Full Frequency, Arsenio Hall Show, a bag of new projects, while touring touring touring!! Yes indeed. It’s no other than Sean Paul who continues to make waves with the February release of his 6th album – Full Frequency. Look out! The waves are coming….
I know some of you are still confused. ‘Should I call him Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion or just Snoop?’ – is just one of the questions circulating about the new lion. Rest assured, all the sites that matter identify him as Snoop Lion recognising his self-appointed transformation, and he is clear about the inspiration which led him to change animal companions from the lowly dog to the powerful king of the jungle. In an interview with Entertainment Report (aired every Friday on Television Jamaica) Snoop said he felt he had grown beyond the reference ‘Dogg’ and having been inspired by Marley it was time he embraced the mighty ‘lion’ and simultaneously Rastafari. The latest statements were published in the January 26 edition of the Sunday Observer leading up to the much anticipated Grammy Awards. It revealed that ‘many dispute his claims and see it as exploitation’.
Beyond the controversy over a transformational visit to Jamaica, one of the lasting things marking Snoop Lion’s change of heart with man’s best friend, is his album Reincarnation which ostensibly marks the journey. Not only is there Reincarnation, but the ‘documentary film Reincarnated is now available along with Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated Photo Book’.
The twelfth studio album for American recording artist Snoop Lion, Reincarnation was released on April 23, 2013 under Berhane Sound System, Mad Decent, Vice Records and RCA Records. The album marks a departure from the well known hip hop template that has been shaped by Snoop. No less than Miley Cirus, Drake, Chris Brown, Akon, Busta Rhymes, our very own Mavado, Mr Vegas and Popcaan are guests on the musical product. ‘The album was produced by Major Lazer, Ariel Rechtshaid, 6Blocc, Dre Skull, Supa Dups and Diplo, who also served as executive producer’.
So let’s back up a bit! Snoop’s journey to Jamaica has been made indelible through branding on at least three different products, two of which are visual. The journey with its products could be argued is a classic popular cultural tactical move, one fraught with appropriation as a motive, circulating around an American-flavoured globalisation of the ‘ultimate cool’ Jamaica at the in/visible centre. Snoop Lion’s website says a little more about the escapade, and the release of the Reincarnated Photo Book featuring the all-important transformational Jamaican journey:
‘The story of Snoop’s musical and spiritual journey to Jamaica, reaching its culmination during the recording of his most recent album…[is] captured in VICE and Snoopadelic Films documentary Reincarnated. This book is an extension of this powerful moment in the life of a pop culture icon captured by LA photographer Willie T. [It] includes extended interviews with Bunny Wailer, Louis Farrakhan, Chris Blackwell, Daz Dillinger, Angela Hunte, and conversations between Snoop and VICE—never-before-seen photographs and untold stories from his personal archives…his early days singing in church to his discovery at sixteen by Dr. Dre and his phenomenal life onstage and on tour to his gang involvement, and Snoop’s handwritten notes and nicknames for the characters along the way. It also includes the limited edition vinyl only given to a select few musical insiders before the album’s release.’
REINCARNATED (ft. Snoop Dogg): Official Documentary Trailer
Snoopermarket is the place to head if you’re in a hurry to get the book! But let me get back to the transformational Jamaican journey and the fact that it earned the album produced around that journey, a Grammy nomination. Where did all this begin? How do Jamaicans feel about the way in which the album has been received and is being consumed? How do Jamaican’s feel about the way the album represents Snoop’s Jamaican experience? Here’s one thought which appeared on Facebook:
Bear in mind that Rastafari, even as it has been the memory of the Jamaican people, the historical compass for analysing the atrocities and breaches associated with enslavement and colonialism, and the philosophical pillar associated with how as disenfranchised Blacks in the Diaspora we might address our relationship with the oppressive forces of Babylon while purporting self-reliance but with a heart of ‘one love’ toward all, is the same Movement that has been persecuted and at best snubbed by especially the middle and upper classes. As I like to say, Rastafari is the outcast until the troubled soul needs to find its soothing yet revolutionary reggae music as medium for spiritual comfort. So, the opinion of Jamaicans in relation to Snoop Lion is to be seen in context with the troubled relationship historically between Rastafari, the Jamaican populace, and the nation state.
