Dancehall

Reasoning with Skillibeng “I’m Still Trying To Write My Best Song”

Reasoning with Skillibeng  "I’m Still Trying To Write My Best Song"

“New Flows Always”

“Victory with an easy entrance” proclaimed Skillibeng on his dubplate for Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness ahead of the landslide victory in the 2020 election. Likewise, Skilli himself has been victorious this year in spite of the global pandemic, establishing himself as Jamaica’s new force, specialising in elevating lyrical standards. Seen by many as a face of the rising Trap Dancehall wave, the 23-year old reflects influences ranging from Vybz Kartel to deceased US drill bastion, Pop Smoke, paying tribute in remix of club-smash “Dior.”

Born in the eastern parish of St. Thomas, his passionate East Syder fanbase grows exponentially on a daily basis, drawn in by inventive flows and sharp lyricism. The vibrant countryside parish, better known historically for Paul Bogle, the Morant Bay Rebellion and rich Afrocentric traditions, is one of the trending regions for talents in dancehall. Skillibeng is the latest attraction alongside 6ixx’s Chronic Law and the unstoppable OVO-signed, Gaza-alumni star, Popcaan.

With co-signs ranging from Jamaican pocket rocket Koffee, incarcerated reigning dancehall king Vybz Kartel to rapper Young MA, the lyrical technician is making huge strides in his relatively new career. Since breaking through in early 2019 with the acclaimed Prodigy mixtape, a slew of releases including guest spots on Jada Kingdom’s popular mixtape E-Syde Queen: The Twinkle Playlist, the weed ode “50 Bag” and “Mr. Universe,” along with controversial hit “Brik Pan Brik” sparking debates around Scamming songs (songs about the lifestyle of lottery scammers—an increasingly popular hustle tied to organized crime in Jamaica), all aided the young talent in establishing himself as a forerunner among the new generation.  Marvin Sparks speaks with Skillibeng about his year 2020 rise in lockdown, Popcaan friendship, collaborating with Vybz Kartel, lottery scamming culture and recording a dubplate for the Jamaican Prime Minister. Q&A After The Jump…
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WATCH THIS: Stonebwoy “Blaze Dem Freestyle” Music Video

WATCH THIS: Stonebwoy "Blaze Dem Freestyle" Music Video

“Defend The Turf An’ Ting…”

Stonebwoy had nothing much to prove when he and his entourage—known as the BHIM Nation—rolled up on a fleet of motorbikes this past weekend to a highly anticipated battle with Shatta Wale, his chief rival for the title of Africa’s Dancehall King. Stonebwoy has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Ashaiman, a seaside town on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The internationally renowned West African artist developed his own distinctive musical style, which he describes as Afro-Dancehall, fusing Jamaican dancehall  and patois with Afrobeats, hip hop slang, and his native dialect Ewe. He established his own independent company, the Burniton Music Group, as well as a charitable organization, the Livingstone Foundation. He’s also earned numerous accolades over the course of his career. He was named Best International Act at the 2015 BET Awards. He has won several Ghana Music Awards, including Artist of the Year. He collaborated with Morgan Heritage on the group’s Grammy-nominated 2017 album Avrakedabra and recorded singles with many of Jamaica’s top dancehall artists, including Grammy-winners Sean Paul and Beenie Man. His latest album, Anloga Junction, features a hit collab with VIBE cover artist Keri Hilson as well as Nasty C, a South African rapper who signed to Def Jam in March. Stonebwoy entered the clash arena wearing a full-face gas mask, leaving no doubt that he was taking this competition very seriously. Video After The Jump…
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Stefflon Don Speaks On Making a Dancehall “Move”

Stefflon Don Speaks On Making a Dancehall "Move"

“Something Hype, Feisty & Rooted”

Stefflon Don is getting back to her bashment roots with a new single called “Move,” produced by Troyon the dancehall hitmaker who crafted Sean Paul’s worldwide smash “Gimme The Light.” We linked the UK bad gyal who spoke on her latest release for Quality Control Music / Motown. “‘Move’ is inspired by the old me, the Steff that the world was first introduced to,” says the artist who made waves with her late 2016 mixtape Real Ting. “I felt like it was needed to come back with something hype, feisty and rooted.” Check out Stefflon Don’s latest video right now. Video After The Jump…
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WATCH THIS: Super Cat and Salaam Remi “Push Time” Official Music Video

WATCH THIS: Super Cat and Salaam Remi "Push Time" Official Music Video

The Wild Apache Rides Again

Between the viral pandemic, murderous police, and corrupt politricksters shamelessly fanning the flames of racial hatred, the first eight months of 2020 have been absolutely dreadful. In times such as these it helps to hear from people who have survived hard times before. People who know what it means when the “Ghetto Red Hot.” People who know that when times get rough, Some tan so back while others Rally back.” People like William Maragh aka the Don Dada aka the Wild Apache aka Super Cat. One of the first dancehall legends to link with hip hop superstars like Heavy D, Puff Daddy, and Biggie Smalls, Super Cat made an indelible impact on both cultures with his charismatic style, rude boy demeanor, and cultural lyrics. Just in time for Labor Day Weekend in Brooklyn—and elections in Jamaica— Super Cat has joined forces with producer extraordinaire Salaam Remi to release his first  new music in over a decade. “Since the 90s Super Cat and I have always been able to reason,” says Remi, who’s renowned for his work with artists as diverse as Nas, Amy Winehouse, and The Fugees. “And recently reasoning about the state of the communities and worldwide unrest led to this song.”

