer/guitarist Amber Coffman, two artists who would have little truck with anti-gay rhetoric.

Free the Universe again features the cream of the Caribbean island's music scene. Vybz appears once more, alongside a typically exuberant cameo from Elephant Man, plus a range of less familiar names that demonstrates how dancehall remains a vital force. The most established figure among them is the smooth-voiced Busy Signal.

Last year, Busy featured on the Diplo-produced title track from No Doubt's comeback album, Push and Shove, suggesting he might be ripe for overseas success himself.

Signed to influential VP Records, Busy has shown he can draw on reggae's rich heritage as on last year's Reggae Music Again set. There is a closer meeting of the generations on Diplo's other, higher-profile assignment, as executive producer for Snoop Dogg's move into Jamaican music, Reincarnated, that sees the West Coast hip-hop veteran reinvent himself as a reggae artist, Snoop Lion.

Diplo crops up on Vice's documentary film of the same title.

Snoop's pull attracted reggae legend and former Bob Marley collaborator Bunny Wailer to guest on the album alongside much younger names, among them former Vybz acolytes Popcaan and Mavado.

Interest in Snoop's Reincarnated project is keen, ahead of the album's release later this month.

It remains to be seen, though, if homegrown artists can gain international leverage.

- Independent
By Chris Mugan

Return to Dancehall Reggae World homepage from Dancehall artists Clean up their act page

Go to dancehall and reggae music culture page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Articles On Dancehall Reggae Music You Might Have Missed ......

Also connect with Dancehallreggaeworld.com on Social Media: 
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Thank You!

P.S. Didn't find exactly what you were looking for? Still need help?

Click Here to try our dependable and effective Site Search tool. It works!

Or, simply click here and here, to browse my library of over 500 questions and answers! Chances are someone already asked (and got an answer to) your question.


What's New?  
Click Here
to see the VERY latest articles and features.
 

Recent Articles

  1. Reggae artist Sean Paul and Wife Jinx Welcome Baby Girl

    Aug 20, 19 04:39 PM

    Reggae artist Sean Paul and Wife Jinx Welcome Baby Girl - Jamaican international dancehall deejay Sean Paul and his wife Jodi Henriques (Jinx), have welcomed a new baby to their family.

    Read More

  2. Reggae artist Tia released video for Reggae Music Sweet

    Aug 20, 19 03:07 PM

    Reggae artist Tia released video for Reggae Music Sweet - Upcoming female Reggae St. Croix Virgin Islands recording artist Tia is back with the video to her latest single "Reggae Music Sweet".

    Read More

  3. Protect Mauna Kea - Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley

    Aug 20, 19 01:51 PM

    Protect Mauna Kea - Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley visits Hawaii to “Protect Mauna Kea” from the invasive project. If you would like to support, please visit and sign the petition…

    Read More

  4. Reggae artist Mortimer - Careful Lyrics

    Aug 20, 19 12:35 PM

    Reggae artist Mortimer - Careful Lyrics - Yeah yeah Woo yeah Woo yeah, yeah Yeah woo Well in come the man called Mortimer You better Overstand now Overstand now A no every smile a smile Sometimes it t…

    Read More

  5. D Major That's What Loves About Lyrics

    Aug 20, 19 11:45 AM

    D Major That's What Loves About Lyrics - Sleepness nights stressfull days joy and pain with a little heartache it's Major all this things come with love me and my baby we have our problems but we alwa…

    Read More

[?]Subscribe To This Site
  • XML RSS
  • follow us in feedly
  • Add to My Yahoo!