BY: Jodee Brown
Music is one of the most competitive industries around; where the fates of careers are determined thanks to straightforward factors such as talent and dedication or more political factors, such as fan and label support or sheer luck, whether good or bad.
The Dancehall/Reggae scene has produced many artists who have tapped into their potential and lived up to such expectations thanks to one or both of those types of factors. In this countdown, we look at eight such artists who may have had the talent to reach very far and were far from one-hit wonders, but for some reason or another have not fulfilled their strong potentials, leaving one to ask that age old question, ‘What if?’
This list does not include artists whose potentials were sadly not realized due to very tragic circumstances, so the likes of Garnett Silk, Jacob Miller, Natasja Saad, Simpleton, Lil Joe, Coppercat and others will not be featured. Though we certainly wonder how their careers would have evolved had they still been with us (R.I.P), we instead choose to remember the good work they left behind.
On to it then…
Bascom X – Remember this guy? After garnering acclaim with his 2004 hit, Lonely Girl, it looked like Bascom X was heading for bigger and better things in the music industry.
With his unique voice and style, he received his share of ratings throughout the industry and continued his momentum with tracks such as Same Way, Eyes on the Prize and Fool for Love (w/ Anjelle). Despite having marketable attributes, he was often in and out of the spotlight and sometimes ventured in Dancehall, which never really sounded like his forte.
A gun charge in 2007 and a three-year hiatus from the industry – which he attributed to his lack of desire to work with local producers – followed before returning with a cover of Garnett Silk’s classic, Commitment, which was a reminder of the talents he amazed with early in his career.
With so many lulls in his once promising career, the question of ‘What If?’ definitely applies to this artist.
Though his debut album, Nyah Man Chant in 1997 was dropped with little fanfare, it was his sophomore effort, Total Commitment that really garnered him acclaim in 2000. With hits such as Fire Bun a Weak Heart and Worries and Problems, Bushman was poised for long term success and having later produced his biggest hit to date, Downtown, his star grew even brighter.
So what happened? Well for one, his rise to fame came during a time when more celebrated names such as Sizzla, I-Wayne, Richie Spice and Warrior King were making their own marks on the music, hence he sort of became lost in the fray among his Reggae brethren, despite his talents deserving comparison to his compatriots.
Additionally, his biggest compliment could also have been his biggest impediment. From the day he arrived into the industry, many music lovers dubbed him a vocal clone of Reggae legend, Luciano. There really is little to separate the two, though Bushman’s voice might be a tad bit deeper. But usually when an up-and-coming artist sounds similar to another, especially once as accomplished as Luciano, it can render that artist unoriginal in the minds of fans, regardless of how different the songs or content sounds.
Bushman continues to record and tour worldwide to this day, with those vocals sounding as fresh as ever. But given the promise and acclaim he received early in his career and drop off since then, you definitely have to question why he didn’t achieve more success than he did.
Timberlee – ‘Hot gal a hot gal, sweet like a honey. X to the 5, mi nuh drive inna sunny”’ the famous opening line to the hit song, Bubble like Soup, which was one of the biggest songs of 2007.
This was crafted by Timberlee, who in collaboration with Ward 21, perfectly showcased her talents in this song: Vocal range, ability to put different personalities into her music and smooth lyrical flow. Though she came onto the scene the same time as fellow Dancehall diva, Tifa, Timberlee certainly had just as much talent and ability as her then friend and was poised for a big push in the industry.
The Mandeville-born beauty and Tifa collaborated on the rather straightforward tune, Nuh Tinky Winky before dropping plausible solo efforts such as Heels, Backdoor Delivery and Move, showing she was one of the most lyrical deejays around, female or male.
Since the turn of the decade, however, Timberlee has been rather scarce on the music scene, focusing on other ventures, such as opening her own tattoo parlor, among other things. She certainly can’t be faulted for spreading her wings and should be commended for that. But considering the legitimate talent she possessed, she very well could have and hailed as one of its leading ladies to this day and made her mark as one of the best female deejays to ever infiltrate the Dancehall scene.
Dubbed the First Lady of Mavado’s Gully Squad, the curvaceous artist burst onto the scene in 2008 with hits such as Falling Down and Goodas Clap, winning plaudits for her sexy, raw style while being unafraid to take on her compatriots in her industry along the way (see her feud with Lisa Hype)
Her biggest hit came in 2010, alongside Mavado for the collaborative, chart-topping smash, Come Into My Room, when her sultry vocals perfectly complimented the ‘Gully Gaad,’ making the song a hot on the airwaves and in bedrooms across the world.
Much like Timberlee, Stacious simply wanted to test her entrepreneurial skills and did so with moderate success, opening Café Scrumptious in 2010, launching her own talk show, Talk on News Talk 93FM two years later and also doing personal training as she’s become heavily interested in fitness in recent time. Occasionally putting out material these days, but still performing at a high level, her career does leave us with more questions than answers.
In 2003 and 2004, he elevated his name within the Dancehall framework with hits such as Girls Gone Wild, We Bad From, Do It If Yuh Bad and Step Pon Dem garnering plaudits in the process. However, a feud with another relative newcomer, Vybz Kartel did little to help his career, with Kartel eviscerating him with his single, Nuh Care Weh Yuh Bad From and other efforts to the point Assassin’s mentor, Spragga Benz had to step in and defend his protégé.
