The Post Reggae Era

Remember that LKJ poem “It Noh Funny“?

“People sayin’ dis, people sayin’ dat / bout the youth of today / how dem gone astray / And it noh funny”

Well people have been saying this and that about the decline of reggae music lately. Despite the efforts of dancehall bashers, fossilized old-school devotees, the government, the church, and assorted gay-rights organizations, despite declining record sales, the theft or embezzlement of Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation’s entire record collection, and widespread abuse and exploitation, reggae isn’t dead. No, it’s just been appropriated by R&B and hip hop. Or, put another way, Jamaican music’s influence is so pervasive as to be almost imperceptible. And it no funny.

Everybody’s supposed to know by now that DJ Kool Herc was a Jamaican soundman who moved to the Bronx and jumped off the whole hip hop movement. But I’m talking about something much deeper than that. We are now living in the Post-Reggae Era. All the things that were once revolutionary about reggae music—from sound systems to dreadlocks to dirty dancing and dub remixes—have become commonplace, even cliche. Want proof? Check out some of last year’s biggest stars:

Philly’s own JAZMINE SULLIVAN rode a Studio One riddim to R&B stardom:

And what about LIL WAYNE from New Orleans rockin dreadlocks and sippin sizzurp as he drops rhymes over a chopped and screwed ATCQ dancehall sample? That would be the smash hit “A Milli.” Okay, so maybe the sample wasn’t from a Jamaican dancehall record. But like most of their Native Tongue bredren, Tribe has always dabbled in raggamuffin sonics and aesthetics. Moreover, Bangladesh’s relentless/monotonous beat would never have been conceivable without King Jammy’s Sleng Teng — released almost quarter of a century before (and re-released in an even wickeder 95 version). Ditto for Neptunes hits like “Superthug.” Indeed, Jammy’s proto-digital riddim may be the most influential track of the 21st century. But I digress…

Check how ESTELLE from London got KANYE WEST chattin’ bout “the number one champion sound” an’ ting.

Oh, and how could I forget T-Pain? The dreadlocked Floridian once did a song with Cham, and he even pays respect to reggae music and culture on this cut from his second album:

Okay, well… at least he played Sumfest.

So, has reggae become so influential as to become banal? Not if we can help it. Keep it locked on cause it noh funny.

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