A Pilgrimage to Jamaica
Before recording the album, Snoop Lion went on what could be called a pilgrimage to Jamaica investigating and communing with Nyabinghi Rastafari brethren. (Sidebar: How many Jamaicans have taken time out to learn about the Movement, much less take a pilgrimage to any of its mansions? Hmmmm.) Among the inspirational figures who made the journey an imperative were reggae musicians such as Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs. Snoop has declared – “I feel like I’ve always been Rastafari, I just didn’t have my third eye open.” (snooplion.com). Statements such as these are not entirely unusual. They are made by ordinary persons, visitors to the island, reggae and Rastafari initiates far and wide. However, we don’t have any degree of frequency in hearing such pronouncements from celebs, and certainly not Hip Hop celebs. And, no other initiate has reaped three products in such quick succession, at least in my memory, from a change of heart with the Lion of Judah.
Snoop Lion in Jamaica meditating with Nyabinghi Rastas
The proof of the cultural appropriation pudding is no doubt in the eating, and while reviews have acknowledged the album is worth a listen, we know that the Jamaican trip reaped benefits at least of sales, if not the coveted Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category. According to Snoop’s site, Reincarnation debuted at number 16 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 21,000 copies in the United States. In its second week the album sold 8,600 more copies. In its third week the album sold 4,700 more copies. In its fourth week the album sold 2,900 more copies. As of June 26, 2013 the album has sold 50,000 copies in the United States. The album has been in the top 20 of many music charts from Australia and Austria to France and Spain. It also topped the US Top Reggae Albums, featured at number 16 on the US Billboard 200 chart and number 4 on the UK R&B Albums chart. Reincarnated, has sold some 90,000 units and is the best selling reggae album for 2013.
Q&A: Snoop Lion & Diplo Discuss Their ‘Reincarnated’ Reggae Project
With Jamaican artists, many of whom are returning to reggae musical aesthetics in their recordings, struggling to sell albums and songs, comments in the wake of Snoop’s Grammy nomination have circulated around the quality of the music being produced in Jamaica, the fact that dancehall is dead, and most of all that artistes outside Jamaica have a greater appreciation for Jamaican music than those at home.
Before I had listened to the album or knew anything of how it was faring on the music sales scene, I heard of various comments made by industry insiders, most notable of whom is Roger Steffens, reggae archivist, Bob Marley collector, author, and photographer. Steffens, who headed the Grammy Awards Reggae Committee for 27 years, went on record saying it would be a travesty if Snoop won. Here’s the full article published in the Jamaica Observer:
ROGER Steffens, who headed the Grammy Awards Reggae Committee for 27 years, says it would be a travesty if American rapper Snoop Lion won the Best Reggae Album category at next month’s show.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Steffens described Snoop as a “pretentious wanna-be”. He is also not impressed with nominees for Best Reggae Album who were announced last Friday in Los Angeles.
“I think it would be a travesty if Snoop wins. He, like Matisyahu and many others before him, have used a Rasta-influenced format and warped it toward their own ends,” said Steffens.
Snoop (formerly Snoop Dogg) is nominated for Reincarnated. He says his conversion to Rastafari was inspired by a visit to Jamaica in 2012 when he experienced a spiritual awakening while meeting with a group of Rastafarian elders.
Sly and Robbie and the Jam Masters’ Reggae Connection, Sizzla’s The Messiah, One Love, One Life by Beres Hammond and Ziggy Marley in Concert are the other nominees for Best Reggae Album.
Steffens formed the Reggae Committee and served as its chairman until 2011. He has openly criticised the selection process, claiming that judges favour albums produced by the Marley family.
