• RiddimStyle Staff Writer

Back to Music

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

Dennis Howard

The 21st century begun on a good note for recorded music globally, the early part of the new millennium was heralded a move to some interesting and fresh music. Albums such as Speaker Box the Love Below, Outcast, “Musicology”, Prince, “Fly or Die”, N.E.R.D., “Come Away With Me”, Norah Jones, “Rooms For Squares”, John Mayer, “Chocolate Factory”, R Kelly, “College Dropout”, Kanye West, “Da Real Thing”, Sizzla, “Channel Orange”, Frank Ocean, “Damn”, Kendrick Lamar, “Van Hunt” self-titled set, “Stony Hill”, Jr Gong, “Elephunk” and Black Eyed Peas are superb examples of great innovative music. A rarity in the modern-day music business, primarily driven by, hype, social media likes and big numbers in terms of sale. Unique and great talent hardly get a chance to emerge, as record companies are not interested in spending the required time to develop and expose talent of any sort. That the purview of independent record labels and production houses. Just look at the big superstars of popular music anywhere in the world and you will realise that great talent is not a common denominator amongst them. In fact, the talent of many superstars is indeed questionable and have been fodder for comedians and talk show hosts worldwide. In Jamaican Popular Music (JPM), there are only a handful of albums that are of any artistic merit.

Yet despite the dilemma of mediocre music globally, we see the emergence of a few genuinely talent artists and great records. The question is, are we heralding a new golden era of music which we enjoyed in the forties, sixties and seventies? Well for music sake I sincerely hope so; as music lovers are really tired of the same old dribble that we are fed by the global recording industry. The output of rap and its derivatives, trap and drill are becoming really problematic for even the most rabid fans of the genres, as we are given the same diet of minimalist beats, vocal grunt and undecipherable lyrics. Electronic dance music the once respected underground darling known for grit and sonic innovation has been reduced to monotonous bass drops, synth riffs and bubble gum lyrics. Jamaican Popular Music (JPM) is at a cross roads of an identity crisis. While there are a few innovative ripples, the music is still in a rut creatively with the emergence of talent that are subpar at best. Coupled with continued creation of mind numbing repetitive beats. Musically new styles have emerged that are ripe for the identification of a new genre but due to the lack of consensus and leadership the industry have failed to make the necessary changes with the speed that is required to ensure financial exploitation.

All this despite the amazing popularity of Jamaican musical aesthetics worldwide, a popularity we are yet to capitalize on.

In fact Jamaican Popular Music (JPM) that has consistently done well internationally, are the fusion sounds that are not given any respect in urban street culture. Who could have predicted with such “superstars” as Sizzla, Kartel and Bounty Killer, that the most successful acts from an international perspective, have been Shaggy, Omi and Sean Paul. Artists who as I write are still grappling with acceptance issues from our urban culture purists.

The release of the above-mentioned albums are a refreshing change from the formula trends in popular music. The billboard charts are filled with albums and singles that might sell big numbers and the recording artists of these hits may become big stars. However, one might argue that we are no better for all this success as we still rely on the music of the 60s and 70s to as benchmarks of great artistic achievement. You will never live long enough to hear N Sync, Brittney Spear, Limp Bizkit, Vibes Kartel, Elephant Man and Nick Cannon being mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles, Van Morrison, Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Earth Wind and Fire.

I can assure you that we will still be listening to Kaya, (Bob Marley) Rubber Soul (Beatles) long after we have forgotten No Strings Attached (N Sync) and Big Money Heavyweights (Big Tymers). The fact is, great music is still being recorded the tragedy is that due to the control of mass media by big corporations whose motivation will continue to make money without regards to artistic excellence we do not get to hear most of it. There are lots of good artists who are doing great work but due to lack of promotion they are not universally known. However, if you are a discerning music listener you would have heard of Ani Difranco, Jorja Smith, Robert Glasper, 3 Canal, the Roots, Black Star, Lasana Bandele, Chance the Rapper, Laura Mvula and Samory I.