Monday, 23 November 2015

Why Justin Bieber's bashment song hitting no. 1 is bittersweet

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know I've been fully hoping for Justin Bieber 'Sorry' to hit number 1 in the UK (it's number 1 song in the world on Spotify too). I was fully annoyed Adele released 'Hello' because it was a sure fire number 1. Well, four weeks into its release it finally reached the summit of UK's best selling singles - without an official video (the online dance video of girls from New Zealand doing dancehall moves doesn't count). Instead of the one week it'll get before Adele reclaims the spot this week, who knows how long it would've held the top for.

This is the third time this year a mammoth song has kept a reggae or dancehall pop song off the top spot. R. City ('Locked Away') were kept at number 2 the week Sam Smith released his boring Bond song, likewise Omi 'Cheerleader' was kept off for about four weeks due to Charlie Puth 'See You Again' featuring Wiz Khalifa (no typo) being a tribute song from Fast and Furious whatever number they're at now. Omi managed to budge that song out of the way and reigned for about 3 weeks.

It's been a mad year for pop-viable dancehall and reggae songs. A fair few smash hits have benefited from the sounds created in West Kingston, Jamaica. I'll give a proper rundown at the end of the year as per usual, alongside my review of Jamaican dancehall and reggae music in 2015.

So yeah, while I'm here seeing the dancehall sound can top charts (albeit coming from pop's coolest pop star right now), I'm thinking about how the aforementioned Omi dropped the chance at becoming a main player because I believe Jamaicans lack the belief of dancehall as a sound (and culture) in the pop music game.

Omi's second single did exactly what I said shouldn't be done in my Don't Go Chasing Cheerleader post back in June. Don't get me wrong, Hula Hoop isn't a bad song at all (it's pretty good for what it is) but its an inferior 'Cheerleader'. On the day the audio dropped I tweeted that following your first hit with a soundalike is one of the easiest routes to becoming a one-hit wonder. The "chasing the dragon" theory. While it's done pretty well in some places like Australia and Sweden, but nothing near what the follow-up to one of the years biggest singles should have.

Omi tried so hard to stay away from being known as a reggae artist because he wanted to be a pop singer that he just became another 0/1 in the matrix. The one thing that would've differentiated him from the pack was looked upon as a hinderance rather than a unique selling point. This year, more than any, has been proof in the sweet potato pudding that the sounds of Jamaica are in demand from a global mainstream standpoint. (There's rumours about Jamaican music and features on Rihanna's new album too.)

I also thought it would've been a lot better with a Jamaican artist feature. The song is essentially a soca song but to everybody else its a pop/tropical house song. It's screaming for a Sean Paul feature to seal the Caribbean link. And never, ever think that Sean Paul is past it. He was on the biggest Latin single 'Bailando', Farruko's smash-hit 'Passion Whine' and the biggest selling afrobeats song in UK chart history 'Dangerous Love', as well as Timaya's 'Bum Bum' last year. He would've sold the song.

Back to Bieber, he took influence from Felix Jaehn's remix of 'Cheerleader' for 'What Do You Mean?' then slapped the follow-up with bashment. Indirectly showed him the way he should've done it with his own country's music. Never would've thought he would checkmate Omi like that.

It's a shame a Jamaican artist didn't benefit from taking a Jamaican-sounding song to number one. First Sean Paul left it for EDM (has since returned with the music fit for him today), Tessanne went straight pop ballad instead of reggae, now Omi's basically finished. All because they didn't see Jamaica as a viable selling point.

Once again, this isn't me hoping Jamaicans make music to chart, I want them to have faith in their product. That Jamaican music is good enough to transcend even at the "highest" height. But nothing can be done to change the past. Once again, I ask for Jamaican artists who get the opportunity to spread the music and culture, please do it. Bring the spotlight so the rest can tour and eat a food. The world loves it.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

What reggae's first Radio 1 playlist in ten years tells me about reggae. Big up Protoje

Once again, I'd like to say mainstream approval is not the be all and end all, however it provides a very important cog in getting my favourite artists the ears they deserve. If a reggae song has the quality and steam to go forward and benefit from the exposure a national radio station, the biggest radio station UK can give, why shouldn't it be taken advantage of? As long as they hold their rights, own their stuff and aren't manipulated out of shape by the industry, I'm all for it. Give them their dues.

Why hold everyone in a corner? It ain't for everyone, but for those who can benefit and help shine a light, go bring that light, bruv. I'm much more against making good music have to jump loads and loads of obstacles because of dated thinking, lack of resources afforded to independents and lack of opportunities given to non-US/UK/EU/AUS music. Fix that.