The new single, “Push Time”—set to Remi’s adaptation of the Wild Apache classic “Cabin Stabbin“—speaks eloquently to the political climate which surrounds us. The song will be featured on Remi’s upcoming LP Black on Purpose which also features NaS, Jennifer Hudson ,Case, Teedra Moses, Bilal, Busta Rhymes, Chronixx, Spragga Benz, MuMu Fresh, and Doug E Fresh along with more from Black Thought, Stephen Marley, Cee-Lo Green, and Anthony Hamilton. As Mr. Maragh once told me, “It’s not like we just get up this morning and start sing about gun. It’s something that we LIVE through and survive, and who didn’t survive DIE, and who didn’t die go to prison.” Super Cat has had to learn the hard way, but he’s vowed to share the fruits of his experience so that others will not make the same mistake twice. “I & I graduate from GHETTO-ology,” he says. “In my time I had to stop go to school because the politics friction was breaking out in the school. Even TEACHER was shot in the school compound. Guns was swinging around like crazy. It’s not that we go to rude boy school and groom to become rude boy,” says Cat. “Rude boy ting it come to WE in the ghetto.” Check out the new video, shot in the streets of Hollis Queens under the watchful eye of Jam Master Jay, Tenor Saw, and Nico Demus, and the whole of the DJ in shut eye country. Respect in all aspect. Video After The Jump… Read more »

WATCH THIS: Jada Kingdom “Budum” Official Music Video PREMIERE

WATCH THIS: Jada Kingdom "Budum" Official Music Video PREMIERE

“Them call me Muma Heavy”

The Jamaican expression for someone who is not afraid to speak what’s on their mind is that they “nuh tek back chat.” That phrase describes Jada Kingdom perfectly. While she often speaks in a gentle voice, her words can be as soft as water or as hard as rockstone. “Full time we firm up we meds,” she sings on “Execution,” one of her deceptively delicate tracks from last year, shouting out the girls from her part of town, Kingston’s East Side. “Yo Rockfort, Harborview, Bull Bay, gal a St. Thomas, whole a E-Syde, mek dem know say we mad and bad.”

In the space of three years, Jada Kingdom has carved out a unique creative space for herself, nestled in a sweet spot somewhere between dancehall, R&B and pop. Her jazzy, neo-soul vocal style is more reminiscent of Erykah Badu than Lady Saw. And while she’s never afraid to show her vulnerability or to channel her pain into powerful art, she can turn the attitude up to 100 at the drop of a dime.

Today Jada embarks on a new phase of her burgeoning career, the release of her first single under a deal with  Diplo’s Mad Decent label. Fresh off the success of her mixtape E-Syde Queen: The Twinkle Playlist and features on Popcaan’s red-hot Yiy Change Fixtape and Vybz Kartel’s soul-baring To Tanisha Jada is perfectly poised for her moment. All she needs is a massive tune to kick things off. Something like, say, “Budum.”

“It’s been such a crazy year with the pandemic I just wanted to release a song that is fun and will make people happy and want to dance again,” says Jada Kingdom says about the track. “Hopefully ‘Budum’ will have everyone whining their waists and rocking their bodies again and help us to forget some of the craziness going on around us.”

Produced by the German-born, Jamaica-approved producer known as Emudio, “Budum” is the anthem that should be rocking ever late-summer fete from Uptown Mondays in Kingston to Notting Hill Carnival in London to the Eastern Parkway Labor Day Parade in Brooklyn. Even if your end-of-summer rave is a socially distanced house party, “Budum” is the soundtrack—a sexy blast of self-love and female empowerment from a Queen who knows her body is a Kingdom. Today Boomshots and VIBE premiere the visuals, directed by 300K.

