Jamaica

HEAR THIS: Runkus ‘IN:SIDE’ Album PREMIERE

HEAR THIS: Runkus 'IN:SIDE' Album PREMIERE

When We’re Not Outside, Take Care of In:Side

One of the few redeeming aspects of the year 2020 was the emergence of Runkus as a force to be reckoned with at the forefront of Jamaica’s vibrant music scene. As with many so-called “overnight success” stories, most of the rise of this multitalented singer, deejay, rapper, and producer has occurred under the radar. Or, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow so memorably put it:

The heights by great men reached and kept
      Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
      Were toiling upward in the night.

Back in the Christmas season of 2014, Runkus popped up on the Reshma B Chains pop-up shop at Manor Park Plaza in Kingston. Identifying himself as “Paula’s son, aka Determine bwoy, aka Joyce grandson, aka Pam nephew” the tall, slim dreadlocks youth with a wide-brimmed hat proceeded to unleash a lyrical barrage alternating between dreamy spliff-fueled melodies and furious fast-chat syllables that promised greater things to come. Flash forward to this past November, when Runkus rolled out his witty “Quarantine Slide” visuals with Boomshots. Today he blesses us with a full album on the Delicious Vinyl Island label, aptly entitled IN:SIDE. “The project came about simply from the times,” says the artist and producer who lists Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Vybz Kartel—not to mention his brilliantly inventive father Determine—as musical influences. “Being locked down in my home city, Portmore, under order of the Government,” he says, “I took to the only thing I knew, music. In a trying time, it was my salvation.” Album & Videos After The Jump… 

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Skillibeng Creates “Cinema for Ears” on ‘The Prodigy’ Skilltape

Skillibeng Creates "Cinema for Ears" on 'The Prodigy' Skilltape

Reasoning With Mr. Universe

It’s not easy to make a name for yourself in the midst of a viral pandemic, but as Skillibeng explains on his smash hit “Mr. Universe,” he’s built for this. “From before Corona me social distance,” spits Skilli, who celebrated his 24th birthday today with the release of his highly anticipated project, The Prodigy Skilltape, and an interview with Reshma B of Boomshots. It’s been a breakthrough year for the artist known as The Fresh Prince. On the strength of his relentless creativity and tireless work ethic, Skillibeng has emerged as the face of dancehall’s new era. Video After The Jump…
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“Dreams To Remember” Happy Birthday Toots

"Dreams To Remember" Happy Birthday Toots

Memories of A Legend On His Earthstrong

 

“Ready?” asked the drummer. “Yes sir!” Toots Hibbert replied.

The year was 1968, and Toots and the Maytals were about to make history at Federal recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica.

The drummer, Winston Grennan of Beverley’s All-Stars, counted off “1, 2…” and the band began to play a brand new sound. The fast-paced ska beat that took Jamaica by storm in the early ’60s had given way to a slower, sweeter sound known as rock steady around 1966. But on this day, the Maytals — a vocal trio comprising Toots and his friends Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias — were cutting a song called “Do the Reggay.”

Where rock steady songs were more delicate and romantic, the reggae beat was raw and muscular.

“I want to do the reggay with you,” Toots sang, his powerful voice cutting through the rhythm.

“Yeah yeah!” Raleigh and Jerry harmonized.

“Is this the new dance?” Toots went on. “Going around the town?” As soon as their song hit the streets, everybody in Kingston town wanted to do the new dance too.

Toots said the name was inspired by Jamaican slang for girls you see on the street. “From streggae to reggae,” he explained.

If you can sing a song that spawns an entire genre, that’s something. But if that genre goes on to impact global culture for the next half a century or so, you must truly be something special, someone astonishing. “Reggae has gone around the world now,” Toots told me in 2016. “And I never copyright it. If I had charged like a few cents, one cent, I would be a millionaire now.” Full Story After The Jump… Read more »

Murda She Wrote October 2020

Murda She Wrote October 2020

Unruly Boss Covers Reshma B’s Column on Tidal

At the end of each month, the Reggae Girl About Town rounds up the top tunes for her “Murda She Wrote” column on Tidal. If you’re looking for October’s wickedest selections, you’ve come to the right place. This month’s lineup features certified Boomshots by Popcaan, Chronixx, Spragga Benz & Konshens, and Skillibeng. It’s Murda!

Jamaica is a small island with an outsized impact on the world. “We likkle but we tallawah” is the local phrase that sums it up best. “Likkle” means “little,” of course, while “tallawah” is a patois term describing someone who’s “strong-willed, fearless and not to be taken lightly.” All of which is a good description for Popcaan, the 5-foot-6 musical giant who looms larger than ever over the global dancehall scene.  Music After The Jump… Read more »

WATCH THIS: Elephant Man “Skankers” Official Music Video PREMIERE

WATCH THIS: Elephant Man "Skankers" Official Music Video PREMIERE

“Dis Yah One Yah Make The Dancer Dem Madd”