The Marleys have dominated the category since it was established in 1985. Brothers Ziggy, Damian and Stephen have won Grammys as solo acts, while Ziggy and Steve won multiple times as members of Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers.
Steffens, considered an authority on Bob Marley and the Wailers, believes this year’s nominees maintain the trend of mediocre selections.
“The nominations this year fit into the pocket of name recognition more than anything else, regardless of sales or actual quality,” he said.
Reincarnated, with sales of over 80,000 units, is the best selling reggae album for 2013. The year has been poor in terms of sales by Jamaican artistes, with American reggae bands performing better on the Billboard charts.
The Snoop set attracted mass coverage from mainstream media in the United States, due to his conversion from ‘gangsta rap’ icon to cultural artiste.
The lanky rapper (real name Calvin Broadus) is one of the godfathers of gangsta rap which emerged out of southern California’s impoverished communities in the early 1990s with hardcore rap acts such as NWA and Ice T.
The 56th annual Grammy Awards is scheduled for the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on January 26.
Fast forward to the January 26, 2014 announcement of the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album with nominees Beres Hammond (One Love, One Life – VP Records), Ziggy Marley (Ziggy Marley In Concert -Tuff Gong Worldwide), Sizzla (The Messiah – VP Records), Sly & Robbie And The Jam Masters (Reggae Connection – K’z Records), and yes, Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated (RCA Records/Berhane Sound System/Boss Lady Ent.). We now know that Ziggy Marley copped the award amidst comments that there is a special place in the Grammy corridors for the Marleys. Whatever the result, and whether it would have been a travesty if Snoop won, there are important lessons to be learned from the rapper turned reggae artist. It is on this matter that I wish to dig a bit deeper.
Acknowledgment: Pictures of Snoop Lion courtesy of his website snooplion.com.
Read more about Reincarnated here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnated_(album)
It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to someone who transformed my thinking and writing about the Black Atlantic and as part of it’s making, the Middle Passage experience. It was during his performance at that famous Calabash Literary Festival of 2005 when I first heard the famous lines:
“Its my brother, my sister
At the bottom of the Atlantic
There’s a railroad made of human bones
Black Ivory, Black Ivory.”
Those words have stayed with me and at the time informed my writing on the connections in music and performance between Jamaica and South Africa as I was in the early stages of conceptualising my book DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto.
Walk good! Leroi Jones. Amiri Baraka. Walk good until such time…. The Blues People are here to stay….
There are various ways in which reggae and its sister genre dancehall have played significant roles in advancing the human race. With originary scripts solidly vibrating around liberation, human rights and revolutionary impulses, reggae’s reach into charity and social movements of various kinds is known. Beyond Marley’s contribution to the articulation and achievement of liberation in Zimbabwe, and Peter Tosh’s war against Apartheid, if you can’t imagine what I mean then the event ‘Reggae For Climate Protection‘ which has been staged in New York, USA since 2011 is perhaps one of the best modern examples I’ve come across.
“Inspired by an appreciation for our environment, Reggae for Climate Protection was created by Leslie Pieters to bring together risk takers, melody makers, earth rakers and policy makers… Reggae for Climate Protection celebrates our environment, our society, and brings people together to understand the relevance of our carbon footprint and its impact on the world around us.”
The evidence suggests reggae has done more for human rights, various freedoms, social, environmental and spiritual consciousness outside Jamaican shores. But, who can objectively qualify / quantify the effect / affect on inspiration, spiritual fortitude and revolutionary impetus bequeathed to local creators, perpetuators and consumers?
Enter ‘Shaggy and Friends’
The January 4 event which is being reported as a tremendous success (side note: there are some who were disappointed) by one of its sponsors drew attention from scores with its star-studded musical cast headlined by The Voice champion Tessanne Chin who received a heroine’s welcome on her December 20 return home.