“We just went for a fun, happy vibe for the video to reflect the song,” says Jada. “We also wanted to incorporate the cover art so we built out a crazy set literally overnight for that scene. ‘Budum’ is a track that makes people dance and feel good and hopefully the video makes people feel the same way.” Video After The Jump…
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WATCH THIS: Kabaka Pyramid “Nice Up Di Dance” Official Music Video

WATCH THIS: Kabaka Pyramid "Nice Up Di Dance" Official Music Video

Nice Up Di Dance

When I asked Clement S. Dodd, the founding father of the Jamaican music industry, which of his many recordings he was proudest of, the producer known as Sir Coxsone paused and stroked his white-whiskered chin. ”There is so much, getting back to ‘One Love’ and ‘Simmer Down,’ ” he said, mentioning two of The Wailers’ first big hits, recorded when a short-haired teenager named Bob Marley was living in a room behind Dodd’s studio. From legendary reggae bands like the Wailers and Burning Spear to the Skatalites, Studio One became Jamaica’s answer to Motown. Of all the great tracks he produced, Mr. Dodd finally selected his favorite. ”Real Rock,” he said, then began laughing. ”Oh God. ‘Real Rock’ really strong. It’s on top.”

Originally recorded by the ace Studio One reggae band known as Sound Dimension, the “Real Rock” rhythm track that has been used for countless classic tunes, from Willi Williams’ “Armagideon Time” (1977) to Dennis Brown’s “Stop The Fussing and Fighting” (1977). None was more entertaining than Michigan & Smiley’s “Nice Up The Dance.” Papa Michigan & General Smiley’s rollicking combination brings the joys of a live dancehall session to life. It takes a certain caliber of artist to handle a rhythm like the “Real Rock.” So when producer Jeremy Harding was challenged to remake the Michigan & Smiley 1979 classic for the forthcoming VP Records project Dancehall Anthems, there was really only one logical choice—Kabaka Pyramid. An ace lyricist equally adept at classic roots reggae, hip-hop, and dancehall, Kabaka does full justice to Michigan & Smiley’s original while infusing its classic verses with his own unique energy and verbal wizardry. Video After The Jump…
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Koffee Opens Up About “Lockdown”

Koffee Opens Up About "Lockdown"

“Where Will We GO?”

There’s still a lot of time left in Summer 2020, but on this last day of July we are declaring Koffee’s “Lockdown” Boomshots official 2020 Summer anthem. Produced by Dane “Raygad” Ray from the Unruly camp, the song finds Koffee asking all of the questions everybody in the world is asking themselves right now. What will the future be like “when the quaratine thing done and everybody touch road?” As soon as we heard this tune we knew it was outta here! (That was way before we saw the video with cameos from Popcaan and Dre Island.) More than just a Covid-era contemplation, “Lockdown” is also a poignant love song that speaks to the challenges of romance during a time of viral pandemic. As such, it represents a milestone in Koffee’s catalog. At the ripe old age of 20, the youngest Reggae Grammy winner in history has given us her first love song—and without overthinking it one bit, she might just have given us a follow-up to rival her breakthrough smash “Toast.” When you hear Koffee sing “if you love me, you should let me…” it’s clear she is in her feelings on this one. Of course everybody wants to know who this song was inspired by, but all we can say about that is just cool. In her first interview since “Lockdown” dropped, Koffee tapped in with Reshma B via Instagram Live and spoke about the inspiration behind the tune.  Video After The Jump… 

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Junior Gong Pon Di Strong

Junior Gong Pon Di Strong

Reasoning With Zilla 25 Years Ago

Damian Marley was never intimidated by great expectations. Born  on this day in 1978, the youngest son of Robert Nest Marley did not hesitate to follow in some very large footsteps, entering the music industry at an early age. He started out singing in a group called The Shepherds, along with the children of reggae stars Freddie McGregor, Judy Mowatt, and “Cat” Coore of Third World. Former Shepherd Shiah Coore still plays bass in Damian’s band to this day.

During the mid 1990s Damian stepped out as a solo performer under the name Jr. Gong. On January 23 1995 he passed through New York City to promote the album Positively Reggae, a compilation of conscious tracks by dancehall artists like Shabba Ranks, Mad Cobra, Bounty Killer, and Patra with proceeds going to benefit Leaf of Life, a Jamaican organization for HIV-positive children.

This photo, shot by Brian Jahn during the same press run, gives you an idea of what his hair looked like back then. Today his dreadlocks are so long he has to tuck them into a backpack when he plays soccer. I had a chance to reason with Damian that day for my Boomshots column in VIBE. He seemed like a cool youth at the time, but I had no idea this convo would be the start of such a long-lasting friendship. After all he’s accomplished since then, D remains remarkably chill. The interview has never been published in its entirely. 25 years later seems like as good a time as any. Big Up Jr. Gong. Blessings pon di strong. Interview After The Jump…
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Vybz Kartel Speaks Of Dons and Of Divas

