Thursday, 6 October 2016

Top 10 Biggest Dancehall Tunes of 2016 - Fact

People go on about how dead dancehall is, like no one cares for it, but when you consider these people lack major industry experience and resources, these numbers are pretty healthy. Dancehall has always been a hit industry. Hit songs and shows. Talking about sales in this day and age is pretty dead.

A problem is people compare dancehall success to hip hop and r&b. Why compare music from a place of 2 million people with one that has 200 million+ people on their own land space? A predominantly independently run and divided scene against one boasting millions of $ of investment from corporates. A genre that relies on foreign territories to sustain it compared to one where homegrown artists can tour home and live well. Dancehall has to be exported but doesn't have to investment to do so yet still survives.

Yes, dancehall has punched above its weight in the past, but believe me, it continues to do that. Don't think "Oh, it ain't in the Billboard charts anymore" as if that's the be all and end all of music. It's still far more popular than most music in the world. It just doesn't punch as heavy as it did. Some of it is down to the songs only appealing to dancehall fans who understand the culture, some down to the mass music industry changing and lack of opportunities (radio play, TV play, general investment). Covered that in this post here.

All the numbers are correct as of 6/October/2016. Slightly wonky placements due to combined numbers but you can see the audio + video number breakdown. It could be that a lot of the audio views crossover with the video viewers but you can decide how you feel about that. And the total views only include the audio with the highest views not all the audios listed on YouTube. I ain't got time to add up all of them.

YouTube is the first place most people go to hear music they like when they want. For that reason, it is the most accurate reflection of popularity because, while every click doesn't suggest the listener likes the song, more like than dislike. Unlike the other platforms (Spotify/Apple Music/iTunes), YouTube is available in Jamaica, plus its popular across the world and easier to access 'cos all you need is internet access. Not everyone uses their disposable income on 99p songs or £9.99 a month subscription.

I can say from my own experiences that majority of these songs are definitely the most important. I collated this list by searching the most popular ones I've seen in the dance. Well, that's how I formed most of this list. The only song I can't say I've heard in a party is Popcaan "Feel Good". But it's obviously popular to some people somewhere.

And the order won't change dramatically before the end of the year so take this as a review of the biggest songs.

1. Konshens - Bruk Off | 24m
18.5m video  + 5.9m audio
iTunes / Google play

2. Vybz Kartel - Fever | 16m
10m video + 6m audio
iTunes / Google play

3. Popcaan - Ova Dweet | 8.4m
iTunes / Google play

4. Alkaline - Champion Boy | 8.2m
iTunes / Google play

(Audio released in November 2015 but video dropped this year. It also grew a lot more/impacted in 2016.)

5. Alkaline - Company | 8.0m 
4m video + 4m audio
iTunes / Google play

6. Alkaline - Formula | 7.9m
2.2m audio + 5.7m video
iTunes / Google play

7. Alkaline - City | 6m
audio 3.5m + audio 2.5m
iTunes / Google play

8. Alkaline - My Side of the Story | 5.6m
iTunes / Google play

9. Mavado - Big League | 5m
audio 3.46m + video 1.57
iTunes / Google play

10. Vybz Kartel - I'll Take You There | 4.8m
audio 3.4m + video 1.4m
iTunes / Google play

Honourable mentions

 Alkaline - Conquer The World | 4.5m
iTunes / Google play

Popcaan - Feel Good | 4.2m
iTunes / Google play

Nesbeth - My Dream | 2.8m
iTunes / Google play

(Definitely one of the biggest songs in the core audience. A lot bigger than some of the above.)

Spice - Indicator | 1.9m
iTunes / Google play

Popcaan - World Cup (We Still A Win) | 1.7m
iTunes / Google play

Jahmiel - Where Were U | 1m
iTunes / Google play

Chi Ching Ching - Roast or Fry | 1m
iTunes / Google play

Vershon - Use To Hungry | 800k
iTunes / Google play

Masicka - Hard Ball | 400k
iTunes / Google play

Tanto Blacks - Real Rich | 400k

So yeah, some songs to spin.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Why Hasn't Jamaica Had A One Dance?

For anyone who doesn't know, Drake - One Dance was number 1 in UK for 14 weeks and 10 week in US. It topped the charts in 16 countries. Drake is known as a hip hop artist but he dabbles in other styles of music such as dancehall, r&b and afrobeats. One Dance is a dancehall song which samples a UK funky classic and features afrobeats superstar, Wizkid.

Truth is, if a Jamaican dancehall artist made One Dance in 2016 it probably would've been popular in dances but struggled to break through from the dancehall's to the charts. And that's if it wasn't deemed to pop sounding by core Jamaican dancehall DJ's. It could've been one of those rest of the Caribbean hits that does well in New York and the rest of the tri-state, Africa then hits Jamaica on the rebound.