I'd also like to take a moment to say I gave Protoje his first mainstream mention in 2012 (alongside Konshens, Tarrus Riley, Etana and Popcaan) because I believed in him back then and continue to believe in him now. This is not a case of the bandwagon jumper.

So yeah, Protoje featuring Chronixx "Who Knows" is on the Radio 1 playlist. There are levels, this isn't the first to be on the Radio 1 playlist as Kiko Bun "Sometimes" and "Where I'm From" were on the In New Music We Trust section. Shy FX's Liam Bailey-assisted "Soon Come" was also on the same bit. Those songs don't get anywhere near the same play (in theory) as a full playlist - on the A, B and C. If the INMWT one gives you something like 5 plays a week, C-list is supposed to give like 2-a-day. I can't remember the exact figures but a something like so. INMWT feels a lot more like a nod to the under-represented, whereas a proper playlist suggests it is good enough to sit alongside the best music right now.

Anyone who knows "Who Knows" as last year's undeniably biggest reggae song of the year, knows it should've got it last year. It goes to show the lengths a reggae artist must jump though, because they may not have accepted it or understood the magnitude of the record back then. This year, however, Proto has done one sold out show in March and one tour in October, received press coverage from mainstream stuff like Noisey, Fader, Independent etc., topped the reggae album chart in US, nominated for Best Reggae at the MOBOs and the video sits on 13 million views. Who would dare say no now?

Friday, 13 November 2015

What Lean On's Spotify record-break tells me about dancehall

So, it was announced that Major Lazer 'Lean On' broke the record for most played song in Spotify's history. Small feat in that it's only one platform, but massive feat in that its still the most played song ever on a huge platform.

But what does this mean? Well, what I get from it is confirmation of something I've always known. A dancehall song can rule the world.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

I imagined telling these artists, "mate, you're doing it wrong"

This is just a flush of thoughts. Dunno if it'll make sense in the end but its just a flush.

We're calling this one, know your role. I'm gonna talk about over-hyped artists and artists who need to do certain things to be better, in my opinion.

First up it's Chris Brown. The guy's one of the most all-round talents in the higher echelon's of popular music. He can dance, emotive voice and has a genuinely intriguing life which is perfect inspiration for material. Not a year goes by when Chris Brown isn't on a hit song. But very rarely one of his own. Give this guy a guest appearance or sort him with a guest and yeah. Put him by himself, very rarely produces anyone beyond his core fan base (screaming girls and certain man) care about.

Just think of all the Chris Brown songs you've liked in the after Rihanna era. How many of them were Chris Brown by himself? Now think beyond yourself, how many of them were rated generally? Then put that against a list of guest appearances. It weighs heavily in favour of features. "Loyal", "Show Me", "Ayo" even something like the chorus on Meek Mill's "All Eyes on Me". His best material is still the first album. Every album since has disappointed.

More time I think his popularity is down to controversy, profile and image over his actual music.

My advice: forget being Michael Jackson with songs like Zero and Liquor and Fine China. Forget making pop (Zero and to a degree Liquor is pop-leaning). Justin Bieber will get the media attention for the foreseeable future and he's better at it. Be the bad guy/heartbreak kid/player girls hope they can change. Make disrespectful r&b like "Loyal". Be this generations R. Kelly except one that can dance. Trey Songz is finished. Be who he thought he could be. Link up with some proper songwriters (or steal Jeremih's songs 'cos he probs won't ever be a star) not the bredrins in a studio throwing in a line here and there in between feeling up girls in the studio (I'm just throwing an accusation there) and passing spliff's.

We are in the children-of-the-b1tch4s-and-ni66as-ain't-shit era. This generation doesn't recognise black love songs. They love black fxck songs. Talk about getting girls, sexing girls, cheating, taking next man's girl (his strongest point), being a bastard who wants to do better, and apologise a lot. Also, tell us why you cheat or why you can't settle down. Basically, be the guy women wanna sleep with and the one men wish they could be. In Jamaica we call that the gallis (pronounced gyal-lis), Americans say the player. Set over club beats balanced with that emo-rnb stuff. And bring through some slow jams.

Tinashe. The pop side of r&b needs someone like her. Pretty, girl-next-door, can dance, bubbly and can hold a note. But she's just failing and failing. Burst on the scene with "2 On" and never followed it up. Her album was absolute snorefest even she admits.

