Throwback 1998: What’s Going On In The Dancehall Part 2
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 2
REVIEW OF THE YEAR 1998…
This second part of ‘What’s Going On in The Dancehall’ is the review of ‘The Year 1998 in the Dancehall’, what were the most popular riddims, who were the most popular artists and what else happened in the dance. 1998 has been a very productive year for dancehall music. The amounts of well produced singles coming out of Jamaica were countless, as well as the amount of new labels. Albumwise 1998 was a bit disappointing to me, but anyway there was enough good music on other formats last year. 1998 started with two boom-riddims that have been very popular throughout the rest of the year.
SHOWTIME & FILTHY
It was the genius and masterminder Dave Kelly who released “Showtime”, first intendedly made as a dubplate riddim but after all it proved to be so successful that Dave was forced to release it. Most popular cuts were Rayvon & Red Fox’ “Bashment Party”, Bounty Killer’s “Eagle And The Hawk” and “Hypocrites” by Beenie Man. On the brand new Juvenile label, produced by D. Juvenile (as I think an alter-ego of producer Danny Browne) the other one, the “Filthy” riddim, appeared, a raw dancehall thriller based on the guitarlick of Hopeton Lewis’ rocksteady classic “Take It Easy”. Most definitely one of the hits of 1998 came from Mr. Vegas. “Heads High” was just the start of his tremendous success of last year. Also General Degree’s “Traffic Blocking” and Goofy’s hilarious “Somebody Just Poop” proved to be very popular.
Producer Bobby Digital, one of the most productive last year, came with a set of releases on the “Solomon”/”Boxing” riddim with essential cuts by Sizzla, Morgan Heritage, Shabba Ranks and Louie Culture. In the springtime Bobby came with a recut of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Mellow Mood”. Beenie Man’s “Boogie Down” and “Reggae Bring Back Love” by Morgan Heritage were the most successful versions. Steely & Clevie laid the popular “Taranchyla” riddim for new label Shines back in 1997, but the riddim was a big dancehall hit. Later in the year Shines surprised us with two other tuff riddims, “Black Widow” and “Nightcrawler”. The new Henfield label impressed with a strange riddim, a mix of dancehall and roots with a tuff bassline, ridden by some of the finest roots artists such as Capleton, Sizzla, Jah Cure & Jah Mason and also Spanner Banner gave us a very nice version.
Fattis put out a bunch of new Xterminator releases while his remake of the Mighty Diamonds’ Channel One classic “I Need A Roof” was still doing very well with versions by Sizzla, Mikey General and Capleton. But absolutely the number one tune on this riddim was Luciano’s “Sweep Over My Soul”. Fattis released an excellent version of John Holt’s “Up Park Camp” riddim. Morgan Heritage, Beres Hammond, Louie Culture and Luciano, who could be found deejaying on his track “Poor Youths Dem Hungry”, were amongst the artists who voiced this rockers version of the Heptones’ Studio One classic “Get In The Groove”. Later on in 1998 more old Heptones riddims got revamped ’98 stylee. Other gems from this batch of Xterminator releases were Gregory Isaacs’ “A Friend Of Mine” and on this same killer-riddim Sizzla could be found with “Til It Some More”. If this wasn’t enough there was also one of Luciano’s finest tunes, “Ulterior Motive”, on a riddim consisting of a loop of John Holt’s Treasure Isle killer “Stealing Stealing”, on which Fattis later on released versions by Sizzla, Mikey General and Capleton.
In the UK Greensleeves started to put out 7inch singles again in stead of 12inches. Amongst their first batches of releases were the Richie Stephens produced “Winner” riddim, the “Powerplay” riddim from Redrose & Malvo and the Steely & Clevie laid “Black Widow” riddim, a club flavoured dancehall riddim by producer Shines, that did very well in the dances. After the UK-chart succes for Beenie’s “Who Am I” and the interest in dancehall music from the clubcircuit in the UK, the company had a very successful year. Steely & Clevie returned in the dancehall after a quiet period with their “Bagpipe” riddim, also released on Greensleeves with popular versions by Beenie, Vegas and Devonte & Tanto Metro, but my personal favorite is Nitty Kutchie’s do-over of the Paragons’ “Happy Go Lucky Girl”.
