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My Prediction: Reggae is on the Rise

I just noticed that there are three Reggae inspired songs on Hot 97's current playlist (the list changes every week so that link may not show what I mean next week). They are: "Pon The River, Pon the Bank" by Elephant Man, "Baby Boy" by Beyonce f/ Sean Paul, and "Dem Nah Ready" by 50 Cent f/ Sean Paul. What does this all mean? Nothing right now. But my prediction is that next season we will see many more hip-hop and R&B artists lacing their songs with a bit of dancehall flavor.

It makes sense too. We have inherited many of our sonic customs from that Caribbean genre. And our forefather is from Jamaica. The blending of Reggae and Hip-hop is seamless and well tested. Just ask KRS-One.

So listen up all you trendy hip-hop journalists out there- pitch this bleeding edge story to your editor: Neo-soul is out, Southern rap is in, but up next will be Reggea!

October 25, 2003 in Commentary | Link Me | Related Searches | Related Music

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» Reggae, the Next Big Ting? from Move the Crowd
Madison is predicting that reggae (dancehall) is on the rise. I'd love to see it happen but I feel a sense of déjà vu. Didn't we go through this about 10-15 years ago (damn I'm getting old) when Shabba Ranks,... [Read More]

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I've been trying to tell people about this forever. It took 20 years for American music to catch up with JA. And we still have some things to learn.

The only problem is the slanguage barrier. There will always be a language barrier that will limit popularity. But I also think reggae's influence will continue. The sad thing, though, is that Jamaican music has become even more stale than American.

Posted by: eric at Oct 27, 2003 2:31:12 AM

Actually, the whole "sound systems inspired hip-hop" thing is debatable. It's easily packaged, especially thanks to Kool Herc, which has made the notion widespread, but when you get right down to it rap's roots in American black music are way deeper than anything it got from Jamaica. Thank 1950's rock DJs, talking blues, Gil Scot-Heron and Isaac MFin' Hayes for really bringing the whole concept of rapping home. Also, reggae may be the next thing, but garage is the NEXT next thing:

Posted by: David at Oct 27, 2003 9:56:20 AM

King Stitt
Big Youth
Prince Jazzbo
Dr. Alimantado

Beginning in the late 1960s, Jamaican "deejays" started rapping over syncopated instrumentals, in order to excite local crowds. The methods these deejays used were toasts, popular sayings, slang, rhyming, exhortations and wild antics. But rarely did the deejay sing in a traditional manner.

The difference between Jocko Henderson, Isaac Hayes, Gil Scott, the Last Poets -- most of whom were CONTEMPORARIES of these reggae artists -- is that all these other cats were generally singing over a live band. The Last Poets are maybe the closest thing to rap. But when you listen to the early Jamaican deejays... the difference becomes clear, I think.

Africans have a diaspora. And their contributions are not limited by borders. Jamaican music not only had a large influence on hip hop, it also had a large influence on punk in both the U.S. and U.K.

I think all you gotta do is listen to some of the aforementioned artists and the affinities should become clear.

On your last point (about Garage), though... you may be right.

Posted by: eric at Oct 27, 2003 3:50:26 PM

Well, maybe I overstated my point. I can't say that reggae didn't influence rapping . . . but I think the whole reggae lineage is so easy that other influences get shortchanged. It's a sort of retroactive mythology, not necessarily untrue, just incomplete. The parallel on the musical side is everyone's belief that DJs in the Bronx were all rocking James Brown breaks in 1979. Afrika Bambaata loved Kraftwerk and disco, man. Don't forget that.

Posted by: David at Oct 28, 2003 5:17:30 PM

Also, I noticed that T.O.K. have a track on the Hot 97 chart, a bit further down. Speaking of Jamaican music sucking . . .

Posted by: David at Oct 28, 2003 5:19:54 PM

you've noticed that 112 brought back supercat and sean paul has blazed many tracks this year and busta has been partnering with dancehall artists for years. peep the latest lil jon remis with elephant man and busta. dancehall and hip hop are so interrelated it's no joke. on the real, they came up from similar struggles. i have so much more to say but i'm gonna' let others chime in.

Posted by: lynne at Oct 28, 2003 9:50:19 PM

From Jeff Chang's review of "The Message"...

"But the record -- written by Sugar Hill house band percussionist Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher clearly under the influence of "Red" (Black Uhuru's reaction to the violence-torn, economically ravaged Jamaican landscape)....

All I gotta say is that when I visited Flatbush a few years back, I didn't necessarily feel like I was in New York, you know? If you walk down the street and people are blasting P-Funk on one side... and Junior Murvin on the other... who gets credit for the music made in this neighborhood?

