By: Tiffany B
I learned about Lady Saw from Basil “With the Flavor”, as he liked to call himself. I normally call him Dad.
Her song "Sycamore Tree" and Tanya Stephens’ “You Nuh Ready For Dis Yet” were the staples on my father's Joy Ride Riddim cassette tape. He would play it in our 1996 Mazda MPV while my siblings and I helped him wash the car.
In a genre heavily populated by men, Lady Saw is known as the Queen of Dancehall. She dominated the genre in the 90s and was the first female DJ to win a Grammy Award. I considered her the Lil Kim of Dancehall because her lyrics were vulgar, raunchy and direct (but it’s worth mentioning that she has since been baptized and now goes by Minister Marion Hall if you want to look her up).
I’m an 80’s baby/90’s kid raised by a true Jamaican family. I spent my young summers in Jamaica with my grandparents and spent the school year home in the Bronx surrounded by all kinds of people who’ve derived from the African diaspora.
Music played a huge part in my childhood. Reggae is what was played on Saturday morning during house cleaning times. Dancehall music is what played at basement bashments and backyard BBQs when we got together to enjoy good food, family, friends and good fun.
It was my dad who introduced me to the great Robert Nesta Marley. Bob Marley and the Wailers populated the sound waves in the early 70s, and with his solo release of Exodus in 1977, Bob went on to sell over 75 million copies in the United Kingdom and become a musical icon. He’s often times credited as the cultural icon that brought reggae to the mainstream.
Dancehall music is a digitized and sped up version of the reggae style that hit the mainstream in the mid-1980s with the song “Under Me Sleng Teng” by King Jammy, which has been sampled over 200 times. The dance hall was the spot in the neighborhood where DJ's would set up speakers, and people who were unable to attend the “uptown socials”—for access or other reasons—would come out to hear the newest music and see local artists perform.
And like most things when a new generation gets a hold of them, Reggae and Dancehall transform.
Typically a DJ, producer, or dub master would create a riddim and multiple artists would get the sample and record their song. Dancehall DJ's would talk and sing over the riddim in between the switching of a track. DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican native who migrated to the Bronx iand became a DJ and emcee in the 70s was influenced by this style. Truthfully, Hip Hop derived from the early style of dancehall culture with pioneers like DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash “toasting” or speaking on music
This style of performance is also said to have influenced remixing. I heard Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go” on the Diwali Riddim during my family’s annual 4th of July cookout. It was the summer of 2002. I borrowed that Diwali CD from my cousin and spent the entire summer with it on repeat. The Diwali Riddim is a beat that incorporates clapping and draws inspiration from the Hindu Festival of Lights, which is celebrated by Indian cultures across the globe, the Caribbean included. Using a similar beat to Wayne Wonder, Lumidee rose to fame with “Never Leave You” the following summer. It was in heavy rotation along with Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” and Elephant Man’s “Elephant Message”. Kranium, a popular dancehall artist, sampled the riddim this year for his newest hit “No Odda”.
While some of the names mentioned in might be new to the reader, this next one should be quite familiar. As much heat as Drake currently has on him, I feel that I have to bring him up because he has heavily sampled Dancehall music through the duration of his career. This is understandable, considering Toronto has a large population of Caribbean immigrants, with Jamaicans boasting the highest percentage.
Drake’s sampling credits include:
- Popcaan for his hit track "Love Yuh Bad" which birthed "Too Good" featuring the Bajan bombshell, Rihanna
- Richie Stevens and Mikey 2000 for the "Sail Away" riddim that made Rihanna’s hit "Work", on which Drake was featured
- Beenie Man’s 1995 hit, "Tear off mi Garment" that produced the summer banger of 2016, "Controlla", which featured Popcaan on the original version
- Movado’s "Dying" supported the track "9" on Drake’s album Views.
This isn’t the end all be all history lesson of Dancehall music. A smooth google search will give you plenty of other artists that have sampled Dancehall Music, including Jay-Z, The Notorious BIG, Dipset, Nas, Tory Lanez, Kanye West and even the Queen herself, Beyonce.
Being the firstborn US citizen in my bloodline, I have the unique and distinct honor of being a ‘third culture’ kid. While I am an American citizen, I know the importance of understanding the fullness of my heritage. There’s more to Jamaica than marijuana, curry goat and Usain Bolt. It is a country with a rich history that blends a plethora of cultures together, whose music has influenced Hip Hop, R&B, and countless other genres. All as a reflection of Jamaica’s motto, “Out of many one people”, echoing the welcoming nature of the natives.
Jamaica, Land We Love.
Tiffany B is a Student Affairs Professional, travel addict, and sophistiratchet Jamerican queen. She enjoys doing hood rat things with her friends, competing in fit bit challenges and drinking Canada Dry Ginger Ale out of a wine glass. Some of her favorite riddims include Drop Leaf, Chill Spot and Summer Time. Follow her on Twitter @OneWomanShow_T, and on Instagram BPoppins.