Below is our list of the top 20 dancehall and reggae albums of the noughties. Technically, the decade ended in 2009, but there were some great releases in 2010 and we found it impossible to leave two of them out.
Also, check out our Jamaican dancehall review of the noughties (2000-2009) here
Throughout the noughties, while many of his contemporaries abandoned reggae for hip hop and EDM, Gappy refused to jump ship. The gamble paid off and today he’s widely acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading MCs. His debut – produced by the London-based Peckings label – includes Heaven in Her Eyes, which topped the British reggae charts for 13 weeks.
Da’Ville’s third album is an inspired selection of smooth love songs featuring contributions from saxophonist/producer Dean Fraser, Sean Paul and legendary singer Marcia Griffiths. Stand-out cuts include ganja anthem My Grade and an impressive reworking of Have You Ever Been in Love (Dennis Brown).
Almost 20 years before Bob Marley’s youngest son, Damian, stormed the pop charts, his eldest, Ziggy (real name David), achieved international success leading the family band, Melody Makers. His solo debut fuses reggae, rock and EDM and features treasures such as Get Out and Melancholy Mood.
The self-proclaimed Messenjah established himself as one of reggae’s leading social justice campaigners in the 1990s. He matured in the noughties, and this album exemplifies the development with great contributions from British drum and bass duo Leroy Mafia and Dave ‘Fluxy’ Heywood and an excellent cover of Legalise It (Peter Tosh).
The British lovers rock legend who rose to fame more than 20 years ago crooning on Saxon sound confirms his relevance with an album packed with solid productions such as I Believe - one of the biggest-selling singles of 2006. Other stand-out tracks include covers Fields of Gold (Sting) and Wild Fire (Dennis Brown and John Holt).
Tanya’s fifth studio LP features a skilfully penned ode concerning the passions of forbidden love (It’s a Pity), an anti-war anthem (What a Day) and a collaboration with Wyclef Jean (This is Love). She may be the only female on the list, but her addition is in no way a token gesture as this self-produced effort ranks among the best concept albums of any genre.
Sanchez has always been accused of covering too many songs and not recording enough original material. He hasn’t kicked the habit entirely, so reworkings of Usher and Sisqo hits are featured. But original compositions such as Frenzy and How Could You, and contributions from Dean Fraser and British singer-songwriter Lloyd Brown ensure this LP ranks among his finest work.
Don’t be fooled by his unassuming demeanour, Tarrus (son of veteran singer Jimmy Riley) has a sizable female fanbase and is destined to become one of reggae’s biggest stars. The US-born singer’s sophomore effort is a classic and includes hits such as She’s Royal, Stay with You and the thought-provoking System Set (Willie Lynch Syndrome).
Singers Pliers (one half of Chaka Demus and Pliers) and Spanner Banner, enjoyed huge success in the 1990s, but the 21st century belongs to their baby brother. This breakthrough album established Richie as a first-class singer-songwriter and includes three of the decade’s biggest hits: Earth a Run Red, Marijuana and Ghetto Girl.
Buju’s best album in years finds him returning to the styles, flows and rhythms that made him a star in the 90s. He delivers 17 dancehall bangers on this self-produced LP including a collaboration with 80s singjay Pinchers; the prophetic autobiography Fast Lane; and monster anthems Driver, Nothing and Better Day Coming.
Mavado rose quickly to become one of dancehall’s leading stars and his debut features all the hits that inspired this meteoric rise. While the Gully god’s melodic tales of inner-city sex and violence may not be to everyone’s liking, both his legendary status and place in dancehall history are undeniable.
09. Youth – Matisyahu (2006)
In March 2006, as Jamaican performers defended accusations of homophobia, American-Jewish rapper Matisyahu (who condemns homosexuality as a violation of Biblical law) was busy topping the Billboard Digital Album chart with this reggae-inspired LP. Since then, he’s dispelled any charges of ‘novelty act’ by touring extensively and selling more albums than any other artist on this list.
By the turn of the century, Capleton’s militant brand of Rastafari-inspired dancehall had earned him a sizable international fanbase. His eighth studio album features hits such as Who Dem, Hunt You and Jah Jah City, and influenced British grime pioneers More Fire Crew to name themselves in honour of The Prophet’s seminal work of art.
It Wasn’t Me and Angel were monster hits in 2001 and helped Shaggy’s fifth album to sell 10 million copies in 18 months. Considering it took the best-selling reggae album in history (Bob Marley’s Legend) almost 20 years to shift that many units, Hot Shot (and Shaggy) probably deserve more credit and commercial airtime than they currently receive.
Vybz Kartel is the most influential underground rapper of his generation and the biggest dancehall act to emerge in over a decade. He’s the undisputed leader of Jamaica’s rap-pack and all the xxx-rated anthems that made him famous are featured on his game-changing debut.
Any album that successfully combines the talents of legendary figures such as Beyoncé, Sly Dunbar and Mark Ronson deserves praise. Sean’s sophomore reached number two in the UK charts and number nine in the US, and helped to introduce 21st century dancehall culture to the MTV generation.
4. On Bond Street Kgn. JA. – Bitty McLean (2005)
Best known for his 1993 UK chart hit It Keeps Raining, Mclean is a former UB40 vocalist whose collaboration with London label Peckings produced this throwback to the 1960s rockstedy era. His sweet vocals compliment Duke Reid’s productions and the results are simply sublime. Stand-out cuts include My Lover’s Call and Cruisin’ (Smokey Robinson).
This album should appeal most to Generation X; those born between 1966 and 1979 who are too young to remember life without TV, but old enough to know how much the world has changed since 9/11. Either of Damian’s previous efforts could have made the list, but this collaboration is an excellent 2-for-1 bargain comprising first-class lyricists, politically-conscious material and an eclectic fusion of reggae, hip-hop and Afrobeats. Perfect.
Prior to the release of this album, Sizzla had been accused of straying from his cultural roots. This LP silenced the critics. There are notable contributions from Dean Fraser and Wilburn ‘Squidley’ Cole, but Bobby Digital’s productions best showcase the singjay’s abilities. As the author of Just One of Those Days, Solid as a Rock and Thank You Mama, even if he never releases another song, Sizzla can rest comfortably knowing he’s delivered one of the greatest albums of all time.
Lovers rock is a term coined in the early 80s to describe a soulful style of reggae made famous by British acts such as Maxi Priest, Janet Kay, UB40 and Estelle (her 2008 single Come Over typifies the genre). But while British musicians can take credit for its development, Jamaican crooners Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott, Freddie McGregor and Beres Hammond perfected the genre. Hammond is a living legend and this matchless collection of 21st century love songs is his masterpiece.