Most of those types of songs aren't worth the risk because many of them float in no man's land; not hardcore enough to fit dancehall DJ's sets, and despite its accessibility to the mainstream, usually ignored by those with resources to push it into the places it needs to be like radio and tv.

There are numerous dancehall songs with millions of views on YouTube - some with tens of millions - which never got the chance to be heard on a wider scale. I often ask myself why Serani "No Games" gets a unanimous singalong across the country yet never cracked the UK top 40 when songs with lesser impact have reached number 1. Gyptian "Hold You" has sold almost 500k copies in the UK yet only managed #13 spot in a year where it was arguably the biggest black song not called Pass Out.

Or let's talk about how Vybz Kartel gave Clarks shoes a new lease of life, featured in mainstream newspapers but never signed or entered the charts. "Summertime" still plays everywhere. Vybz Kartel song, "Gon' Get Better" was recently covered by Fifth Harmony but the original didn't reach anywhere near charts or radio despite 3m views. Popcaan is everyone's favourite name-check yet the labels and blogs weren't interested when he ran dancehall with songs like "Party Shot" and "Only Man She Want".

On an extremely rare occasion you get a song like Omi "Cheerleader" which was a known to be a future hit within circles three years before it became a global smash. However, it had to be reshaped into a tropical house song to get there. The original light reggae version is still an unknown quantity in comparison.

Drake, like his Canadian compatriots Justin Bieber and Magic! who've all scored massive worldwide chart toppers, still has an element of novelty. A half Jewish, middle class Canadian is the complete opposite what a rap star is supposed to be let alone to do a dancehall song like that. And as I said, he's the leading black male artist. He has the ears of millions at the touch of a tweet button, so he can bypass the label meeting about what is a hit. So can Bieber. Other artists wouldn't be able to drop that as a first single without extensive research of what's working. And he did that from what was the most anticipated album of the time.

So what's happened with Jamaican dancehall? Why aren't they up there? They weren't promoted or rewarded properly outside of the core for their commercially-viable efforts. Therefore they weren't celebrated at home, because there wasn't any crossover success. And success breeds success. What a genre like Jamaican dancehall has is people following the tangible success because money isn't easy to come by. Its usually the success or hype they see afforded to the likes of Vybz Kartel and Alkaline. Not even what Busy Signal and Konshens have achieved because that isn't directly impacting Jamaica and if it didn't happen on the timeline or in America, did it happen?

Therein lies another problem; the American obsession but I've covered that multiple times on here. Jamaica has been awash with American sounds and influence since the Rihanna and Stargate link up. The sound moved to the pop-dancehall sound (known as island pop in Jamaica) America deemed successful, ignoring what was working elsewhere hence not getting Konshens and Busy Signal like the rest of the world. I like good songs with the island pop sound, not so much a fan of the reliance on it. There's a time, place and threshold for those things.

The world still wants a familiar dancehall sound. They want that beat they can dance to, songs they can sing along to and understand the perspective. Not too corny but not too crass either. I personally don't want direct remakes of the familiar because that was then. I like the elements such as the drums and the depth of bass in addition to the newer, fresher sounds. Lyrics making the women around the world feel loved and appreciated in addition to the songs that make girls bruck out and bend over. Just offer a bit of what worked in addition to what's working.

Most of all, be smart. Focus on the craft, establish your identity and build connections. Learn to say no and build a team you know are capable of helping you with your vision. Study the greats and take elements.

All in my opinion but yeah, pree what's worked before to add the right elements.

But you know what, the biggest commercial dancehall exports haven't really been the guys running the core and that's good. We need the core to be the core. But we also need the ones who aren't going to be the top guy at Sting to eat food from the mass market too.

But anyway, Sean Paul's allegedly signed a deal with a new label. Hopefully that pops off the right way and like 2003, the scramble for Jamaica talent is on again. In the mean time, I hope the artists, DJ and producers see what works in the core and the universal club-goers.

p.s. Clevie created the dem bow drum pattern used on Justin Bieber - Sorry, Drake - One Dance and Sia ft Sean Paul - Cheap Thrills. They have spent a combined total of 19 weeks atop the US chart this year. Hear him talk about his impact, influence and unspoken legacy below.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

So, Jamaican Music Is Currently Dominating UK Pop Chart

Based on official UK top 100 singles chart week commencing 15th April

1. Drake featuring Wizkid & Kyla

Don't listen to the afrobeats or UK funky claims, Drake made a dancehall song with elements of the aforementioned. But I addressed that in the 'Mis-Appreciation of Jamaican Culture' post.

2. Sia feat. Sean Paul - Cheap Thrills

Sidenote: Song declined by Rihanna

5. Zara Larrson - Lush Life

Sidenote: Allegedly a song declined by Rihanna. Not sure how true that is.

