Though debate lingers as to whether or not the Dancehall/Reggae industry wallows in decline, there certainly isn’t a shortage of good, young talent within Jamaican music.
Yet some artistes, whether still relatively new or polished veterans, either are somewhat overlooked or don’t garner the respect their production deserves. Keeping that in mind, here are ten prominent Dancehall/Reggae acts that warrant more attention for their work than they’ve been given.
Locally, her star has shone bright in recent months through the release of her sultry single, When You Hold Me as well as the Reggae-themed song, I A’int Missing You showcased varying sides of an artiste that possesses as much lyrical dexterity and sex appeal as her female counterparts. Perhaps, 2012 will be the year she finally earns local recognition as a top-draw act.
9. Stein: In 2011, few artistes released more singles than Gully Squad deejay, Stein whose work ethic can hardly be questioned. Always regarded as lyrical mean machine since his emergence in the early 2000s, Stein stepped up his efforts in 2011 with reputable singles such as Take You for a Ride (feat. Gyptian) Party Hard on the Overproof Riddim and Shell Dung Di Party, amongst several others.
However, his talent, while appreciated on an underground level, hasn’t been appreciated as much via the mainstream. Perhaps, that’s what led Stein to accuse the Dancehall industry of racism in a scathing YouTube rant last month. Hopefully, he won’t be forced to resort to such measures again in exchange for recognition regarding his quality music.
8. Raine Seville: Having been away from music for over a year due to the birth of her first son, Raine Seville returned with a bang last year with hit singles like, Showdown, Tra La La and See Dem A Look which reinforced the strong potential she showed after releasing Curious in 2009. Her strong vocals and easy-flowing lyrics make her a contender for big accolades and in 2012, she’s already made a name for herself, collaborating with Mavado on the sparkling duet, Cheating Games to rave reviews locally.
Certainly making up for lost time, Raine Seville seems poised to take her place as a dominant Dancehall diva going forward.
7. Demarco – Known for several top ten hits such as Duppy Know Who Fi Frighten, Fallen Soldiers and True Friends, amongst several others, Demarco has a resume that more seasoned artistes would envy. However, it was with Love My Life where Demarco scored on an international level, earning over 30 million YouTube views for the chart-topping single, putting him in elite company with Sean Paul and Shaggy as the only artistes to achieve such as feat.
Though many might consider him in the second tier of top-draw Dancehall acts, his concepts and lyrical delivery warrants even more praise. Iron Bird and 6:30 have already proven so far this year why he merits more credit.
6. Ikaya: Certainly one of Dancehall’s sexiest acts, Ikaya’s qualities as a musician frankly should garner just as much notice. Whether a risqué, sensual vibe on a Dancehall track or a cool, soothing essence while performing Reggae, Ikaya has proven herself as the total package through internationally-acclaimed singles such as These Tears, Get High and the chart-topping single, Hard Way.
While showcasing thought-provoking singles, Ikaya has also proven herself as a culpable performer with strong sets at Reggae Sumfest 2011 and STING 2011 aswell as a memorable rendition of the classic Bob Marley single, Redemption Song at this year’s Youth View Awards. Ikaya’s heard from scarcely, which might explain why she’s not as highly rated as talent deserves. But in her case, quality does exceed quantity, thus leaving no doubt that she’ll fulfill her high mainstream potential.
5. Denyque: When fans first heard the chart topping single, Can’t Breathe back in 2008, Denyque unleashed a heartwarming voice that elicited countless goose bumps across the world. Expectations quickly rose following her debut and, to her credit, unveiled notable follow-up efforts such as Summer Love and Hooked on Me in 2010.
Since then, many wondered if she’d ever live up to her potential as she released culpable efforts but never quite connected on the charts like expected after her first mainstream success. But with a seemingly more mature attitude, Denyque has re-dedicated herself and, in turn, collaborated with Chino for the smash hit, Driving Me Insane which paid homage to Shabba Ranks’ classic single. Driving Me Insane re-ignited the aforementioned expectations initially placed on her and with more recent hits like Turn My Music Up, To Be in Love and What You Like alongsideDing Dong have renewed her status as one of Jamaica’s best singers.
4. Chino: Along with Driving Me Insane, Chino and Denyque have the underrated tag in common. Living up to expectations set by legendary father, Freddie McGregor and his brother/producer, Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor, Chino is an apparent afterthought when it comes to the discussion of Jamaica’s best artistes. Given his willingness to present unconventional ideas within his music, Chino has become an international success with singles like Protected, From Mawnin, Seal the Link and Handwritings, which was an ode to late Reggae superstar, Dennis Brown. Having previously named Singjay of the Year at the EME Awards in 2010, Chino hails as one of Jamaica’s most versatile products and his lyrical clarity deserves even more local acclaim as his typically conscious vibe brings forth a refreshing aura which Dancehall desperately needs.
3. Busy Signal: Everyone knows Busy’s plethora of number one hits and commercial appeal through various Red Stripe and Red Label Wine. But for some reason, Busy Signal doesn’t get talked about with the likes of Vybz Kartel and Mavado despite over 10 number one hits and a rare lyrical ingenuity that made him a household name.
Disregard the fact he doesn’t perform at STING and Reggae Sumfest every year, his crossover appeal continues to rise as he aims to break down international barriers that Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Shaggy and Damian Marley did previously. Whether a country-influenced single like, The Gambler, a Reggae track like Life or ‘pure’ Dancehall like Swag Tun Up, Busy’s range has never been more evident and with a Reggae album now out, there’s little doubt that this artiste should be in the conversation of Jamaica’s best musicians.
2. Tiana: Combine the number of videos that Tifa, Lady Saw and many other female artistes unveiled in 2011 and they still don’t equal Tiana’s total. Her 11 videos in 2011 were unprecedented for a female artiste in 2011 and amongst them, some notable gems such as Pum Pum Phat, Gyal Mi Love Yuh (featuring Konshens) as well as Bruk Out and Wine on the Overproof Riddim.
With a musical resume’ many would envy, Tiana still seeks to earn the respect commercially that she warrants while taking the Dancehall world by storm. Her mainstream following is only now just taking shape after dominating the underground and international ranks and while Tifa and Lady Saw continue to assert themselves as prominent divas, Tiana’s body of work should garner more accolades. Nevertheless, her attempts to grab mainstream attention are finally succeeding as the ‘Princess of Dancehall’ looks to elevate her royal status within Dancehall while leading a very talented group of female prospects.
1.Konshens: Like Tiana to female artistes, nobody is more underrated as a male act that Konshens. Since the hustling anthem, Winner took the local industry by storm in 2008, Konshens’ affinity for the unorthodox has earned him his share of fans and critics in the industry. Whether voicing on frowned upon ‘one-drop’ Riddims or earning few award nominations, Konshens continues to ignore stereotypes as singles like Simple Song, Last Drink (feat. Voicemail) and Do Sumn show aspects of an artiste whose vision goes beyond music but more so, uniting and educating society. His willingness to work with younger artistes shows his optimism for Dancehall’s future and intelligence shown while addressing key music issues make him a well-polished product.
In 2012, Konshens looks to ascend within the Dancehall ranks as he’s already triggered Deejay of the Year conversation with singles like Bad Gal, Gyal A Bubble and Badman Settings. Saying that he merits his place as one of Dancehall’s elite is an understatement. But at this pace, there’s no question Konshens could quickly shed this label as Jamaica’s most underrated artiste.