Dancehall > Rap

Living in Southern California for most of my life, I was a witness to the disappearance of Caribbean rhythms in the city. A stark contrast to New York, which has a heavy island population, dancehall and reggae music never really took off in LA. Sure, we had radio shows and night spots (does Jamaica Gold still exist?), but with the onset of reggaeton those sounds died faster than Shyne’s post-prison buzz, so much so that I didn’t hear a lick for a few years until I actually moved to New York last year.

I must say, Los Angeles lost on this one.

Despite having a Nigerian background and being used to loud, angry, accent-riddled dialect my whole life, I never really understood the loud, angry, accent-riddled dialect of Caribbean music until now, which turns out to be some of the nastiest, homophobic, violently hate-filled shit I’ve ever heard. In comparison to one of the great bards of our time, Luther Campbell, his quips for women to lie on their stomachs and hoist their hips upwards for desirable penetration is tame.

In other words, this is some of the greatest music ever invented.

Never mind the baby hair lacefront sounds of Sean Paul, Shaggy and the rest of those light-skinted hacks; I’ve noticed that the darker (and in some cases, uglier) the artist, the better the music. Mavado and Gyptian have been on a winning streak with their sounds, and they have faces only a drunken uncle your moms warned you not to visit alone would love.

Remember when Allen Iverson, under the moniker “Jewelz,” dropped “40 Barz,” a song that called people all kinds of gaylords, which ultimately drew the ire of the NBA commissioner? Perhaps he should have tossed in a little patois in that song, because they say anything from killing butt pirates to invading a woman’s ass themselves. Yet not only do they get away with it, in some cases they receive critical acclaim for it. It’s a known fact that denizens from the Caribbean are among the freakiest people in the world; the music is just an extension of that.

It’s only when rap tries to cash in on reggae and dancehall where things don’t exactly pan out. Does anybody else remember Elephant Man’s (or New Edition’s. Or Fuzzbubble’s.) failed stint on Bad Boy? I’m still trying to figure out why Sizzla has aligned himself with Dame Dash, knowing damn well Dame can’t even afford a pair of sneakers in Jay-Z Blue these days much less give out career guidance. Granted, Nas and Damian Marley’s album is shaping up to be one of the better releases this year, but I can’t fathom purchasing an album that puts money in Kelis’ pockets.

I still love rap music, and I’ve seen somewhat of a creative turnaround in the past few years. But dancehall has become a guilty pleasure of mine. A word of advice: if you ever catch a woman reciting the lyrics to Vybz Kartel’s “Take Your Versatility,” wife her up. Immediately.

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  • Feezy

    I’ve been saying this for years. The avg Dancehall artist could murder the avg hip hop artist in a battle and it wouldn’t even be close.

    • Dee El

      Co-sign like a MF!!!!!

      Dee El sends

  • dub

    I’ve been a huge fan of dancehall for a while now as they just come so damn hard with their sound and intensity. Ward 21 has dropped consistently hot albums since 2001, if you ain’t up on them you need to be

  • PJ Butta

    Great piece on the disappearance and invisible dancehall scene in LA. On point. Big up mi yute!

  • d2

    Man. I’ve read each of your articles Meka and I’ve enjoyed them thoroughly even if I didn’t necessarily agree, but using the homophobic aspects of dancehall as an example of the positives seems like a poor choice to me.

    I could have interpreted it wrong, so I apologize if that’s not how it was meant.


    I concur. Mavado is THAT dude right now; people tend to laugh that statement off. Not only does he have a keen ear for choice beats, he uses his voice to great length; almost an added instrument in itself.

    Nice piece once again.

    • MisPamela

      Mavado is the THAT dude….just act Drizzy…


    This statement is so ridiculous:

    “Granted, Nas and Damian Marley’s album is shaping up to be one of the better releases this year, but I can’t fathom purchasing an album that puts money in Kelis’ pockets.”

    Don’t get me wrong, Kelis is a blood sucking leech but I’m supporting the singles and the album several times over because its great music by great artists. If you feel its going to be one of the better albums of 2010 you need to cop it so when grammy times come around your respect for the work they put in shows on paper. Lets show tv and radio that real music still matters and that these are the brothers that deserve to get the money.

    MAY 18th I’m buying a couple copies.

  • Jamal7Mile

    No doubt, dancehall is something else! I was first exposed to it in ’92 at Norfolk State University. I think the station was 103 Jamz. It was a major influence during my college years. Boom Bye Bye should be the theme song of this post. It was pretty disappointing to return to Detroit where there is little to no dancehall presence. To this day I still have hours of dancehall jams on a pause tape I made down in VA. It’s too bad I no longer have a cassette player.

    I wish I knew who made that smoker’s song “Walking Through The Garden” so that I could look it up somewhere. Someone help me out with that one please.

    • Jamal7Mile

      *correction – “Walking Through The Jungle”

  • Uptown Trini

    i’m from the caribbean and my daily activities are heavily based around dancehallm usic, and it’s true most of thoserap artists can’t fuck with some of those deejays (except for fab etc). a session of bounty killer or mavado will turn anybody into an instant KILLER or kartel the gaza God will turn u into an oversexed gangsta. lol.

  • mav

    i aint even gonna read this shit i just gotta say get the fuck outta here wit that hip hop (even now)has more of a message than dancehall could ever muster seriously cut it out!