The Grammy-winning, Platinum-selling celeb Shaggy, established the Make A Difference Foundation which is invested in raising money for the Bustamante Children’s Hospital (the only one of its kind in the Caribbean), a focus of which is the new Cardiac Ward. The final figures on the level of support received are unavailable but organisers are hoping to top the successes of 2012 (US$370,000 or $32 million), 2011 ($27 million) and 2010 ($30 million). Concerns over the amount of complimentary tickets given away was a sore point which earned mention by many performers. It is estimated that some $15m in complimentary tickets was lost to the charity effort. All indications are the event was a huge success and the number of patrons present far exceeded what I remember seeing at the first event I attended in 2009. So with the slogan ‘1 ticket = 1 life’ in hand, children for generations to come will be beneficiaries of the worthy ‘reggae for a cause’ initiative.
Shaggy and His Friends on Show
So what did the show bring and why were some present and viewing at home feeling short-changed? Beginning with national anthem, drumming and prayer at the dot of 8pm, we were spared no time in getting the ball a rolling as Shaggy took his hits to the stage. Then came Pinchers, Admiral Bailey, and Admiral Tibet who enticed us with foundation dancehall hits such as ‘Della Move’, ‘Bandelero’, ‘Serious Time’ and ‘Leave People Business Alone’.
Admiral Tibet Leave People Business Alone
Carlene Davis paid a timely tribute to ‘Winnie Mandela’ along with her well loved selections of ‘Going Down to Paradise’, and the timeless Abba original ‘The Way Old Friends Do’.
Abba -The Way Old Friends Do
Then it was time for the Mighty Diamonds who did not disappoint. Patrons were then treated to a session on the proverbial ‘bun’ with Christopher Martin who on the one hand asked God not to let his girlfriend catch him cheating, and Macka Diamond on the other, teaching the crowd how to cheat without being caught. Frankly speaking Macka who got the least love on that night was making a comeback from clash obscurity where she was sent after a dismal performance at Sting 2013. You can read my review of that event here.
Jump forward to Konshens who has been on my dancehall mind for some time. Oops.. I’m jumping the gun just a bit but what the hell… Did you see him? Catch the footage? Were you there?? Let me say up front that my night was made because of the three appearances by Konshens to which patrons were treated. He was dapper, mature, freshly titillating and tantalising in performances befitting the description – stellar showmanship. Yes indeed.
Let me get back to the line-up. Elephant Man’s energy is waning somewhat and his set seemed very much like the one he did in 2009. We were thrilled with dance hits including ‘Higher level’, Revival infused ‘Bad Mind’, and ‘Signal di plane’. The sell off moment came with the phone call he accepted from Buju Banton while segueing into Gargamel’s lines ‘…strange this feeling I’m feeling…’ from the Til Shiloh recording. The biggest forward came when he characteristically invited a child on stage to be taught the ‘signal di plane’ moves.
Comedic duo Ity and Fancy Cat came to do the ‘moonwalk’ and its cousin ‘one drop’, along with a hilarious telephone call from the PM congratulating Tessanne as she was being questioned about the controversial ‘frequent flyer’ status while ‘werking werking werking’. Naturally this caused an uproar of vigorous laughter that confirmed the duo’s well earned place at the apex of comedic innovations and industry in Jamaica. Joined by the shining star Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley we were treated to a report on his need to battle with a Sketel backstage whose concern was that Tessanne should have pursued the Duttyberry dubbed ‘Tessless’ one in the form of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, ‘the sexiest man alive’. Let’s just leave that one alone.
Wayne Marshall who brought his son to bring down the house while performing his single ‘Stupid Money’ thrilled the audience. Joined by Assassin on that recording, we were taken down impersonation lane when vocalising Junior Reid, Eddie Fitzroy, and Buju Banton’s interpretations on ‘Stupid Money’ made for a refreshing twist to the set. Marshall’s ‘Go Hard and Dun’ was the big hit though, performing again with Agent Sasco aka Assassin and joined by Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley whose welcome to Jamrock hit became the sound track of his set. Marley then exited the stage making way for Sasco to take it away with selections such as ‘Hand Inna Di Air’ and ‘Hand to Mouth’. I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed that set!