"I’d like to play with some more tempos, to not have it all be in the mid-tempo range even though a lot of my music is. It’s been an adventure for me to figure out how to do my version of an uptempo, because the fastest song I’ve kind of ever really put out is ‘2 On,’ which is really only kind of like an upper/mid, 95-beat jam"

They worked "All Hands On Deck" for about a year and a half and it still didn't do anything. Why? 'Cos it was pants. But anyway, she's another with a lot of potential. I've seen her trying to be a little bit more sexy on recent covers like Playboy and that. Still rocking a strong barely legal look, but its cool. She's legal. But she looks young.

Side: Chris Brown delivers the type of verse his should turn into a full song.

My advice: she's working with Max Martin. Instead of bollocks like this 'Player' overtly sex song with the aforementioned Chris Brown (who doesn't have a Chris Brown feature?) and the nonsense one with Young Thug, dish out a song like girl-next-door Brandy/Ashanti vibe, "Goodies" then "Are You That Somebody" vibe with Mustard, Metro Boomin', Mike Will or London On Da Track surrounding a "... Baby One More Time" type crossover. Them innocently sexy songs. Work with Kid Ink, August Alsina, Rae Sremmurd and maybe a Fetty Wap.

Rita Ora. The girl who's everywhere and nowhere at the same time. So many people I speak to ask "What's her biggest song?" or "What did she do to deserve that?" There's an issue there. And that's always been the issue with Rita Ora. We knew what she looked like and her name way before we knew who she was. As a result, she's always made music to chase the size of her fame.

A singer is supposed to be a singer first and foremost. Sell other products based on popularity of the music not vice versa imo. Right now she's a model, TV personality, socialite, Instagrammer who sings every so often. Obviously helps with cheques in the bank, but that only lasts so long until the next one comes along and does it the right way (music first).

Signs were clear from the first year (2012). She bagged three number 1 singles selling 100k first week each time yet couldn't do a bigger venue than two nights at 2,000 Shepherds Bush Empire? She needs to ask herself two questions; What is a Rita Ora? Where are her fans?

Side: once again, another solid guest verse that should be fleshed out into a full song.

My advice: settle down and make music for a particular demographic. Skyscrapers aren't built top-down. Patch into a group where people will ride. Get a consistent sound, energy and look. She doesn't even keep her hair/weave/wig the same. We heard so much about Jay Z's new singer yet none of her material matched the urban-popstar person we expected. A singer can't start off being everything to everyone.

Do some intimate fan-only experiences/shows. The sudden "friendship" with Section, Krept & Konan etc., when the popularity seems to be on the slide. Don't force the credibility by association. Right now, we can smell the force. The new single with Sigma could be a good one a la DJ Fresh (depends on the song) but I'm not sure the d&b thing still has the same commercial clout it did up until last year. Also feels like a retracing old steps cos things aren't where they should be. Tropical/afro/soca-flavoured house seems to be in now.

It definitely has to be dance floor-oriented. Nobody argues with a dance floor filler. That emotion song stuff like Poison or pop song like Body On Me appeals to people minds and hearts. If you aren't in their hearts and mind, they won't allow it. Our head nod and feet don't discriminate. Line up some bassy-r&b (Prgrshn & Angel. Hop the In2 wave) for her to feature on. Make Yungen/Angel lead artist on there to do a heartbreak kid bit and let Rita be the sexy Rita we all wanna see. The "You want this but you can't have it... unless you play your cards right" chick. Rita needs to get her features up on the man dem's tunes.

Rita is a bad example of what happens in the internet world. Yeah it's really free and open to make whatever you want and cultivate your own audience on one side. On the other, performers don't have to follow certain rules channels to breakthrough. Those channels (radio, TV, print media) were restrictive but they also helped build identity and fans. Performer's teams had to make more of an effort to get songs that connect (or promote them in a way that does). Now you can have a social media campaign, throw it out, spend money on ads to raise awareness, get the YouTube numbers up, pay a plugger and who's gonna say no to a song with solid YouTube numbers?

Clicks don't show how many people liked the song though. Likes don't show how many would actually spend money on tickets/singles. This is why Shazam is becoming a more reliable judge. Shares are a good indicator too. Not perfect but its a step in the right direction. As are platforms like Spotify and Apple Music over numerous weeks.