War aside, Assassin continued to ascend within the industry with strong efforts such as Idiot Thing Dat, No Boring Gal and Doe Mek Me Hold Yuh. Arguably his best year was in 2011, when he dropped hit after hit, including Dem Bad Inna Gang and Real Badman, both rumoured to be aimed at Kartel, who he reportedly had an altercation with that year.
Always a very multi-talented deejay and a savvy performer, Assassin doesn’t always get the ratings he deserves within the industry; perhaps because there have been some lulls throughout his career and he does not court the controversy or lightning rod-type drama as some of his counterparts – in Dancehall, unfortunately, that’s a drawing factor that aids success – thus making him somewhat underappreciated. Had he not experienced those lulls, he’d be talked about just as much as the Kartels, Busy Signals and Mavados of the world, but his recent appearance on Kanye West’s Yeezus album does suggest that his international appeal has not waned.
Terror Fabulous – One of the premiere deejays of the 1990s, Terror Fabulous won acclaim for his rough edged style and lyrical clarity, making him a force alongside other newbies at the time, including Wayne Wonder and Buju Banton, the latter his vocal twin of sorts.
His big break came in 1994 with the chart-topping smash, Action, featuring Nadine Sutherland, making him a household name internationally, with other notable efforts such as Gangster’s Anthem, Pop Style and others.
A bitter fallout with prominent producer Dave Kelly and a long hiatus from the music scene followed soon thereafter, leading to endless speculation about his mental health. In a rare interview with LargeUp in 2012, Terror admitted he had mental issues, but rejected notions from friends in the business that he was bi-polar.
Surely, mental health should always be taken seriously, so we can only speculate what happened other than his fallout with Kelly that led to his sudden disappearance from the spotlight. But there’s little doubt Terror Fabulous had the talent to go really far in the industry and become a true Dancehall icon. For those reasons, he’s a shoe-in to make this list.
Tami Chynn – Her younger sister, Tessanne Chin may be enjoying the spotlight now, but in the early to mid-2000s, it was Tami Chynn who was being looked on as one of the next potential crossover stars from Jamaica.
Chynn debuted in 2003 with single, Rock U (featuring Kid Kurupt), ideally merging elements of pop music and Dancehall, with the dance moves to compliment. Hits such as Hyperventilating, Can You Feel Me (with Michael Bolton) and Over and Over Again followed as well the collaborative effort, Why with her now husband, Wayne Marshall.
It appeared as if Chynn was finally getting her big crossover break in 2008 when Senegalese-American rap star, Akon scouted and subsequently signed her to his Konvict Musik label. That venture, however, was short-lived after single, Frozen, failed to make any real impact on the Billboard charts and her album recorded while with the label, Prima Donna, was never released after she cut ties with them.
She would go on to record the collaborative effort, Certified Diva with Tifa, but has been largely absent from the music scene since having her first child in July of last year.
Much like her sister, Chynn had the voice, personality and performance savvy to become the next big crossover star from Jamaica, like Shaggy, Sean Paul and Damian Marley before her. But having pushed her as strictly a pop artist, like Konvict apparently did, made her appear one-dimensional and did not play to her strengths. Had she been able to pull off the transition to mainstream success like her sister did to some extent, albeit with the help of The Voice, she undoubtedly could have been where Tessanne is today.
‘Lord Evil’ rose to prominence as a king of the underground scene who ascended into the mainstream limelight thanks to his partnership with renowned producer, Cordel ‘Skatta’ Burrell. Between 2005 and 2008, few entertainers were as intimidating in Dancehall as Aidonia, with hardcore songs such as Bukkam, Big Matic Nah Laugh, Empty, Grab Har Nuh and 100 Stab.
His no nonsense approach didn’t win him many friends in the industry, including fallouts with Bounty Killer, Busy Signal and Vybz Kartel, but that only seemed to enhance his reputation in the streets. However, when the Broadcasting Commission clamped down on gun lyrics penetrating local airwaves, it forced Aidonia to change up his game somewhat and with some success, with We Run Uptown, Fi Di Jockey, Jackhammer, Bruki and others evidence of his ability to adjust.
So why is he at the top of the list. Simply put, for an artist of his sheer ability, versatility and lyrical prowess, he has somewhat underachieved. Tipped by many music lovers as an artist who would assume Dancehall’s mantle once Vybz Kartel was incarcerated in 2011, he has not been able to translate the same dominant form that made him an underground legend to the mainstream. His efforts to translate his local success internationally were also hampered by the fact his U.S. visa was revoked in 2010, damaging his ability to capitalize on one of Dancehall’s biggest international hubs, which hurt considering he had the voice and the image to make himself a marketable asset there and collaborate with some of America’s top acts like Mavado has done, for instance.
Now, the deejay has mellowed down somewhat since the birth of his son, recently revealing that he has undergone a spiritual rebirth and will no longer be doing war lyrics, which is certainly commendable. Though he’s undoubtedly one of Dancehall’s best and most celebrated artists, Aidonia leaves music fans wondering how much further he could have taken his career as he has long possessed the total package necessary to become Dancehall’s next great international star.