The 11 Best Caribbean Songs of the Month (May)
Featuring Konshens x Afro B, Mr. Vegas, Stylo G, Sean Paul and more.
Back in the vinyl era, it was said that Jamaica produced more records per capita than any other nation in the world. In 2020, dancehall artists seem determined to uphold that reputation for prolific musicality, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Undoubtedly, Jamaican artists are driving Caribbean music at the moment, a dominance only partly explained by the recent proliferation of home studio setups and desktop production in dancehall (making it easier to keep the musical vibes flowing without touching road). It also has to do with simple timing, as music production and release calendars elsewhere in the Caribbean are often focused on the yearly crescendo of Carnival.
Trinidad, of course, pulled off a massive turnout at the end of February, just before recording their first confirmed case of COVID-19. But if Trini soca artists have already put in their work for 2020, many other West Indian Carnivals were or presumably will be cancelled. It remains to be seen whether scenes and styles associated with the big summer Carnivals (St. Lucian dennery, Bajan crop over and Grenadian jab-jab, to name a few) will take the risk of allowing large gatherings or attempt to recreate the festival experience virtually in an effort to support ongoing quarantine initiatives.
It's a strange new world...but we can all be thankful it still has room for a good old fashioned soundclash now and then. In that spirit, get all the Caribbean heat for this May below.
Konshens x Afro B "Vibrate"
Appropriately enough, one of the most exciting Caribbean tracks of the moment is a collaboration between Jamaica's master of bubbling and back-brukking Konshens and Afrowave star Afro B of "Drogba" fame. Jonny Blaze and innovative soca producer Stadic are on hand to set the proper vibe with a track that's equal parts calypso, afrobeats and reggae.
Agent Sasco "Loco"
Having teased the arrival of the Teflon Zincfence-produced track "Loco" via IG Live convo with DJ Max Glazer, Assassin aka Agent Sasco dropped the tune just last week. With floating synths (and scratches courtesy of Okayplayer family DJ Treats) over a heavy dancehall drum & bass pattern, this one is a perfect vehicle for Sasco's lyricism as he holds on to the "Lo-co / low pro" rhyme pattern unwaveringly for the songs entire 3-minute run time.
Stylo G "Too Hot"
British-Jamaican deejay Stylo G scored one of the biggest tunes in the dancehall in "Dumpling" last fall and has been consistently on top of the juggling since. "Too Hot" is only the latest in a series of tunes capitalizing on his trademark flow.
Shenseea 'Bad Habit'
Shenseea has generated more international hype than arguably any other Jamaican artist of the moment, collaborating with the likes of Tyga, Swae Lee and Young Thug since announcing her deal with Interscope under producer Rvssian's imprint. "Bad Habit" gets back on her personal brand of slow grind dancehall--and really couldn't be better suited to the current moment, when every bashment is a bedroom bashment.
Lila Iké "I Spy"
Lila Ike's "I Spy"—a mid-tempo steppers tune with skanking guitar licks from the golden age of reggae—is the first fruit of a new label partnership between RCA Records and Protoje's In.Digg.Nation Jamaica-based label/crew. Lila is just one of a crop of innovative artists—including labelmate Sevana—making waves at live showcases like DJ Stamma's The Listening Party with a rootsier, more melodic sound over the last year or two. That "Izy Are You Kidding Me!?" soundbite is proof that some of the riddim's DNA was contributed by Izy Beats, who also built the track for Koffee's runaway hit "Toast" with Walshy Fire. Hopefully, this is just the first of many good things to come from the new venture.
Mr. Vegas - Stay Inna Yuh Yard (Clean Video)
Never one to let a global crisis go to waste, veteran singjay Mr. Vegas puts his stamp on the "Tan A Yuh Yaad" movement and hashtag; Jamaica's home-grown answer to the #StayHome initiatives elsewhere. Reviving the ahead-of-its-time "Grass Cyaat" riddim for a solid '90s throwback, Vegas manages to make a lighter-worthy anthem out of bad news.
Swing Ting & Shanique Marie "Give Thanks"
Manchester-based crew and label Swing Ting put a different gloss on the quarantine, recruiting a virtual massive of friends and family from Kingston to India to sway along as Equiknoxx-affiliated singer Shanique Marie knocks out this dancehall celebration of both public health and healthy-body gal.
Time Cow & RTKal 'Elephant Man'
Meanwhile back in Kingston, the rest of the Equiknoxx crew seem to be on an equally productive snap since the pandemic has cramped their usual globetrotting. The most creative of a series of new tunes, "Elephant Man" serves as a debut of Time Cow's deejay flow as he steps from behind the boards to pass the mic with Birmingham-based rapper RTKal in a tribute to the comic book-sized personas of dancehall's recent past. True to the form established on Bird Sound Power, the pulsing riddim (also released in a dub version titled "Making Love To Volca") stands up all on its own. Producer Gavsborg will apparently be dropping more instrumental dancehall madness by the end of the month, a tribute to the crew's recent excursion to Cote d'Ivoire titled "Kevin from Ivory Coast."
Sean Paul "Back It Up Deh" & "Like Dis"
Dancehall megastar Sean Paul is another Jamaica-based artist who shows know signs of letting up, dropping two new tunes ("Back It Up" and the uptempo Ricky Blaze production "Like Dis") in the past few weeks and teasing the existence of a collabo with legend Buju Banton tentatively titled "Crazy" via an IG Live interview on Boomshots.
Charly Black 'Fuego'
A staple in dancehall (not to mention soca and afrobeats) sets since his massive hit "Gyal You A Party Animal" some four years ago, Charly Black's gutteral trademark whoa is about as reliable a vibe-builder as a selector can ask for. His newest release "Fuego" brings in a bit of a throwback vibe with its twangy guitar-driven riddim:
Voice 'By Any Means'
Carnival season 2020 may be in limbo but soca lives on! Or at least multiple Soca Monarch winner Aaron "Voice" St. Louis has gifted us with something to hold our vibes together "By Any Means" necessary until we experience a true rebirth of revelry and roadmixes.
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