“All of us put in work to try leave the ghetto,” said Elephant Man as he made his debut in the pages of VIBE back in April 1998. “That’s a feeling that really can’t leave you.” Posing in the photo shoot with an iced-out pachyderm pendant dangling from his next, Elly and his bredrens from the Scare Dem Crew—Boom Dandimite, Harry Toddler, and Nitty Kutchie—made it all the way from Seaview Gardens, one of Kingston’s hardest neighborhoods, to a full-page write up in VIBE’s NEXT section, the magazine’s showcase for “People on the Verge.” It was a good day—but Elephant was just getting started. The legendary dancehall icon would go on to share stages with Usher and Chris Brown, collab with Missy Elliott and Lil Jon, perform live on the nationally televised VIBE Awards, and sign a deal with Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy Records. Throughout it all, he continued repping Jamaican dancehall culture to the fullest. They say an Elephant never forgets.Video After The Jump… Read more »

WATCH THIS: Agent Sasco ft. Bounty Killer & Kabaka Pyramid “Loco” Official Music Video PREMIERE

WATCH THIS: Agent Sasco ft. Bounty Killer & Kabaka Pyramid "Loco" Official Music Video PREMIERE

“New Generation A Come Up Now”

Ever since Sasco linked up with TeflonZincFence to create “Loco,” it was clear that this was a special record. Teflon’s stripped-down beat hit like blunt force trauma, inspiring the artist formerly known as Assassin to serve up some of his hardest lyrics since Hope River. While speaking from a streetwise perspective, Sasco’s witty rhymes also expressed his concern for the youth—somewhere between Whitney’s “Greatest Love of All” and Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World.” The song took on a life of its own, as great songs do, and the streets demanded a remix. (One YouTube commenter suggested Sasco link up with Koffee and call the tune “Cocoa,” but I digress.) As fate would have it, Sasco recruited Killer and Kabaka for the remix, delivering a lyrical onslaught that was every bit as mad as the title suggests. Today Boomshots premieres the highly anticipated visuals for the remix—somewhat reminiscent of Biggie’s classic “Sky’s The Limit” video. “I’m very excited about the release of the ‘Loco Remix’ video,” says Sasco. “We went for a different concept which has my son, Joshua performing as me. He’s definitely excited for the release. It’s gonna be Loco!” How did Joshua do in his first starring role? As Sasco’s mentor dancehall legend Spragga Benz observed, “Weezy have di bounce.” Video After The Jump…
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WATCH THIS: TeeJay “Rags to Riches” Official Music Video PREMIERE

WATCH THIS: TeeJay "Rags to Riches" Official Music Video PREMIERE

“UpTop Means Progress Overall”

The first time TeeJay linked up with Boomshots he was chilling out in the Bronx, braffin’ as usual, having just returned from a shopping spree with some fresh gear. During a streetside interview, Reshma B asked him the meaning of UpTop. “UpTop means progress overall,” he explained as cars drove past. “You know, if you up, you showing progress. Staying up, going up on a different level in life. I’m always going up in life.” The youth born Timoy Janeyo Jones was raised in the Glendevon section of Montego Bay and grew up in a musical family, recording songs with his older brothers from an early age. Since signing with Romeich Entertainment he has continued to level up, emerging as one of the most versatile dancehall stars of the new generation. Today Boomshots premieres the music video for his latest hit “Rags to Riches,” produced by Damage Musiq. “I came up with a bit of fusion reggae drums and R&B synth that gave that island vibe feeling where you just want to reminisce and be happy,” says the producer whose Billionaire Sheik Riddim provides the musical backdrop for the tune. “What inspires me to sing ‘Rags to Riches’ is the things that I have been through in life back then an’ where I am now today,” says TeeJay. “The people I am surrounded by and the things that we do, I used all those things and turned it into art. Poverty was an inspiration to me, so I wrote this song to motivate other people to show them that nothing is impossible in life an’ they should never give up.” Shot on location in MoBay by Xtreme Arts, the visuals show the UpTop boss leveling up from zinc fence streets to mansions and pool parties. Video After The Jump… Read more »

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: 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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WATCH THIS: Protoje ft. Wiz Khalifa “A VIBE” Visualizer

WATCH THIS: Protoje ft. Wiz Khalifa "A VIBE" Visualizer

Bares Vibes An’ Ting

You know how when you blaze a spliff in the morning and you hold A VIBE but then later on your forget what you did the whole rest of the day? Protoje’s new album is kinda like that. It’s titled In Search of Lost Time, and it’s rolling out via his Indigg Collective partnership with RCA. That’s a big deal since because when was the last time a Jamaican artist set up their own international joint venture? Take a minute, think about it, and let us know if you can think of anybody else ever. Protoje’s always been about his business. Back in 2016 he told Boomshots “If you can’t own your masters, lef’ the slaveship.” So he stuck with that vision and leveraged an agreement for himself and Indigg artists Lila Ike and Sevana. Respect is due for making moves to ensure that reggae music is treated with respect. Fresh off his collaboration with the Unruly Boss “Like Royalty,” Protoje is back with another high-profile combination. For the latest joint off In Search of Lost Time, Diggy links with Wiz for a smoked-out session that could only be called “A VIBE.” Check out the full interview with Protoje and Reshma B after the jump. Visualizer After The Jump…

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