Between 2002 and 2006, as Tony Blair and George Bush waged war in the Middle East, Jamaican musicians such as Sean Paul, Damian Marley and Vybz Kartel were busy finding success with the MTV Generation.
Subsequently, in the first half of the decade known as the ‘noughties‘ dancehall established itself as an integral element of pop culture.
Thanks to collaborations with pop acts such as No Doubt, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys and the success of Rihanna’s first two albums, Music Of The Sun and A Girl Like Me, sales rocketed and the Caribbean music industry expanded rapidly.
But the trend didn’t last. Midway through the decade, gay-rights activists launched an international campaign against Kartel, Sizzla, Elephant Man, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Capleton and Beenie Man – accusing them of recording ‘murder music’.
Almost immediately, sponsorship revenue evaporated, gigs were cancelled and sales plummeted. Neither the artists nor their representatives were able to resolve the dispute and it quickly became evident that pop’s love affair with dancehall was over.
The campaign derailed the progress made in previous years, but as Bob Marley sings in Coming In From The Cold: ‘When one door is closed, another is open’.
Although commercial revenue streams dried up for many of the top acts, a new generation of underground stars emerged; inspired by the producer credited with kick-starting Kartel’s career, Donovan ‘Don Corleon’ Bennett.
At the time, Jamaican producers appeared to be fascinated with futuristic reggae fusions, but Bennett’s roots revival signalled a return to traditional values and established new stars like Gyptian, Alaine Laughton and jailed singer Jah Cure.
In the latter half of the decade, Cure secured his release; Usain Bolt introduced dancehall to the Olympics; Beenie married then – after seven months – separated from his wife; and the FBI arrested Buju for drug-dealing (he was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison).
Freddie McGregor’s son Stephen earned recognition as one of the industry’s most talented new producers and the Redbull & Guinness riddim helped to launch the career of an aspiring singjay named Mavado.
In Jamaica during the summer of 2007, his debut album, Gangsta For Life : The Symphony Of David Brooks, was the most played CD on the island.
Over the next three years Mavado’s rivalry with Kartel would establish both as icons for a new generation of local and international fans.
Elsewhere, international producers Diplo and Switch took the music in a new direction with Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do, an EDM LP featuring some of dancehall’s most talented acts and hailed by Rhapsody as the 10th best album of 2009.
In the noughties, Jamaican dancehall music developed from an underground sound into a global beat.
The current economic climate suggests a return to the bling-bling excess of the previous decade is unlikely.
Instead, expect an increase in multi-genre productions and international collaborations.
Check out our list of top 20 dancehall and reggae albums 2000-2010 here