Ranting From Bobby Hustle an American Reggae/Dancehall artist
As the Debate over reggae band, Soja's Grammy win in the Best Reggae Album category continues we get the perspective of another American artist who has adopted Jamaican popular music. He is dancehall artist Bobby Hustle and this is his perspective on the issue.
The reggae industry is such an interesting one. It is fractured and disjointed, to say the least. Half of my timeline is congratulating SOJA on their Grammy win yesterday. The other half is entirely up in arms that a white band from the US won the Grammy for best reggae album, beating out a bunch of well-deserving Jamaicans….
My thoughts: If you haven't noticed by now, Jamaican music and culture have permeated nearly every aspect of the global "cool", whether that be music, fashion, sport or food etc. In a world of insanely fast technological communications, it seems evident to me that cultural exchanges would be just as quick. Reggae music has been Jamaica's number one export for 19-how-long, so it shouldn't surprise that we foreigners gravitate to and adopt the style and patterns in the music. Some will call it appropriation, while others see it as cultural fluidity. The point is that SOJA has been 1000% influenced by Jamaican music. They even said so in their acceptance speech.
Now we turn to the Jamaican nominees (who ALL deserve a Grammy nod in their rights). Fans of Jamaican reggae are saying, how could a white band from the US beat out these modern Jamaican reggae titans? Well, I'll tell you. These US bands tour relentlessly. They have excellent management and business acumen, and they sell a ton of merch.
So, at least here in the US, they are MUCH more well known. While Jamaican reggae music is inherently better (in my personal opinion), their business infrastructure is insufficient. Notice the only JA acts making a global footprint have a good team around them, i.e. management/label/publicist etc. And even then, their operations pale compared to the likes of SOJA, Stick Figure and Rebelution.
Options for resolution:
1. Acknowledge that reggae has become bigger than Jamaica. The cat is out of the bag. And it's not going back in.
2. Stop thinking about the dutty Scammys and what many out-of-touch industry heads think about reggae. Just stop investing time and hope into something that isn't going to give you what you want. Go round dem.
3. Support Your Favourite Reggae Artists. We need to buy their music and merch and pay to go to their shows. If all of you knew how much merch and sales were happening in the American reggae scene, your heads would explode. Support raises visibility.
So that's it. I love reggae and Jamaica and everything the two have done for me. I want nothing more than to see Jamaican reggae elevated to the heights of greatness that it deserves. But I also acknowledge the music business as a business. And in that business, money talks. Sales speak. Until Jamaican reggae acts/fans incorporate and build upon the proper practices of these US bands/fans, the result will likely be the same at the Scammers. Do you want your artists to win? You've got to support them for the other 363 days a year, not just behind your keyboard on Grammy Sunday. Rant done. Have a blessed and productive week.