10. Rihanna feating Drake - Work (peak chart position 2)

13. Major Lazer feat. Nyla & Fuse ODG- Light It Up (peak chart position 7)

Sidenote: Nyla is part of Brick & Lace fame. They dropped one of the best written dancehall pop crossover songs ever in Love is Wicked. I believe she's the singer although she singjay's on this.

26. Justin Bieber - Sorry (peak chart position 1)

39. AlunaGeorge feat. Popcaan - I'm In Control

43. Kygo - Stay (peak chart position 20)

58. Jay Sean feat. Sean Paul - Make My Love Go (peak chart position 49)

73. Major Lazer feat. MØ - Lean On (peak chart position 2)

Sidenote: Rihanna rejected this in its original reggae form

10 of the top 100 best songs in the UK chart (including 5 of the top 20) has a Jamaican artist (in bold) or wouldn't exist without Jamaican influence. Just thought I'd chart this progress for now.

Bless up.

(feat. Sean Paul) [the 2016 edition]. The Songs Them So Far

So, Craig David and Kano are having renaissance moments in the UK. "feat. Sean Paul" is also having a bit of a revival. 13 years (yes thirteen years) on from his grand entrance into the mainstream market with the unstoppable dance floor smash "Gimme di Liiight".

Obviously, it was followed up by the US #1 "Get Busy", "Like Glue" and "I'm Still in Love With You " but in and amongst all of that, Sean Paul became a go-to guy for features to make singles hot. That melodic dancehall wave from a Jamaican was fully in.

Friday, 8 April 2016

The Mis-Appreciation of Jamaican Culture

Now I know I'm using mis-appreciation in the wrong context but you're just gonna have to see with me and basically deal with it. I like the title and the sense it makes in my head more than I care about my colonial tongue. This is why I love speaking slang. They stole my language so I'm misusing theirs. Seems like a fair trade to me which is more than can be said for the slave trade...

There have been more than a few examples of non-Jamaicans practicing the fruits of Jamaican culture over the past few decades. Something that seems to have risen in popularity over the past 12 months. I don't beat this appropriation drum. I believe the difference between appropriation and appreciation is in the intention of the person using it, in my opinion. I believe most victims of "Appropriation" hounding committed their "crime" from a place of appreciation more often than not. Maybe I don't understand it well enough, maybe I'm naive but I don't see most of them thinking "I'm white, so I'm gonna do this stuff I don't like from another culture to make money". Business people who boost it are a different story. And the media's way of reporting is a different thing too.

First up I wanna start with this whole "Islands" thing. It needs to stop. That and "Tropical vibes" are so reductive. Contrary to (reasonable) popular belief, Jamaica is not the Caribbean. Its just the only English speaking one you'll never say "I'm going to the Caribbean" because you don't wanna hear "Oh niiiice. Where's that?" Actually, maybe Barbados falls into that category too, but Jamaica is definitely the most known English-speaking Caribbean island all over the globe.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Jamaican/Bashment Music Banned In Croydon? We Are In 2016, Right?

The headline on the Croydon Advertiser read like something I'd have expected happened until the 90s at the very latest:

How is that even allowed in this day and age? A type of music that's commonly associated with participants securing a wine, daggering or bussing gun finger is related to crime and violence? That's what they're allegedly saying. The owners of Dice Bar were told “not to play bashman or John Paul”, translation: bashment or Sean Paul. We don't "bash" man, uzimi? And the only John Paul I know was the pope and I swear my man's reasoning with his peer Jesus while Selassie, Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller and Bob Marley bun him out?

"We had a flyer which said R&B, garage, house, bashment and hip hop and I was advised to remove the word bashment because chart and commercial music is considered safer," said Dice Bar owner Ryan Seda.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Kano 'Made In The Manor' review = album I needed to hear

This is a good old-fashioned long read. I don't care about the ideal word count limit or ISO. Optimum anything can sxck ya mam. Man's 'ere to express, uzimi? If you don't want to know what I think of the singles, skim from here to the next bold. Bold onwards is about the album tracks.

In an era where it felt like everyone was trying to make "universal" stuff that sounded/ripped off American aiming to appeal to a global audience by kids who grew up with aspirations to be like rich US hip hop artists, grime's return to the mainstream conversation kicked the regional ownership back into gear. It reminded Londoners that we have a history and identity beyond images we saw on MTV Base.

Don't get me wrong, I indulge in the gritty, road rap tales from the younger generation. I love their way with words, passion, hearing their pain, perspective and outlook over trappy beats. But I love balance too. It was lacking 2 to 3 years ago.

While there has been hit singles, club smashes, memorable clashes, war dubs with videos and a couple high charting projects, I don't think this generation has delivered a definitive album. Skepta was important in bringing the grime singles and style to the back forefront, Kano brought me a quintessential London album. Material that couldn't have been made anywhere else.

Actually, before we get into it, this isn't an album review as such. This is about what the album means to me and why I feel its very important, and also my thoughts about Kano.