  • mav

    now that ive read this its in proper context hes sayin dancehall is even more untolerant and vilolent than hip hop and it seems like a back handed compliment i like every you said except the part about not coppin nas shit i think mostly all his fans r makin a priority to cop dudes shit cuz it looks like hes comin right when shit is hittin the fan an people r writin him off just like he did wit stillmatic
    looks like a potentially good year for hip hop if ye dre and ems albums r hot lookin for that
    top 5 dead or alive too and crossin my fingers (but not holdin my breath) for that new lox album too tip game and jeezy droppin too

  • LV

    Lol. Meka the song is called “Virginity”, Versatility is the “good” version.

  • EmCDL

    Yo, that dancehall music is outta control for real. I went to this college house party a few weeks ago, and cats be acting possessed listening to that music; chicks straight getting down and dirty with it dry-humping the floor and ish. Its on some overly sexed out ish for real! It stay bumpin hard too!

  • Lowedwn

    Nice post. I’ve been saying since the late ’90s into the beginning of the century that no rap artist has dropped more cold blooded music than Bounty Killer. And I know I’ll catch flack for this, but fuck it…

    Anytime > Shook Ones pt2
    Circumstances > Hard Knock Life…just sayin’

    Oh and Jamaica Gold is still going strong on Thurs. and Sunday nights, but that shit is so bougie now, it ain’t worth it and half the time the line looks like a casting call for a Christian Adugier ad or a New Boyz video.

    • SIincere

      ^^^ Circumstances is that shit.

  • Johnny Ciphe

    No mention of Vybz Kartel??

    its all good because we all know JAMAICANS do it best!! how can Jamaica not still be puttin out the best all around music seein a Jamaican “Kool DJ Herc” was the founder of Hip Hop for example.

    So glad I’m a Jamaican Hip-Hop producer so i can bring back my country’s liveness into Hip-Hop again

  • just some guy

    how does anything you said in here make dancehall>rap lol i mean at you didnt say wack ass reggaeton… Now obviously I cant understand some of the music being its spoken in a different language at times but being more violent and nasty somehow means better??? My god Ive been confused all these years. Who’s the best dancehall artist of all time to you guys who seem to be such heavy lovers of this genre

    • Lowedwn

      Bounty Killer, Buju, Capelton, Sizzla Kalonji, Anthony B, Vybez Kartel, Ninjaman, Movado, Elephant man(pre-2002), Munga, The Alliance…way too many to name

  • Will E. Will

    word that dancehall shit is rugged! Everytime I hear it I picture a packed club and me posted on the wall while a shorty just grinds the shit out of my private area. But then u hear the lyrics and its like OH SHIT! They on some real shit!

    But then again it’s like everything else that is “non american.” Anything that america has, and claims to be the hardest or biggest, or craziest, is TAME compared to other countries. American “gangsters” think they hard as shit, ’till u see what them Rio de Janeiro gangsters really doing. Cats be in the hood yellin they hoood is grimey, till u go to a hood in Jamaica, or Venezuela, or Brazil! So it’s the same with the music.

  • Dan V

    Lol. They receive critical acclaim because white folks have no idea what in the blue fuck they’re saying. I’m not really all that impressed with Gyptian though. But Buju Banton, Sizzla, Spragga Benz, and that one really ugly black-as-shit boul who’s name escapes me at the moment all make some bangin’-ass music.

    …and wow was that Allen Iverson jaun ever terrible.

    • Sincere


  • Al

    Dancehall music is the shit !!!
    Gyptian is not the best singer, BUT he has some fantastic songs : have you heared “hold ya” ? Women underwears get wet instantly whey they hear it first !!! And in my country we only speak French, but the “vibe” is too hard in this song.
    Vybz Kartel is number one these times, Movado and Busy Signal are 2nd and 3rd !

    You must know that all these artists have lost their visas to the USA : they can’t go and perform in the 48.

    Vybz Kartel has been replaced by Capleton in a big show this week end in St Lucia : He was not accepted by the Government !

    Look for “supreme week end in St Lucia” on Google.

  • Anonymous


    Yes! Thank you. Shabba Ranks.

    Pure fiyah.

  • Dan V


    Yes! Thank you. Shabba Ranks.

    Pure fiyah.

  • just some guy

    post lyrics please? Ive heard most of these guys yall namin’… and regardless of how “rugged” these guys are theres nothing special about there rhymes matter fact they often sound pretty damn retarded Im sorry but its true

  • arms

    Your a fackin dip shit dancehall never went nowhere. Why would you put sean paul and shaggy in the same catagory you racist.

    • someone

      because, dumbfuck, shaggy and sean paul sing dancehall u dipshit thats why they’re in the same category get your facts straight before u talk

  • Anonymous

    walking through the jungle is probably trodding through the jungle by carlton livingston

  • Uptown Trini

    yall gotta be crazy dancehall is tha Shit!!!! have yall even heard vybz kartel over the last few months and please anybody disrespecting bounty killer should be shot! “my Xperience” and “roots reality and culture” are classics and could stand up to some of these shitty new age hip hop artistes, and most likely deal with them on a freestyle battle so in closing i’d like to say fuck u to “just some guy” and forwards to “Al” and the other positive ppl on this post

  • MisPamela

    Meka..please email me

    you got it!

  • someone

    this by far… is… the most… racist shit i’ve ever heard in my motherfucking life damn!