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.