Murda She Wrote: March 2021

New music from Moyann & Shenseea, Etana & Stonebwoy, D’Yani, Busy Signal, and Badda General & ZJ Liquid.

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Moyann and Shenseea (from left). Credit: Courtesy of Frass Records/Romeich Entertainment.

It’s often said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, as the big chill of winter gives way to the warmth of spring. This time last year, many of us felt as humble and helpless as lambs, with the surging coronavirus pandemic disrupting every aspect of our lives, and life-or-death lockdowns becoming the new normal. But in March 2021 we’re beginning to feel a little more lionish. 

Lions are powerful creatures within reggae culture, representing pride, strength and the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, a symbol of the Rastafarian faith. While the lion is usually depicted as a male with his regal mane, the lioness is an equally awesome creature — shout-out to all the lionesses on the rise as we close out Women’s History Month. This month’s MSW strives to strike a balance in showcasing strong female and male artists. Like the song says, girls just wanna have fun. And wherever the girls go, the guys are sure to follow.

Moyann ft. Shenseea 
“No Limit”

It’s been three years since Moyann first broke onto the dancehall scene as a fresh-faced teenager, but she’s been on her musical journey for a lot longer than that. “This has always been a passion for me, from a tender age,” Moyann told me. “I’d always be singing in the mirror, visualizing myself as an artist, performing in front of my mom, my sister, my dad.” In 2018 the Montego Bay native borrowed her sister’s phone and recorded a video of herself spitting lyrics while playing a riddim on her own phone. Thankfully she didn’t overthink anything and DM’d the homemade demo to producer DJ Frass. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m just gonna send it and if it happens, it happens.’” Frass soon hit her back and the rest is history. “It has been great, honestly,” she says. “[T]hat was the first time I was ever going into a studio. Getting it right was a challenge, but it’s really a great experience.”

Songs like “Fren Dem Good”  and “Bruck Pocket Man” featuring Teejay helped to cement Moyann’s name as a rising star. Her emergence has arrived at a great moment for female dancehall artists, with Koffee becoming both the youngest artist and the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2020. “I’m really happy for her,” Moyann says. “I definitely think the females in dancehall are doing extremely good. Artists like Koffee and Shenseea are opening the door for younger artists like myself. Everything starts from somewhere.”

Although the pandemic posed a challenge to artists of every genre, Moyann used social media to keep her fans engaged. “Social media actually helps a lot because you can just showcase your talent,” says Moyann, who’s looking forward to getting out there on the road in the not-too-distant future. “It’s good to take it one step at a time. You don’t want to be all over the place.”

Her latest song, a massively catchy collab with Shenseea, lifts Moyann to a new level and defies the narrative that female artists don’t support one another. “Haters vex ca’ me bless but me nah stress,” the girls sing. “Me have one live fe live and me nah have one fuck fi give.” Say it louder, girls!

Etana ft. Stonebwoy 
“Proppa”

Blessed with a powerful voice and a resilient spirit, Etana got her start in the music industry as a harmony singer for reggae star Richie Spice. She stepped out on her own well over a decade ago and has been representing for roots and culture fans ever since. Her 2018 album Reggae Forever was nominated for a Best Reggae Album Grammy, making her only the fourth female artist to receive that honor, and the first at that time since Sister Carol in 1997. But on her latest project, the roots daughter — whose name is Swahili for “Strong One” — explores more contemporary sounds, setting her uplifting messages to dancehall and Afrobeats rhythms. “Baby O” finds her collaborating with Vybz Kartel, and on “Proppa” she joins forces with Ghanaian superstar Stonebwoy.

Although the musical direction may be new, Etana’s creative chemistry with Stonebwoy is undeniable. The song unfolds like a dancefloor dialogue as Stonebwoy declares his desire. “I’m an African king in this place O,” he sings. “Jamaican girl you be my taste O.” Etana likes what she sees, but cautions him to step to her the right way. “You want me to hand it over,” she sings, “then come at me, come at me proppa.” 

No matter what style she’s singing, Etana has always made a point of dispensing real talk on behalf of her female fans. While she has celebrated true love on classics like “Blessings,” she never shies away from painful issues like infidelity and domestic violence, which have been very much in the news in Jamaica of late. “No one has the right to take away your happiness,” Etana once told me. “No one.” She learned through the years that time and karma have the power to fix everything. “I hate no one,” Etana says. “But I know no wrong deed goes unpunished. My grandmother used to always say, ‘Time tells the greatest tales. It fixes everything. You just have to allow it…’” 

After surviving and freeing herself from an abusive relationship, Etana has learned the wisdom of her grandmother’s advice firsthand and earned the right to speak on issues affecting women all over the world through personal experience. It’s great to see her in a happier place, enjoying life and making music that feels good. “A lot of times people can’t relate to my lessons learned,” says the Strong One. “So I kind of hold it back.” But all those who can relate to her truth appreciate her courage to speak out as she lives her best life. “It doesn’t have to be anger and animosity,” she says. “It’s just accepting the person’s choices to live. That’s how he choose to live his life. Every man have a right to his own destiny.” And every woman, too.