Kes out of Trinidad took the levels to Soca with the R n B twist around 11am when some nine acts including Konshens, Sean Paul, I Octane, Tarrus Riley and the Voice herself Tessanne Chin along with guest Matthew Schuler were still left to take the stage.
Riddim up to Konshens’ set. When Konshens hit the stage with the soulful ode to making a life for his daughter – ‘as long as she’s happy…long as mi baby have suppn’ – the voice that has thrilled Jamaicans at home and abroad since he blossomed on the scene with ‘Winner’ had touched down in fine style. Many females were then enticed with the challenge of living up to Konshens’ desire for a ‘gyal weh bad bad bad’ because ‘wi nuh like gyal weh soft and weak inna heart…wi nuh love gyal weh easy fi frighten’.
Konshens – Winner
Konshens – Bad Gal [Official HD Video]
The mega hit ‘Gyal a Bubble’ put patrons in a real party mood as Konshens asked ‘how da party yah look suh?’. It was all uphill from there with selections such as ‘Drink ‘n Rave’, ‘Couple Up’, ‘No Hesitation’ and ‘They Say’. Did I say the showmanship on display was off the chain? Memba mi told you.
International recording artiste Neyo who currently shares the track ‘You Girl’ with Shaggy on his ‘Out of Many, One Music’ (2013) album brought excellence to the stage with dance, harmonies and hit songs including ‘Let Me Love You’ and ‘Ms Independent’ ushering in what has now become the famous ‘rompin shop riddim’. He was then joined by Shaggy as they both delivered their recording ‘You Girl’. Shaggy was also joined by Rayvon to deliver their hit single ‘Angel’.
As MCs Ms. Kitty, Debbie Bissoon, Christopher Daley and David Annackie ushered the show to crescendo proportion we observed the love for patrons being displayed in many forms. Neyo threw his towel while Konshens threw his Jacket, Shaggy his cap and Matthew Schuler sparing no time in both showing love for Jamaica while asking the crowd to indulge him in a ‘selfie’ recording the audience cheering at his first international performance.
Time for ChinitaGoodaz! Afterall, this was her homecoming and stage to shine. Walking right off the backs of so-called ‘dutty Rastas’ such as Marley who paved the Jamaican music path through persecution and indignation giving way to One Love, Tessanne Chin came to the stage after the Dutty Berry introduction around 12:22am. With formidable composite of a band, backup singers, and stage visuals befitting a star, Tessanne spared no time (amidst sound challenges) in telling Jamaica ‘The Reason Is You’, ‘Underneath it All’. Dipping into ska dubs and rock grooves, and through a wardrobe change, we ended up in Tessanne’s secret but highly supported ‘Hideaway’ after ‘Redemption Song’, ‘Many Rivers to Cross’, and medley of her songs including ‘When I’m with you’, and ‘Messenger.’ If no one has told Tess yet, it is now time to rerelease ‘Hideaway’ and send it into the musical stratosphere where it belongs.
Introducing Matthew Schuler took the show to another level as he wowed the audience with charm and hits ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’, and ‘Hallelujah’ which brought a deeply spiritual, moving moment that elicited a hearty applause from the audience. He also gave the audience a surprise with the performance of Wayne Wonder’s ‘No Letting Go’ on the Party Rhythm to boot. Tessanne returned with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and new single ‘Tumbling Down’ whose second verse was infused with her own reggae rock musical sensibilities. She ended her set with Whitney Houston’s ‘I have Nothing’ and the crowd was immensely pleased.
A compendium of Jamaica’s excellence in music, the stage was then cleared for Chronixx and his Zinc Fence Band which opened its set with what is easily a popular anthem in ‘Smile Jamaica’, followed by hits such as ‘They Don’t Know’, ‘Here Comes Trouble’, ‘Warrior’, and ‘Odd Ras’. Tarrus Riley brought his ‘Lion Paw’ confidence to the stage with characteristic showmanship exhorting the fact of good winning over evil every time, even seeking Higher powers to walk with him in ‘Never Leave I Jah Jah’ all the way through hits such as ‘Hurry Up’ (one of my personal favourites), ‘One Drop’, and ‘She’s Royal’. Tarrus and Konshens teamed up for the hit ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ with the brilliant segue into Robin Thicke’s ‘good girl’ from the mega hit ‘Blurred Lines’ being just as good my third time around experiencing it.
