Throwback 1998: What’s Going On In The Dancehall Part 1
In 1998, Danny ‘Peperseed’ Bouten, who at the time hosted the weekly two-hour radioshow Dancehall Vibes in the Netherlands, submitted four columns about that year’s runnings in the dancehall. About 20 years later, we’ve dug them up and re-publish them in two parts.
THROWBACK DANCEHALL 1998
WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE DANCEHALL PART 1
Finally it looks like dancehall music is getting it’s long deserved international recognition. After years of influencing all different types of modern dance music – think about dubmixing, the M.C., dubplates, and sound systems, all are elements that are common to styles like speed garage, hip-hop, drum & bass and techno – dancehall is getting into the spotlights itself. In England the club DJs are now discovering dancehall and they start mixing it in their sets of music that they use to play in their clubs.
Their attention was attracted by Beenie Man’s monster smash “Who Am I”, that managed to get into the UK Top 10. Recently Beenie sneaked into the UK Top 100 again with “Foundation” whilst other tracks, like Mr. Vegas’ highly infectious “Heads High” on Danny Brownie’s “Filthy” riddim and – yes, it’s him once again – Beenie Man’s “Year 4” on Steely & Clevie’s kicking “Bagpipe” riddim, are waiting to climb the national charts as well. But it’s not these two tracks alone that are full of potential to break through. The past half year a lot of records have been released that are able to break into the popcharts. To mention a few: Shaggy’s “Sexy Body Gal” using the riff of Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger”, Buccaneer’s “Fade Away” based on Enya’s “Orinoco Flow”, Bodyguard Monster Shack Crew’s remake of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, “Hardcore Lover”, T.O.K.’s combination with Lady Saw using the melody of Stevie Wonder’s “Part-time Lover” and Scare Dem’s “Girls Everywhere” containing an interpolation of George Michael’s “Faith”! All these songs have something recognizable for the main audience, whilst they remain hardcore to the dancehall massive. Besides these nowadays dancehall artists like Beenie Man, Monster Shack Crew, Scare Dem Crew, Mr. Vegas, Bounty Killer, and Merciless, lots more have all their own image and their music is fast and kicking… and that is what the kids want.
Now dancehall is getting main attention in England and I expect it will get more attention in other European countries as well, as England has always been the musical trendsetter for the rest of Europe. In the U.S.A. the dancehall, hip-hop and R ‘N’ B markets are getting closer and closer. Of course, dancehall has been promoted within the hip-hop scene for a long time by people like Bobby Konders, Funkmaster Flex and the New York radio station Hot 97 FM, and dancehall and hip-hop artists have been doing combinations for years.
On the other side hip-hop is influencing dancehall a lot. Take for instance Shocking Vibes’ “Busta Rhymes” riddim – rebuilding Busta’s “Put Your Hands” – and the numerous versions of the “Nightrider” riddim on Jamaican labels like Hi-Power, Star Trail, Pure & Clean and Ice-95. Jamaican top sound systems like Stone Love, Bodyguard and Renaissance are playing huge amounts of R ‘N’ B and hip-hop tunes in their sets and the Jamaican producers are releasing countless dancehall versions of big R ‘N’ B and hip-hop hits.
To satisfy demand, shiploads of dancehall tracks are remixed on the latest hip-hop or R ‘N’ B riddims and hip-hop or R ‘N’ B tracks are remixed on the hottest dancehall riddims too. So, it’s crossbreed all over!! With these two tendencies going on those who thought that Jamaican music died with Bob Marley soon will know that Jamaican music still is alive and kicking!
Over the past twelve months a whole heap of new labels appeared in the dancehall. Most of them released some real nice tunes and immediately gave their name a household status. Here I will give you a round-up on the most essential labels and I will also give you a selective discography of tunes and albums.