D’Yani 
“Birthday”

Andre Chavanie McCormack was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, and raised in a single-parent household by his mother, who inspired his love and appreciation for women. Known to his fans as D’Yani, his music is a blend of dancehall, soul and global pop, drawing on influences as diverse as Michael Jackson, the Beatles, the Weeknd and Bob Marley — not to mention Aidonia and Mavado. Since linking with Downsound Entertainment, D’Yani has emerged as a powerful new voice on the Jamaican scene, with a look, sound and vision perfectly positioned for international success.

“Girl get your hair done, mani pedi and your face done,” D’Yani sings on “Birthday,” his latest release on Downsound’s Storm Trooper Riddim. “It’s your birthday, girl! Bruck out and have bare fun.” The song showcases D’Yani’s respect for women’s feelings, and the female touch goes deeper than you might suspect. “Birthday” was co-produced by CeCile, the dancehall star famous for collaborating with Sean Paul on his Grammy-winning multi-Platinum album Dutty Rock. (She also recently authored a children’s book titled My Hair Story, inspired by her daughter Nana.) CeCile collaborated with Kunley of Ward 21, Jay & Penny Bling, and Skatta Burrell to put the riddim together. “I’ve been doing production with Skatta for like 20 years,” says CeCile, who first worked with him on the Chiney Gal riddim. “D’Yani had been sitting around the studio, and I wrote the ‘Birthday’ song with him because a girl has a birthday every day.” 

Other standout tracks on the riddim include “Lipstick,” by rising female artist Marcy Chin, and CeCile blesses the track with a song called “Your Night,” showing that her lyrical sword is as sharp as ever. “It wasn’t a focus for me as an artist, because I was wearing my producer and project manager hat,” says CeCile. While still active as a recording artist, CeCile enjoys developing new talents like D’Yani. “I would hear him in the rehearsal studio every day, which takes a lot of commitment. He’s the perfect blend of what a promising artist looks like. He’s actually very talented, but it’s not talent alone. He’s humble and he listens to constructive criticism.” And having strong women in his corner doesn’t hurt either.

Busy Signal 
“Bad Gyal”

“We do all different types of music every day,” said Busy Signal the first time we met, when he took a break from a session at the legendary Penthouse Studios in Kingston, Jamaica. “While I’m in the studio, whatever comes to mind at the time — you know, whatever is happening around me — I feel like I wanna do a song about that. … We just make it make sense and catch it.” 

Having made his name spitting lyrics on hardcore dancehall tracks like “Step Out” and “Full Clip,” Busy went on to expand his sound with sweet love songs like “One More Night” and “Night Shift.” The success of these tunes inspired his critically acclaimed Reggae Music Again album. “It’s way easier to do dancehall,” Busy told me. “You do reality stuff with reggae music or social commentary. Reggae is like soul.” While he’s always down to explore new creative directions, Busy remains clear about his intentions. As he pointed out on the song “Real Spenders,” “Dancehall a dancehall, hip-hop a hip-hop. No mix the two of them ’cause them no match.” When I asked him about that line, he explained that he loved both genres. “People try to confuse dancehall with hip-hop,” he said. “You could fuse it, but don’t confuse it.”

Over time the versatile artist would explore EDM sounds on “Watch Out for This (Bumaye),” his smash collab with Major Lazer, and he even dabbled in a little country when he covered the Kenny Rogers classic “The Gambler.” His most recent release, “Bad Gyal,” finds him getting busy with the German-born, Amsterdam-based deep-house producer Jonasu, who brings out Busy’s melodic gifts on this tribute to a special girl who really just wants to have fun. “Wine up your waist fe me hot gyal,” Busy sings. “Ain’t no fun without a bad gyal.”

Badda General x ZJ Liquid 
“Curfew (S.O.T.U.)”

“As a selector from longtime, me always tout the girl dem and hype them inna dancehall,”  ZJ Liquid told me a few years back. His breakout hit “Wifey Walk Out” spoke on real-life relationship drama, stirring controversy in the spirit of fun and launching him as a serious recording artist as well as an on-air personality and producer for his own H20 label. 

In 2021 Liquid and Badda General have been a roll with a series of wicked conversational collaborations, starting with “Barrel” and “State of the Union.” The songs unfold with the artists trading lines as if speaking on the telephone — in the tradition of Busy Signal’s “The Reasoning” and Govana’s popular “Convo” series. Liquid and Badda’s latest track is “Curfew,” which speaks to the pent-up frustration of people living under pandemic lockdown in a way that’s uniquely Jamaican yet relatable all over the world.

“How it ah look fe the Easter?” Badda asks. “Bwoy this year nuh look good fe a cheater,” Liquid replies. “After nobody can get bun … the whole country lock down.” The line is a clever play on words — bun is a popular Easter treat in Jamaica, as well as slang for cheating on your partner (or “burn”). 

In this moment when dancehalls are severely restricted, songs like “Curfew” are an important outlet until life returns to something like normal. In the meantime, adversity can inspire creativity, as this song demonstrates. “We need back Jamaica,” Badda says on the hook. “Every square every inch and every acre.”  

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