This article states that there are currently over 500,000 West Indians in New York City, predominantly Jamaicans and Haitians. Hell, even Coxonne Dodd -- arguably the pivotal figure of reggae music -- lives in NYC.

What surprises me most is that almost no American music before the late 1970s sounds anything like the rap music of the following decades. Take a listen to Yellowman and Brigadiers Jerry, circa 1978-1980. At exactly the same time that disco was being eclipsed by hip hop, these Jamaican cats had vocal techniques that would go unmatched until the late 1980s. And those instrumentals Yellowman and Jerry rapped over were some of the illest LIVE instrumentals you will ever hear.

Ask yourself how many rap artists are West Indian, or have West Indian friends or family. The 2000 census finds 1 out of 2 New Yorkers is West Indian. You do the math.

To me, the whole point of giving credit to Jamaica is two-fold. First and foremost is the fact that Jamaicans simply made rap music waaaaaaaaaaay before anyone in the states. No one was even close. Jocko was maybe the closest. And if you listen to Jocko, the similarities between his cute, whimsical style and that of U-Roy are uncanny. The difference is that U-Roy was really riding the rhythm. And, along with Dillinger, he revolutionized global music.

Finally, to deny the Jamaican influence is to deny the very cultural and spiritual foundation upon which this music is based. Nobody invented shit. This is one long story with no beginning or end, you dig? I only give credit to Jamaica, because I don't know enough about griots, pocomania, and disc jockeys from New Orleans and Miami.

"Who put di mango pon di mango tree?... Jah Jah move inna mysterious way." -Brigadier Jerry

Posted by: eric at Oct 29, 2003 12:21:25 AM

er, i meant... 1 out of 2 BLACK New Yorkers is West Indian.

Posted by: eric at Oct 29, 2003 1:05:21 AM

Lynn, nice to see you here - I write for popmatters too. Other than elephant man's verse, that remix was pointless. I just heard the most reggaed-out song yet on the radio - I'm really annoyed, I can't remember the title, something like "Lo lo lo". It's not even dancehall, just straight out of Black Ark with someone rapping over it. I declare Madison officially prescient!

"I only give credit to Jamaica, because I don't know enough about griots, pocomania, and disc jockeys from New Orleans and Miami."

. . . and all I'm really saying is that it's a shame that that's the case with so many commentators on hip hop (myself included). Just like you said, any sacrifice of subtlety to one dominant 'explanation' is best avoided. It's all one big river, but however futile it may ultimately be, we've chosen it as our task to unweave the water.

Posted by: David at Oct 29, 2003 3:43:21 PM

yeah... i am somewhat playing the antagonist here. Disco and funk were obviously a huge influence. And I think the JA connection is definitely subtle -- though no less powerful -- than people give credit.

As far as that statistic, I have another correction to make (my math was a little off last night).

The real statistic is that 1 our of 3 Black NYC residents is indicated by the census of 2000 to be of West Inidan descent. Still, that is a very significant number. Compare this to a city such as Los Angeles, that has only a few thousand.

Posted by: eric at Oct 29, 2003 4:48:56 PM

Oh yeah, the song is called "No No No" . . . The hook is really, really soulful, which means it may not make much headway in this day and age - but you'll be blown away when you hear it. Straight reggae, no chaser. Any help on the artist? J-something.

Posted by: David at Oct 30, 2003 11:40:16 AM

Is it Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No No No)"?


Posted by: eric at Oct 30, 2003 11:51:48 PM

on the left coast, dub is finally getting press. if you're in LA, check out Dub Club at The Echo & various events at Temple Bar (every once in a while they have an exclusively dub night. also, if you see Team Scrub playing around, check them out (although their best stuff happens at late night jam sessions in their garage).

Posted by: unoriginal at Nov 3, 2003 2:42:57 PM

As a sidenote, Hip-Hop's greatest recording studio of all time, the recently deceased D&D, started out as mostly reggae oriented before it became the home base for Primo and Evil Dee et al

How to quantify reggae's influence on the birth of hip-hop has always been a little fuzzy to me. I spoke about this with Kool Herc once but he was a little tipsy at the time and I did not glean much insight.

Posted by: Jay Smooth at Nov 8, 2003 9:02:09 PM

i think that reggae will be in next edition after dancehall domination. we should separate dancehall from reggae. dancehall original came from reggae but you cannot mark, for example, elephant man as reggae artist. hip hop goes into dancehall then ragga end at the last stop, into reggae.