50 Cent. Bruvv, this guy was my rapper from 2002. (Big up Tim Westwood.) I still remember hearing Get Rich or Die Tryin' in IT. A burnt CD on my bredrin's discman about a week before it dropped. Look, I never had it nor did I do it, but it isn't a crime to listen to bootlegged material sooo.... He crossed my mind the other day. I wrote a post about him which I will publish one day soon.

Fif's never managed to have real buzz since The Massacre. The Kanye vs 50 thing helped Curtis immeasurably. It's been downhill ever since though. No one can argue against that. To me, 50's problem is he's too busy trying to second guess what the market wants from him therefore too calculated which means the music is really forced. It isn't a bad thing to be aware of the market, however what he needs to know is a girl tune isn't gonna bring him back, nor is a street tune.

Problem is, that's what he keeps trying deliver. Girl and gun man/street tunes. You can't recreate a moment. Stop forcing. His motivation in the beginning was Get Rich or Die Tryin', apart from "I Get Money" he never really told the masses how it is when he got rich. "Window Shopper" was a joke tune. That kinda song only works when you're winning. "Hustler's Ambition" was the last really good streetish single.

My advice: the world was introduced to 50 by way of "In Da Club". People don't like 50 Cent. There's only so long you can burn bridges when you're up before people dislike you. He pulled too far away from the people. Being the villain helped him get to the top against opposition we didn't really love. But then he went against our favourite rappers (Nas, Jadakiss, Kanye and The Game) and didn't link with the right dons on their way up (Kidd Kidd is never gonna buss). He's kinda back to being the underdog but an underdog we won't cheer for until he shows something.

Make a club banger. That's first. One the hustlers and ladies rate simultaneously. Follow it with an introspective tune/anthem about something like "Is this the life I really wanted", struggles of hustling, the money changed me, the haters hate on me cos I got money or something fitting on a lower budget video with a rapper that fits not just because he's hot. Or maybe Dej Loaf on the hook. Then drop the full on girl I did you wrong tune. Rick Ross is over now; take that grandiose boss lane as someone who actually did street sh1t. Talk about it like Jay Z does. Count the amount of times Jay says "I used to" in his raps.

Tell us the good and the bad about the rich life. Do corporate men still look at you funny. Reminisce on the street days and how they shaped you. Compare street the two. Show us the similarities through situations. Drop out the gun man talk unless you're talking about people around you. Be the hustler who can get you touched that ladies love (they say ladies love bad guys, especially rich ones. Diamonds are a girls best friend and that).

Rihanna: babes, yuh know say ah mi you need inna your life. Love you from chicken back to lobster days. So hear what, there's rumours she will be releasing a strictly reggae, soca and afrobeats inspired album. That's all I've ever wanted. Fingers cross this come true cos I've been trying to tweet it into existence for the past couple of years.

That's all I've ever wanted from her. That and a song with Vybz Kartel and Nicki Minaj. And a soca song with Machel Montano. And an afrobeats song with Wizkid or Burna Boy. And feel free to do a bashment tune with Giggs or J Spades. Shot in the dark but hey.

No more of the American pop like FourFive Seconds or American Oxygen. Bitch Better Have My Money can live (had it been a better song). But I want some upfront Caribbean woman songs. Carib women are much more confident with their ting, it's set different. Bring through that vibe in an American-friendly style.

So basically, when things aren't working out for you, make a club banger. Club bangers are the easiest converters.

Disclaimer: everything mention in this post is hypothetical. It'll only work if the music and execution is good. I'm not claiming to have all the answers - just suggestions. And really, I doubt anyone connected to any of this will read it anyway. This is just to flush thoughts. Also, I'll will repost this post all over my timeline should any of it work for the above artists by coincidence or otherwise though. Know that.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

no long talk with Assassin/Agent Sasco | Underhyped Legend?

no long talk with Assassin aka Agent Sasco. After the long two-parter with Kabaka Pyramid, this is a very short one in comparison.

I can tell by his style that he has a true school dancehall foundation with hip hop style lyricism so I wanted to know about his sound system beginnings. Also, we speak about growing up in a one room, board house (house made with board) with his family and lessons learnt.

Not believing he could be a dancehall artist until ghostwriting for one of his childhood icon, Spragga Benz.

There have been numerous moments of peaks and troughs along the way, including big songs (Anywhere We Go, Ruffest, Eediot Ting) on iconic riddims (85, Diwali, Steps) with dancehall legends on production duties (Dave Kelly, Lenky, Daseca) to quiet periods and the tune-for-tune yet non-clash with a young Vybz Kartel.

