If the past year didn’t open your eyes and bring forth some personal teachings, then you’ve definitely been living under a rock. The rest of us have witnessed some of the worst things to happen to the human race in modern times. Millions have lost their lives and millions more have had their lives turned upside down. On top of that, we’ve seen politricks and racial tension explode. For those of us still standing, the only thing to do now is move forward and, as Beres Hammond would say, keep on “putting up a resistance” — we “gonna work it out.”
If you’ve been a lover of reggae, the music has been preparing you for such dire situations. Born out of struggle, reggae’s very nature is about learning to survive, getting through the rough times, dealing with political turmoil and walking your true path. In a couple of days we’ll celebrate Reggae Month’s first homepage campaign here on TIDAL, and the timing couldn’t be better.
Be sure to check in for some specially curated content to honor the history of this music that has captivated the world for decades. If you’re a fan of Dennis Brown, then you’re in for a real treat, as we kick off his birthday celebration on Feb. 1 with a never-before-heard song from the late, great “Crown Prince of Reggae,” featured in the film Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes, which will be available to watch for the first time in the U.S. The film features music and interviews with many great legends of reggae — artists and producers alike. TIDAL subscribers can find it on the homepage and in the video section between Feb. 1-7. But for now let’s check out what tunes buss in the dance this month.
“Living the Dream”
This year starts with a musical lightning Bolt. When the fastest man on the planet drops a dancehall track, everyone tunes in. “Never give up,” sings Usain Bolt alongside his executive manager, Nugent “NJ” Walker. “When life get heavy keep pushing it up.” It’s a mantra that can be used by most of us in these crucial times, and one that Bolt has needed himself. (The icon tested positive for the coronavirus last August, after which he reportedly self-quarantined with no symptoms.)
Over the years the Jamaican world-record holder and Olympic Gold Medalist has always shown his love for reggae and dancehall — wining and singing along to bashment hits on his socials, and even celebrating some of his wins on the running track with the latest dancehall moves. Bolt also owns a famous sports bar, Tracks & Records, where he’s known for his partying persona, organizing big events and transforming into a reggae DJ from time to time.
Born and raised in Sherwood Content, a rural town in the Jamaican parish of Trelawny, Usain Bolt is definitely an example of living the dream. The commitment to never give up is a part of any competitive nature, but becoming one of the greatest sprinters of all time is no small feat. “Believe in yourself. Anything’s possible,” the song goes. “Work hard every day/Never change up the routine.” The inspirational song encourages the youths to keep going despite whatever conditions may arise. Reggae sensation Koffee, for one, has attributed her success to Bolt, who reposted a video of Koffee playing the guitar and singing his praises when she was first starting out.
“Living the Dream” isn’t Bolt’s first dancehall project; he’s also produced riddims featuring other artists and dabbled in soca. “Anyone that knows me and followed my career will tell you how much I love music,” Bolt said. “I have always wanted to get involved in the music business, as I believe I can use my platform to further highlight dancehall/reggae music.” The recently released song made news when dancehall artist Popcaan addressed the champion on social media, advising him to support other talented youths. His comments were easy to interpret as a criticism of Bolt’s choice to collaborate with NJ. Besides being a lifelong friend to Bolt as well as a professional partner, NJ actually wrote the song as a demo, intending for Bolt to sing it. “When I heard it,” Bolt said, “I thought his vocals were perfect on it.”
The Genna Boss kicks off the New Year by hopping on Chimney Records’ red-hot “Style a Style” riddim. The action-packed juggling from A-list producers Jordan McClure and David Hayle dropped late last year and features vocals by the likes of Stylo G, Sean Paul, Shenseea and Moyann. Aidonia was one of the last to voice on the hard-hitting track, but he makes a powerful impact. “You know say Jordan call me,” the artist says at the top of his tune. “Didi dog, Jah know — the riddim need you nuh dawg.”
It’s no wonder that Jordan made that call. Aidonia’s booming voice has helped define the sound of modern dancehall. Having maintained his standing as one of the game’s top shottas for well over a decade, Aidonia can confidently state that it’s easy for him to make hits. After all, he learned from the best. Didi clearly remembers the inspiration he felt watching the legendary Sting clash between Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. “That was when I said I wanted to become an artist,” Aidonia told me the last time we spoke. “Bounty is the general, my main influence and the reason I came into the music. Him show me personally how to put my lyrics together. He’s a great teacher and somebody who wants to help youths and see youths do great.”
“The Mask: 2nd Wave”
Born Ackeme Campbell, Chronic Law grew up listening to a wide range of artists, from Bob Marley to Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg. Early hits like “Hill Top Badness” and “Government” showcased the gangster side of his persona, but on his latest release, “Love Gamble,” he reveals another side. “Me spread out me heart like red carpet and give people fe walk pon,” he sings with slow-burning pain over a Shabdon riddim track. Chronic Law is not the first to note that love triangles are painful situations. “You have a man, just talk if you no lef’ him,” he sings.