Steely & Clevie were also responsible for laying Colin Fat’s “Shatta” riddim, a truly dancehall favorite as well as the Summer was getting closer. Colin Fat also produced the debut album from Monster Shack Crew, “Monster Party”. Miami based Richie D released the “Faith” riddim on his 2 Bad label. This riddim was very popular throughout the Summer with versions by Mr. Vegas, Scare Dem, Spragga Benz and Main Street’s Goofy and Hawkeye. On Hi Profile, Richard Browne unleashed his first riddim, “Gypsy”, all tracks recorded at uncle Danny’s Main Street studio. Later on Richard released the “Baddis” riddim, that proved to be very popular as well.
But more new labels appeared in the shops. Singer Cocoa Tea from Clarendon’s fishing village Rocky Point opened his own studio and started to record from there for his own Roaring Lion label, one of the nicest designed labels in the business. Cocoa’s “Weh Di Drugs” on the “Kutchie” riddim was a big hit and versions on his “Lion Teeth” and “Prang” riddims did well too, as is doing his recut of the Heptones’ “Equal Rights”. Cocoa’s combination with Louie Culture about ghetto-don “Zeeks”, the man who united downtown Kingston and whose arrest last year caused social unrest, which resulted in locking Kingston city, was a big number one by the end of last year.
Another legendary singer who presented a new label last year was Ini Kamoze. On his Hottis label he released the “Worm” riddim, that caused a new dance craze. The other brand new dance in 1998 was the “Prang”. Hot on the heels of Busta Rhymes’ “Turn It Up/Fire It Up” the dancehall producers started to release versions of this riddim based on the theme of ‘Knightrider’. General Lee’s Hi Power, Richard Bell’s Star Trail, Salaam Remi’s Ice95, Syl Gordon’s 321 Strong and new label Pure & Clean all released versions of this riddim, also one of the most popular and versioned riddims of 1998.
With Mr. Vegas as most successful new artist, the top of the dancehall artists maintained themselves. Beenie Man remained one of the most popular dancehall deejays together with Merciless, whilst Sizzla, Capleton, Anthony B and Buju Banton kept their position as top cultural deejays. Monster Shack and Scare Dem were also very popular. Most popular singers were Luciano and Beres. Wayne Wonder, Lukie D and Singing Melody did very well as dancehall singers.
Bounty Killer, who had been very quiet for almost a year, returned in the dancehall in 1998 after the tremendous success of his ’96 album release “My Xperience”. The Killer returned in the dancehall with smash hits for producers like Andrew ‘Buccaneer’ Bradford, Colin ‘Bulby’ York & Linford ‘Fatta’ Marshall and Dave ‘Stranger’ Kelly. Buccaneer produced the tune “Warlord” on his self-laid riddim of the same name. For the Fat Eyes Crew Bounty voiced “Cry & A Bawl”, a combination with Tanya Stephens, and “Mr. Wanna Be” on a criss cut of the legendary “Sleng Teng” riddim, on which Bulby had another essential cut from Capleton. But the Killer recorded his most successful tracks last year for Dave Kelly’s Xtra Large label on another very popular riddim, “Brukout”. “Caan Believe Me Eye” put Bounty firmly back in the dancehall and “Anytime”, version two on this riddim, just got released before X-mas.
TONY ‘CD’ KELLY
Brother of Dave, Tony ‘CD’ Kelly finally got his own label last year. On K..Licious he released the most popular and best riddim of 1998, “Bookshelf” with essential versions by Mr. Vegas, Beenie, Lady Saw, Wayne Wonder, Tanto Metro & Devonte and Dutty Cup deejay Sean Paul, who voiced some other excellent tracks last year. Just before the end of the year Tony put out two brand new riddims, “Undawata” on K..Licious and “The Hype” on his second label, Ghetto Quality.
Donovan Germain’s Penthouse label is always guaranteed for some solid tunes. Germain put out a lovely recut of the Mighty Diamonds’ Channel One favorite “Right time” with excellent versions by Morgan Heritage, Tony Rebel, Beenie Man, Beres Hammond and the Diamonds themselves. But it was not only roots flavoured music that Germain put on the market. After the success of the “Up Close & Personal” and “Love Dem Bad” riddims in ’97, Penthouse released the “Heads Roll” riddim. In the Autumn a relick of Aaliyah’s r&b-smash “Are You That Somebody” was released on Penthouse. Penthouse also released the excellent debut album of Jah Mali.