He shares the stories behind "Ruffest", "Anywhere We Go" and "Do It If Ya Bad", why Kartel wanted to clash him and why he wasn't interested, as well as taking time out of blossoming career to get a degree.

If there's one area I feel Assassin isn't as strong at, it's the chorus, however, this year saw him deliver a world class one for Kendrick Lamar on "Blacker The Berry". I ask if that was meant to be a verse to which he replies with the verse he actually demoed.

Having been a fan of Assassin from the top end of the noughties, many feel he hasn't delivered on his early promise or is under-rated. I suggest it's because he isn't the badman or the gallis. Also why he hasn't dropped a definitive body of work.

So yeah, stay locked. This ain't a catch-up, it's no long talk.

Subscribe on iTunes:…lk./id1044826294
(p.s. I said We Bad From was on Mad Instruments. The popular version was mixed on to it. The original is a different riddim.)

The songs in question are as follows. If you missed this clash, it was a good one. Never reached the stage but good counteractions (diss) records.

Assassin - We A Bad From


Vybz Kartel - We Bad From

Assassin - Step Pon Dem


Vybz Kartel - 4 Star

Assassin - Do It If Yuh Bad

Vybz Kartel - Nuh Throw

Spragga Benz - We Ready

Assassin - Idiot Ting Dat
"Voice your tune, deejay hear it and gawn counteract - idiot ting dat!"

Sunday, 11 October 2015

no long talk. x Kabaka Pyramid | The artist's artist

Part 1 was about the person. I called it Uptown Top Rasta. This side is more about the music.

We speak being "the artist's artist" of the movement, reason for pursuing reggae over hip hop, friend dying helped him push on, thoughts on hip hop and dancehall's current low and frustrations at having to dumb down his music.

Also, reggae revival's "uptown" stigma, uptown youths making downtown music, Uptown vs. downtown divide in Jamaica and which side he prefers.

Some quotes:

On his reggae peers: "Sometimes I feel like I love music the least."

Recalls the first time meeting Chonixx at a birthday party in Protoje's house and how they've both inspired him: "Protoje was the main figure... When Chronixx started to blow up, that's when I really saw the possibilities of this ting. When Protoje had his band, I didn't think I would have my own band anytime soon."

On hip hop and dancehall's current state: "I think they've both gone to absolute rubbish."

On dancehall's low and reggae's high at the moment: "I think dancehall is at its lowest point right now and it's only right something rose up to counteract it." but also recognises "Our music doesn't penetrate like dancehall. We need to do more dancehall".

On relationship with dancehall artists: "Most artists' - whether dancehall or reggae - say 'it's you I rate out of the whole of the movement'... I always joke and say I'm the artists' artist'."

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

no long talk. with Kabaka Pyramid | Uptown Top Rasta [ep. 001]

So as I pointed out the other day, "no long talk." is the new vibrations from the Marvin Sparks camp. First one out the box is Kabaka Pyramid. If you are familiar with the artist, you know he's one of the best lyricists in Jamaica, well-respected by his peers, deals with truths and rights, highlights western hypocrisy and has in-depth knowledge to back his passionate rebel music.

He, along with Protoje, Chronixx, Dre Island, Jah 9, Jesse Royal, Keznamdi, Kelissa, Hempress Sativa, Iba Mahr etc., are part of the new wave of Jamaican artists' bringing forth the roots, rebel reggae message frequently called the "reggae/roots revival" movement. Individually, they bring different vibes, directions and slightly different inspirations amongst them. Whereas Chronixx, Dre Island and Jesse Royal continue the dancehall singjay vibe, like Protoje and Keznamdi, Kabaka Pyramid brings a more hip hop construction to the stylings accustomed to reggae chatting.

I thought Kabaka Pyramid would be perfect to lead, not only cos it's absolutely insightful, but more time an emerging artist doesn't get more than a 500 word piece. We rarely learn anything from them other than a brief about their music, few notable career moments/co-signs and what area they come from. A little taster column for cool ratings to refer to once they've blown up like "We were here first".

And I get that it's because it doesn't get views. Average Joe/Joanna rarely care. But you know what, I care if I believe in them.

In my time of doing "interviews" (I don't like that word), I've found these ones can be up there with the most giving. I mean, yeah, many times they can be really guarded due to what they've heard about the media manipulating words or taking things out of context for sake of hits. Maybe one day I may happen quote something that doesn't tell the whole story for a headline with the purest heart one day. Only based on the quote being something I think appeals to people in a "Hmm... tell me more" way.