Below is an article on the future of dancehall music written back in 2003 for a reggae-guide produced by Size? and Puma, and featuring a short interview with Vybz Kartel.
How much has changed over the past nine years and do you think our predictions were way off or spot on?
A new breed of 21st century musicians have been plotting to hijack the dancehall sound and inject new flavours into the Jamaican beat.
While the likes of Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder have been busy trying to crack the mainstream market, back home a fresh wave of gifted young artists has emerged.
Over the past few years, newcomers such as 21-year-old singjay Wayne Marshall and MCs Vybz Kartel and Assassin have established themselves as permanent fixtures on the dancehall scene, and their exhaustive work on the underground mixtape circuit has earned them a considerable local and international following.
Kartel is a slick, eloquent rapper whose high-speed delivery and expansive vocabulary helped him capture the hearts and minds ofJamaica’s youth market.
A string of Best Newcomer awards in 2002 and successful UK and US tours further raised the 24-year-old rapper’s profile and according to those who’ve heard excerpts from his forthcoming album, Up 2 Di Time, there’s still a lot more to come.
‘We got the lyrics, we got the attitude and we go the style to compete with any music form,’ says Kartel.
‘I just want to add to what’s been going on. I think the past two years have been very successful for dancehall. Right now, we just need more quality videos, better marketing strategies and a whole lot more money spent in terms of promotion for our music and then we’re good to go.’
While Assassin’s cameo in the Jamerican action film Shottas demonstrates his natural flair for performing, the release of Marshall’s innovative debut album, Marshall Law, is the first real evidence these youngsters mean business.
Likewise, in recent times talented new producers like Leftside and Esco, Andrew ‘Suku’ Grey of Ward 21 and Don ‘Corleon’ Bennett (a key figure in the success of Wonder’s breakthrough album No Holding Back) have also made names for themselves.
The Energy God aka Elephant Man and vocal quartet TOK are the next artists in line for some mainstream success. While TOK are undoubtedly dancehall’s most talented music crew, Ele’s colorful character and zany lyrics are sure to catch on with young music fans looking for an alternative to hip hop and r&b.
So don’t be surprised if you see more dancehall artists crossing over into the mainstream charts in the next few years.
Who knows, we may even see Cham, Sizzla, Capleton and Buju Banton competing with the likes of 50 Cent, Eminem, Beyonce and Craig David? Now that is definitely something to look forward to.
By Orantes Moore