Vybz Kartel Speaks Of Dons and Of Divas

Crocodile Skin Sneakers

Little known fact: the very first post on Boomshots.com went live February 10, 2009. The title? “Don’t Ramp With Kartel.” Adidja Palmer and Grace Hamilton’s smash collab “Rampin Shop,” an X-rated excursion on Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” version, was taking the streets by storm and had the internet  spinnin’ like a satellite dish—just as a new platform for dancehall and reggae was born. VIBE magazine had not yet ceased print publication but the mighty Boomshots brand, which started as a monthly column in Quincy Jones’ glossy hip hop magazine, was already leveling up on the digital frontier—at the same moment Kartel and Spice were about to elevate hardcore dancehall to new heights. Over the years Boomshots and Kartel have kept in touch. The first of our timeless interviews, “Reasoning with Di Teacha,” was just the beginning. Boomshots founder Rob Kenner published a profile of Kartel in The New York Times in 2011. From time to time we would link up with the Worlboss and various representatives of the Portmore Empire—search BoomshotsTV for a refresher if you’re playing catch-up. Back in 2013 we held a reasoning via email due to circumstances beyond our control, which would be Kartel’s first interview behind bars. He has come a long way since then. Check the stats: Over half a billion streams, 100+ #1 songs in Jamaica, not to mention all the dancehall stars he brought to the world’s attention, from Popcaan to Tommy Lee to Gaza Slim—and the list goes on straight up to Sikka Rhymes and UTG. And don’t forget the international collabs with the likes of Rihanna, Missy, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Major Lazer, Akon, and Eminem. And just the other day Kartel received his first solo plaque from the Recording Industry Association of America for the certified gold single “Fever” off his album King of the Dancehall. In honor of this accomplishment, not to mention the release of his latest magnum opus, Of Dons & Divas, the time seemed right to catch up and hold a reasoning with Adi. Interview After The Jump…
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Buju Banton Covers VIBE x Boomshots Collab

Buju Banton Covers VIBE x Boomshots Collab

A VIBE x Boomshots Collab: Redemption Songs
Jamaica’s Undefeated Champion Returns

Forward ever,” the late great Jacob “Killer” Miller used to sing. “And backward never.” Reggae music has always been about forward motion, the movement of Jah people, up from downpression and forward to Holy Mount Zion, because freedom is a must. Still, every once in awhile, it doesn’t hurt to take a glance over your shoulder, if only to take the measure of one’s progress. Just to remember the long walk, and to make sure that history is not a mystery. Some stories have got to be told. Story Continues After The Jump…  Read more »

Bounty & Beenie on Verzuz: Jamaica’s version of ‘The Last Dance’

Bounty & Beenie on Verzuz: Jamaica's version of 'The Last Dance'

What Could Top This Legendary Moment?

 

The VERZUZ series led by Swizz Beats and Timbaland has been an oasis in the midst of a pandemic. Week after week, music lovers have enjoyed the nostalgia, the spontaneous comedy, and the opportunity to bring the proverbial roses to their favorite artists. 

The anticipation was at a fever pitch when it was announced that dancehall giants, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, would headline VERZUZ for a Memorial Day soundclash. 

Excitement mixed with anxiety. Dancehall fans have always wanted our music to receive its proper due on the global stage. It is a great genre that has birthed hip-hop, reggaeton, Afrobeat, influenced the sound of songs on the top 40 but does not always receive its rightful recognition. 

For these legendary artists, their fans, and dancehall culture overall, the stakes were high, to say the least. Would the VERZUZ audience, primarily Hip-Hop and R&B fans, receive these giants well? Would their misunderstanding—or even worse, ridicule—lead to embarrassment? Story Continues After The Jump…
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Dre Island Elevates With Debut Album ‘Now I Rise’

Dre Island Elevates With Debut Album 'Now I Rise'

“We rise to the top… cause we know what it takes”

“We rise to the top,” Dre Island sings on “We Pray,” his massive collab with Popcaan, “cause we know what it takes.” Building on that theme of musical and spiritual elevation, the multi-talented musician—singer, deejay, songwriter, producer, and pianist—has just released his debut album Now I Rise. The project features the aforementioned “We Pray” as well as crucial collaborations with the likes of Jesse Royal and Chronixx. “Ah mi family dem deh,” says Dre Island, who has toured Europe backed by Chronixx’s band Zincfence Redemption. A graduate of Kingston’s Calabar high school—alma mater of both Jr. Gong and Vybz Kartel—Andre Johnson aka Dre Island is a living link between the vaunted “roots revival” movement and the sound of the Jamaican streets. “The revival is really within the people,” he says. “Reggae music never stop. Reggae artists always been touring. So it’s just the people’s awareness.” During a time when reggae and dancehall stand at a crossroads, Dre Island has emerged as one of the few artists capable of bringing together dancehall vibes and the ancient roots traditions—not to mention outernational connections like “People” his collaboration with UK talents Cadenza and Jorja Smith. “An island is a small land mass surrounded by water,” the artist told Boomshots correspondent Reshma B in their first interview. “But if you read further it’s also a place where you go to find yourself.” Video After The Jump…  Read more »