One of the hottest labels that appeared is Jeremy Harding’s 2 Hard label. Though it was already two years ago since Jeremy released his “Fearless” riddim on which red hot deejay Sean Paul voiced his “Babygirl” it was not until last year that we heard from 2 Hard with the “Playground” riddim, because “Fearless” had hardly been available outside Jamaica. Well, I suppose the rest is history because, as we all know, Beenie Man’s version of the “Playground” reached the number one spot in every dancehall chart all over the world and even reached the U.K. top ten. Recently Jeremy Harding released the follow up to “Playground”, the also essential “Medina” riddim which will be heard in the dancehall over the next months. Also watch out for the soon to be released “Mercury” riddim on 2 Hard.
Another label that boomed into the dancehall is Shines. By the end of last year the “Taranchyla” riddim took the dancehall by storm. Steely & Clevie were responsible for building this hardcore dancehall riddim and they also built the two other riddims that have been released on the label. “Nightcrawler” and the still popular “Black Widow” riddim, which both feature the hottest artists out of the dancehall.
One of the ‘nominees for riddim of the year 1998′ is “Filthy” – a hardcore dancehall riddim on the new Juvenile label – based on the guitarlick of Hopeton Lewis’ rocksteady tune “Take It Easy”. Although I have never had the opportunity to ask him I am quite sure that producer D. Juvenile is none other than veteran Danny Browne, whose Main Street imprint is one of the leading dancehall labels for the past couple of years. Danny’s nephew Richard Browne also entered the dancehall arena this year with his Hi Profile label. His “Gypsy” riddim has been very popular in the dub-cutting studios in Kingston where all the soundbwoys go to record their dubplate specials. Richard’s second riddim “Baddis” also proved to be a nice one. After years of being around in the dancehall scene Tony “CD” Kelly finally has his own label named K..Licious Music. Recently he released his first riddim on the label being known as “Bookshelf” and I am sure that this riddim will be a dancehall favourite for the next months.
Finally I want to mention Oracabessa Records, a brand new dancehall label set up by Ali Campbell and Brian Travers from UB40. So far the label released only six singles in a strictly limited edition, so it won’t be easy to get hold of them, but these tracks will also be available on their first compilation album “Oracabessa One”. Of course there are much more new labels but due to lack of space it is not possible to mention them all. Q45, Flash Records, Black Shadow, Big Jeans and Marvelus are some of them and their releases are also worthwhile to check out.
Sean Paul – Infiltrate – 2 Hard/Greensleeves 12″ – (Playground)
Beenie Man – Who Am I (Zim Zimma) – 2 Hard/Greensleeves 12″ – (Playground)
Mr. Vegas – Hands In The Air (Nike Air) – 2 Hard/Greensleeves 12″ – (Playground)
Monster Shack Crew – Wanna Make Noise – 2 Hard/Greensleeves 7″ – (Medina)
Sean Paul – Strategy – 2 Hard/Greensleeves 7″ – (Medina)
Devonte & Tanto Metro – Better Body – 2 Hard/Greensleeves 7″ – (Medina)
Beenie Man – Tell Me – Shines/Greensleeves 12″ – (Taranchyla)
Roundhead – Flavour – Shines/Greensleeves 12″ – (Taranchyla)
Mr. Vegas – Big Things A Gwan – Shines/Greensleeves 7″ – (Black Widow)
Red Rat – Bizzi Blazi – Shines/Greensleeves 7″ – (Black Widow)
Devonte – She Mek Me Go So – Shines 7″ – (Black Widow)
Beenie Man – Gwaan So – Shines/Greensleeves 7″ – (Black Widow)
Roundhead – Cruise Control – Shines/Greensleeves 7″ – (Nightcrawler)
Mr. Vegas – Hit Him Back – Shines/Greensleeves 7″ – (Nightcrawler)
Mr. Vegas – Heads High – Juvenile/Greensleeves 7″ – (Filthy)
General Degree – Traffic Blocking – Juvenile/Greensleeves 7″ – (Filthy)
Lady G – Breeze Off – Juvenile/Greensleeves 7″ – (Filthy)
Chico – Grudgeful/Stamina Body – Hi Profile/Greensleeves 7″ – (Baddis/Gypsy)
T.O.K. & Lady Saw – Hardcore Lover/Send Dem Come – Hi Profile/Greensleeves 7″ – (Baddis/Gypsy)
Mr. Vegas – Jack It Up – K..Licious 7″ – (Bookshelf)
Sean Paul – Deport Them – K..Licious 7″ – (Bookshelf)
Devonte & Tanto Metro – Say Wooee – K..Licious – 7″ – (Bookshelf)
Scare Dem Crew – Hot Gal Time – Oracabessa Records CD
Monster Shack Crew-True Lover-Oracabessa Records CD
Mr. Vegas – Western End – Oracabessa Records CD
Rappa Robert – Keep The Peace – Oracabessa Records CD
THE RETURN OF STEELY & CLEVIE…
What do riddims like “Taranchyla”, “Winner”, “Black Widow”, “Bagpipe”, “Infinity” and “Shatta” have in common? They all have been laid by Steely & Clevie and these riddims marked the return of Steely & Clevie in the dancehall after being quiet for some time.
Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson and Cleveland “Clevie” Browne – from the musical Browne family and brother Danny (Main Street), Dalton and Noel (both involved with Freddie McGregor’s “Big Ship” camp) and Glen (bass player for Ziggy Marley) – both started their career at the legendary Studio One. Clevie played for several years as drummer in the Studio One Band, whilst Steely – alongside Style Scott and Flabba Holt – became part of the legendary studio band The Roots Radics, the band that dominated the dancehall/rub-a-dub era.
In the mid-eighties, when studio bands were replaced by drummachines and synthesizers, Steely & Clevie started to play a key role on this turning point of reggae music. They can be seen as the Godfathers of digital dancehall music and they created a complete new sound by making use of the Yamaha DX100 and CS01 synths. They built numerous classic riddims for producers like the then leading King Jammy, Gussie Clarke, Bobby Digital, Redman and Lloyd Dennis. Riddims like “Punanny”, “Duck”, “Chinatown”, “Rumours” and “Fishmarket” are now regarded as classics. In the nineties Steely & Clevie continued to build riddims and were also very successful with their own Steely & Clevie label. On a certain moment Mafia & Fluxy and the Firehouse Crew gave them some competition and Sly & Robbie returned into the dancehall arena after a break of some years. This pushed Steely & Clevie a little bit to the background, but nevertheless they were still able to introduce a complete new sound as they started the “Bogle” craze.
Taking production to a lower level Steely & Clevie started doing remixes for major artists and they also started building their own studio, Studio 2000. From this studio came hit riddims such as “Skettel Bomb”, “Columbian Necktie”, “Copy Cat” and “Sniper”. Two years ago I met Clevie at Studio 2000. One thing that I will never forget is that, when I was talking to him, Steely phoned from London with the idea for a new riddim, explaining it to Clevie who had to play it on the keyboard because Steely hadn’t one available at that moment.
Now Steely & Clevie seem to be back in the dancehall at full level laying hot riddims for other producers and dominating the dances with riddims like “Winner”, “Bagpipe”, “Black Widow” and the new “Broke Bottle” riddim. Please find below a selective discography of riddims that recently appeared and have been laid by Steely & Clevie.
SHINES PRODUCTION (produced by Shane “Shines” Richard)
Taranchyla riddim : Shines 7″(JA) / Greensleeves 12″ (U.K.)
Black Widow riddim : Shines 7″(JA) / Greensleeves 7″ (U.K.)
Nightcrawler riddim : Shines 7″(JA) / Greensleeves 7″ (U.K.)
POT OF GOLD (produced by Richie Stephens)
Winner riddim : Pot Of Gold 7″(JA) / Greensleeves 7″ (U.K.)
COLIN FAT (produced by Colin “Fat” Walters)
Shatta riddim : Colin Fat 7″(JA)
STUDIO 2000 (produced by Steely & Clevie)
Sniper riddim : Studio 2000 7″(JA) / Greensleeves 12″ (U.K.)
Bagpipe riddim : Studio 2000 7″(JA) / Greensleeves 7″ (U.K.)
TOGETHERNESS (produced by Togetherness Crew)
Ruff Life riddim : Togetherness 7″(JA)
Q45 (produced by Desmond & Rupert Blake)
Infinity riddim : Q45 7″(JA)
Broke Bottle riddim : Greensleeves 7″ (U.K.)