Posted by: Bojan at Nov 28, 2003 2:47:03 PM

I have done research on this isssue in my studies at university. I have studied the history of rap music so deep, and from what I know the tradition of rap music originates from the GRIOTS of West Africa and brought to America by the black slaves. African-Americans developed it into rap. Kool Herc, may have brought in some Jamaican influence through the sound system mixing, but that was it. Most early rappers did not like reggae (as said in David Toop's book "Rap Attack".) so I do not see how reggae could have had a direct influence. Also Kool Herc was not a rapper, he was a record mixer. African and African-American oral traditions such as toasting, signifying, the dozens are the forebearers of rap music. African-American artists like the Last Poets clearly showed early forms of recorded rap music. I have their CDs and it sounds exactly like today's rap music. I listened to the Jamaican dub music of U-Roy and Big Youth and they sounded nothing at all like rap! Trust me nothing like it, it was just simple reggae songs. Even Chuck D himself said rapping, was an inherited oral tradition from African griots in a documentary and the same thing was said by rap music experts in the hip-hop documentary called "Beef". I have read several books and internet sources on rap's history and nearly all of them stated that rap music has roots in the African griots (old style storyelling musicians) and African-American oral traditins and verbal games of earlier decades (like the 1950s African-American radio DJs, street poets, blues talkers). Look at them yourself. I've also seen the same thing being said in hip-hop magazines such as The Source, and Vibe magazine. Many native Africans will tell you that griots are a professional kind of musician that rhyme and tell stories about their surroundings or village, to the beat of drumming rhythms - similar to the way modern rap is. Check the information yourself and see how right I am. Even then all of the slang and drawls used in rap music are essentially African-American, from the street jive of urban blacks in Chicago, NY, LA etc. Jamaican influence in rap, while important was minimal. If you noticed that ragga, the Jamaican equivalent of rap,actually came to prominence after US rap became popular in the early 1990s, indicating it was American rap having the influence!(Ragga never existed prior to the early 1990s) Rap music's deepest roots are found in most forms of African-American musical, oral and poetic traditions, going all the way back to the Africa griot. An there is no denying or challenging that fact.

Posted by: Victor Williams at Apr 8, 2004 7:49:01 PM

One more thing, Kool Herc did not play reggae to the crowd in the Bronx, because they did understand it and did not like it at the time. He switched to playing disco, funk, soul and jazz - all forms of contemporary African-American music - until people began to feel him. Kool Herc himself credits some of rap's birth to James Brown. Reggae's influence only comes into play with sound system bass and record turntable mixing. It is clear to see African-American music and oral tradition had the most impact and influence on rap music's birth.

Posted by: Victor Williams at Apr 8, 2004 8:01:23 PM

I wasn't implying that rappers were inspired by reggae. I was simply pointing out the fact that Jamaicans were doing the "rap" thing (aka "toasting") for at least 10 years prior to "Rappers Delight". Compare Yellowman to the Sugarhill Gang. Sugarhill sounds dated... Yellowman still sounds contemporary. You got it... they sound nothing alike. The JA stuff was ahead of its time.

The point is simply that the South Bronx didn't invent rhyming over bass-heavy beats. It's the musical equivalent of saying Columbus discovered America.

As for the African connection... c'mon dog... I would have thought that was obvious. After all... aren't these AFRICAN-Americans were talking about? But on that subject, don't overplay the griot hand. It's nice romanticism, but the vast majority of slave period music was not griot-inspired, if I'm not mistaken. Rap might harken back to the spirit of the griots, but it's not griot music. Griots were primarily storytellers. I don't remember reading anything about griots "rocking a party" or "moving the crowd". But maybe you read some different books.

Posted by: eric at Oct 7, 2004 3:22:48 PM

Eric concludes:

"Rap might harken back to the spirit of the griots, but it's not griot music. Griots were primarily storytellers. I don't remember reading anything about griots "rocking a party" or "moving the crowd". But maybe you read some different books.

Hi Eric, your point is well taken. Unfortunately, I believe that you have based your concluding words on the faulty premise that rapping somehow does not entail storytelling. Rap music entails stories of life, in its magical, tragic glory. The musician storytellers relate their surroundings, communities, and dreams.

In sum, rap is exactly as Bojan put it in his November 28 entry: "Many native Africans will tell you that griots are a professional kind of musician that rhyme and tell stories about their surroundings or village, to the beat of drumming rhythms - similar to the way modern rap is."

Posted by: Magister at Mar 13, 2005 2:48:26 AM

Magister said:

"In sum, rap is exactly as Bojan put it in his November 28 entry: "Many native Africans will tell you that griots are a professional kind of musician that rhyme and tell stories about their surroundings or village, to the beat of drumming rhythms - similar to the way modern rap is."

Jamaicans did this as well. Music has always been an integral part of Jamaican culture. Slaves used drums to communicate with each other from Great great distances. The sounds of these drums scared white people and so they were outlawed through much of Jamaica.

Jamaica has a long musical history and a strong UNdeniable link with West Africa. As far as GRIOTs being from West Africa this is no coincidence as ALL Jamaicans of African deccent are from WEST AFICA.

