Sunny reggae or dark dancehall? Jamaica’s soundtrack alternates between dark and light, and for at least half a century Marley’s island has influenced world pop (and vice versa), and remained at the forefront of sonic experimentation.
In 2021, Kingston’s hardcore dancehall is still as creative and wild as ever. Alkaline, the man with black tattooed eyeballs, has lit up the airwaves with his frenetic chatter on “Deh Suh”. Vybz Kartel, sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014, dominates the competition from his cell, recording a huge anthem to the “Badman” of the ghettos remixed by the New Yorkers Massive B. ‘Di plane crash with di coke!’ Skillibeng repeats on “Coke”, with a digital riddim made up of layers of anxiety-inducing violins, currently to be heard playing on repeat on many sound systems.
Kingston tends to give birth to dark, rough beats, but in other studios a modern rasta nu-roots sound is still produced. Tarrus Riley, Luciano, Tanya Stephens and Eesah are all part of this tradition in their own way. We can hear Lila Iké’s voice too, which doesn't prevent her from forming a perfect duet with Skillibeng on “Thy Will”, proof that reggae and dancehall really are two sides of the same coin.
This playlist also features young female singers who have broken through on the international scene in the last two or three years, such as the provocative Shenseea (“No Limit” with Moyann), the Rasta follower Koffee (remix of “Pressure” with Buju Banton), and others such as Jaz Elise who can be heard on “Fresh & Clean” with Govana.