Of course Germain’s neighbour on 56 Slipe Road, Patrick Roberts’ Shocking Vibes, put out nuff tunes in 1998 as well. The most successful and popular Shocking Vibes tune was Beenie’s “Gospel Time”, but other riddims like “Dis ’n Dat”, “Milennium Mucky Mix”, “Craze” and “New-Day-O” did well too for them. After Beenie’s confrontation and arguments with Bobo-deejays Capleton and Sizzla the label released his track “Better Learn” just before the end of the year and the tune got some heavy airplay already. Danny Browne picked up his guitar to do the “Heavy Metal” riddim for his Main Street label and together with Robert Livingston and Shaun ‘Sting’ Pizzonia’s “Eye Of The Tiger” riddim he brought some hardrock vibes in the dancehall. Danny Browne put out the “Splash” riddim as well. Jeremy Harding released his “Medina” riddim as successor to his mega-selling “Playground” followed by “Mercury”. Of course he had the hottest dancehall artists to ride both riddims.
After the release of Richie Stephens’ “Winner” album, for which the singer produced the majority of songs, he released a bunch of double a-sided singles containing a dancehall and a r&b-flavoured version of the same song. His latest riddim “Sail Away” features a combination between Beenie and Vegas. Conscious deejay Tony Rebel released his self produced “Sabbath Meditation” on a heavy roots riddim with other essential versions by Sugar Black & Lehbanchulah, Jah Mason and Morgan Heritage. Morgan Heritage did also produce a fine roots riddim for their own HMG label. The absolutely wicked “Mount Zion Medley” was released first on 12inch in the US followed by excellent versions on double A-sided 7inches.
Luciano and Mikey General both left the Xterminator Camp in the Summer and started to record tracks for other producers. Luciano already voiced tracks for Bobby Digital, Henfield and the new Jazzy Creations and Flash labels. Bobby Digital produced the fine “Word, Power And Sounds” on the “Every Little Thing” riddim, for Henfield Luciano recorded “Punch Line”. The tunes for Flash and Jazzy Creations are so fresh that you will see them in the year review of 1999. After the departure of Luciano, Fattis now has Prince Malachi as singer to bring to the top.
Sizzla is still with Xterminator and this label released numerous killer tunes from this artist. I mentioned some earlier around but what to think of “She’s Like The Roses”, “Saturated”, “Jah Blessing”, a combination with Luciano, and on the same riddim “Babylon Homework”. A song with the same title appeared on both Xterminator and Robert Ffrench’ Ffrench label, but in fact it are two different tunes. “Be Strong” on Xterminator uses the riddim for “Riding On A High And Windy Day”, a Paragons tune for Treasure Isle, whilst the track with the same title for Ffrench is on a remake of the Heptones’ “Sea Of Love”. By the end of 1998 three new Sizzla albums were released. Xterminator released the excellent “Kalonji” album (nearly the same as VP’s “Freedom Cry”), Star Trail put out “2 Strong”, a combination album with Anthony B and finally on Bobby Digital’s Brickwall label the “Good Ways” album appeared. All three albums are worth to check out.
CAPLETON & BUJU BANTON
Also Capleton released nuff tunes in the second part of the year not only for the African Star label but also for Henfield, Manatee, Stone Love, HMG and Fat Eyes. Buju Banton started to release tunes on his newly designed Gargamel label and his newly formed Natty Dread label, all recorded at his own studio. Another artist who opened his own studio was singer Beres Hammond. He also released his new album “A Day In The Life”. New label Q45 released their tuff “Broke Bottle” riddim and Redrose released “Now Thing” on Greensleeves, a thriller riddim based on a sample from “Sleng Teng”, which will definitely boom in the dancehall in 1999. To finish this year review, Dave Kelly released his new riddim, “Backyard”, a crossbreed between dancehall and drum&bass, which will definitely cross over in 1999 as we move to the next millennium.