You cannot jump over the Caribbean and end up all the way in Africa. Because we are all from Africa. But you cannot deny that Jamaicans took what Africans made and reinvented it (with the rapping over beats and battiling and stuff).

Hip hop owes a lot to reggae. Look what it invented: samplng, battling, rapping on the B side of a track even sctraching was being done in reggae loooooong before Hip hop. Ever heard of Lee "Sctrach" Perry. The man who single handedly invented sampling? Please look it up.

And lets not forget about the MOTHER of all electronic music: DUB. All the beat making techniques that hip hop uses comes from Dub. Dub is what gave birth to Dancehall and Hip hop. Electronic music starts and ends right there.

As to the person that said Ragga didn't come about until the 1990's. First of all Ragga is a term that the British Whites use to describe Dancehall music. Dancehall always existed since the the 50's with the sound systems etc. Daddy U-roy, Big Youth etc are the pioneers of rapping.

Ragga is an unwholesome term which the British (WHITES!) use to seperate Dancehall from Reggae (roots reggae). It is kind of the equivalent of vulgarness or filth. Very racist term.

Posted by: Nico T at Mar 26, 2005 12:58:08 AM

Yo Eric, my brotha I'm gonna come to this conclusion. From my studies in the history of rap music/hip hop I said that the African griot tradition was continued by African-Americans and later filtered through into rap music. Rap music did originate from the African griots, but it took a while for this to happen. As the Africans in America became more American in culture the griot tradition changed, it modified into typical African-American verbal and oral tradions, like for intance:
*Dozens and signifying - insults and cussing to a musical rhythmn(the forerunner of battle rapping) and many others. Even Chuck D says himelf that African-Americans had long been doing musical activities in their oral traditions that are similar to modern rap, and he even mentions the griot tradition. In black American nightspots today they have griot nights, go there and you'll see that similarity. Obviously if black Jamaicans originate from West Africa, its only obvious that they would inherit that same griot tradition (in Jamaican terms it is known as ragga or dancehall). So I would expect Jamaicans to have had something similar to rap stars like u-roy or yellwowman, whoever. But in America, similar, but older musical traditions to modern rap music had been in exsistence such as the dozens ansd signifying and the African-American version of toasting. These had been in existence before modern rap came about. So it's really a case of African, American and Jamaican blacks all having that same rap tradition within their societies already. But the bottom line remains that rap music is direct descendant of the musical storytelling tradition of the West African griot. No one can argue with that.

Posted by: Victor Williams at Apr 4, 2005 9:37:28 PM

HIP HOP and Dancehall are the same exact thing.

Jamaicans brought the griot tradition to the other level. And don't forget that the techniques invented in reggae; particularly dub reggae, is what ultimately gave birth to the hip hop tradition. It doesn't matter if Kool Herc was playing disco or funk. It's the Jamaican techniques that he used that gave birth to hip hop. Period.

Americans were not remixing, sampling, toasting or rapping over instrumentals until they saw Jamaicans doing it, so don't even try that. These are Jamaican concepts invented in reggae music.

Anyway, Hip hop and dancehall are the same exact thing. And anything that hip hoppers are doing, Jamaicans were doing it 5-10 years earlier than any hip hop producer or artist. Look at even the mixtape craze that has been taking over, Jamaicans were doing that years ago and still are.

Dancehall already existed since the late 50's. The name Dancehall only came about after the lyrics in the music made a dramatic shift from the spiritual uplifting lyrics to the sexually explicit, gun oriented, bravado that the 80's DJs used to chat. The music was no longer suitable to be played over the air. Therefore, it was called Dancehall. Music that was only suitable to be played in the Dancehall.

Posted by: Nico T. at Apr 6, 2005 10:52:40 PM

Yes Reggae on the rise again, but it never went away. Just a whole heap of reggae artists photographs in this gallery (oom). Pogus Caesar has met and photographed them with dignity. Artists like the late Junior Delgado, Augustus Pablo and Dennis Brown are featured as are Burning spear, Alton Ellis, Junior Reid and Michael Rose to name a few. Crucial works and maximum respect.

Posted by: skaraboo at May 18, 2005 2:26:10 PM

wow and jeez! what a wikkid site by oomgallery & pogus caesar, good seeing someone who has met and taken photographs of so many roots musicans. am blown away by the mighty diamonds picture.....also did'nt know so many reggae artistes played in birmingham, britain. ' muzik kinda sweet' yes!

Posted by: Grand Ras at Dec 2, 2005 7:14:01 AM

Look no more than punch records in the uk, it features pics from pogus ceasar wicked exhibition 'muzik kinda sweet'

keep dem rocking and swinging in jamdown

Posted by: sophie at Jan 8, 2007 7:38:32 PM