Grammy winning, platinum selling, Sean Paul’s return to the Jamaican stage at Shaggy and Friends was epic. The Badda Banz roared into action for the penultimate act of the night with hand clapping vibes for the first selection ‘Got to Love You’, making way for ‘Other Side of Love’, and with Junior Gong joining the indomitable Dutty P on stage for nothing short of a musical ‘Riot’.
Konshens’ third appearance for the night came as he joined Sean Paul for the snazzy single ‘Want Dem All’. ‘She Doesn’t Mind’,and ‘Temperature’ sealed the deal for a spectacular return to the hearts of Jamaicans, many standing in awe as they watched riddim, rhyme, moves, flow and energy.
Sean Paul made way for I Octane who once again closed a major show. ‘Everybody clean and straight’ had to ‘Buss a Blank’, and show ‘respect to all who sell bag juice’ (‘Suffer Too Long’), as well as the ever mentioned ‘Mama’. The catchy and honest ‘Gyal a Gimme Bun’, preceded ‘We Love the Vibes’, and ‘Happy Time’ (it’s an Holiday), all contributing to an overall winning performance by I Octane as patrons made their way out of the venue. The die hards stayed though, making it clear that some attended to soak up all the energy, talent and stardom on display.
I-Octane – “Gyal A Gimme Bun” (Official Video)
Show quality, harmonies, short, seamless and entertaining band changes with solid acts – well perhaps except Macka Diamond – was what many present and watching live via Facebook , CVM Television and The Gleaner got from the Shaggy and Friends show. Of course, the irony is that Shaggy and Friends is one of the things that’s good about Jamaica, but it took place in a venue that brings stark reminder of some of what’s frightfully challenging about Jamaica and it’s leadership which resides in the well decorated offices at Jamaica House. Quite frankly my only regret is that there were no police officers combing the grounds for those who insisted on smoking in public despite the newly introduced smoking ban.
There is no doubt that complaints about the packed line-up fade in comparison to positive comments about Shaggy and Friends. It was a superior production, and a fine example for many Jamaican events to follow. Spare no time in consuming this short video review of a well produced ‘reggae for a cause’ production.
Video Review – Shaggy and Friends 2014
Folks, I had to follow-up my recent blog posts on Sting’s 30th staging with this important update released today by the Jamaica Gleaner. It is clear that the organizers are making statements about how they wish to position the Sting enterprise specifically, and Jamaica’s entertainment package generally, in these serious times. Hats off to the organizers. Here’s the full transcript of the news released today:
D’Angel, Sizzla banned from ‘Sting ‘
Last Updated: 5:50 PM
By Davina Henry, Staff Reporter
Supreme Promotions head, Isaiah Laing, says dancehall entertainers D’Angel and Sizzla Kalonji have been banned from Sting.
According to Laing, Sizzla has been banned because he was repeatedly warned not to go on stage during the Boxing Day event and promote hate music.
Laing continued that although D’Angel was not booked for the show, she is banned as a patron because of her “embarrassing” stint during Ninja Man’s set.
“We repeatedly told Sizzla not to do any hate music and he went up there and did it. D’Angel is banned for at least 5 years as a patron. We don’t need your money D’Angel. Stay home. Watch the event on pay-per-view next year.”
In a release to the media, the promoters of Sting – Supreme Promotions and Downsound Records – stated that that they have taken steps to force “corrective actions” from some artistes.
“We remain committed to advancing Reggae/dancehall music and the industry. We will continue to strive to improve our product and are confident that with your support we will achieve our aim,” a spokesperson said.
Stay tuned to the Jamaica Gleaner for updates.