Murda She Wrote: September 2020

Hot tracks from Tarrus Riley & Shenseea, Koffee featuring Buju Banton, Mavado and Busy Signal.

Shenseea and Tarrus Riley. Credit: Kevin Green.

“One good thing about music,” Bob Marley sang, “when it hits you feel no pain.” For much of 2020 it seemed like Jamaica might somehow be spared from the terrible pain that the rest of the world has suffered from the coronavirus. Tough quarantine restrictions held the pandemic in check longer than in many other nations, but in late August Usain Bolt tested positive for Covid-19, and the following month veteran engineer and producer Barry O’Hare — who worked with such Grammy-winning stars as Shaggy and Sean Paul — died from the virus. Reggae legend Toots Hibbert also passed away this month, and while his exact cause of death remains unconfirmed, he was reportedly hospitalized with coronavirus-like symptoms.

Jamaica’s people have overcome many obstacles thanks to their indomitable spirit — and the power of great music. While artists aren’t able to tour, they’re working hard in the studio making music to strengthen hearts, uplift spirits and calm troubled minds in this perilous time. 

Tarrus Riley x Shenseea

What’s to be done when the bright lights start to fade? Fire up your lighter! “But you have to do it with a smile,” Tarrus Riley told me of his recent smash hit, “Lighter,” featuring dancehall sensation Shenseea and produced by Rvssian.

Most dancehall fans are familiar with the custom of flashing your lighter as a way of showing appreciation for a wicked tune, but on this collab off Riley’s powerful new album, Healing, the word “Lighter” has another meaning as well — lifting heavy hearts. We all need some healing now, and Tarrus put this album together expressly for that purpose. “I am an essential worker,” he told me. “Music is an essential thing we need in our lives.”

Reggae music is often said to carry a righteous message; it’s an art form that resonates with the heartbeat of life. There’s no question that “Lighter” is one of those songs that makes you feel warm inside — kind of happy and sad at the same time. The song lures with its catchy melody, and the lyrics contain a pretty deep message that hits you as you’re singing along. 

The artists’ chemistry is undeniable on this romantic duet, and the video, featuring the pair riding around in a drop-top, quickly racked up millions of views. Since then social media has been flooded with people of all ages and nationalities doing their best to hit the high notes that Shenseea belts out on the song’s hook. Tarrus, who is often referred to as “Singy Singy,” takes the role of deejay on this song, trading places with ShenYeng.

“Lighter” also serves as a reminder that times can get heavy for all sorts of reasons. In fact, Shenseea recorded the song soon after losing her mother, a personal tragedy that elicited an outpouring of love and support from her Instagram followers. Listening to her voice you sense that life is a fragile thing, but the human connections we make during this crazy journey on earth make it all worthwhile. So when the darkness starts closing in, you know what to do — just smile and fire up the damn lighter!

Koffee ft. Buju Banton
“Pressure” (Remix)

“Thankfully I haven’t been directly affected by the Covid,” Koffee told me when we spoke earlier this year. “But I send my prayers out to those who have been, and those who find it difficult during these times, whether financially or emotionally. It’s a very, very, very hard time, and I can tell even out in the streets.” The talented 20-year-old taps into the prevailing mood on “Pressure,” her follow-up to the hit single “Lockdown.” Where her previous release had a modern dancehall feel, “Pressure” is set to a classic one-drop riddim, appealing to fans who see her as the future of reggae. Already popular when she released it as a solo joint in late July, “Pressure” reached another level when Buju Banton blessed the track. “Them think it’s a joke,” Buju declares at the top of the song. “It’s real!” When two powerful voices from different generations join forces, the result is musical magic. Anybody trying to compete with these two will be “under the pressure,” for sure.


“Life nice,” sings dancehall’s Gully Gaad on his recent track “Legacy” from Good Good Productions. “Wish me coulda do it twice.” Fans are excited that the Starbwoy is back in the studio. Since he first exploded on the scene in 2005 he’s been considered one of dancehall’s most influential artists, creating his distinctive vocal style and collaborating with international acts ranging from Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim to Future and JAY-Z. Most recently Mavado featured alongside Buju Banton, Sizzla and 070 Shake on “Holy Mountain,” the first track off DJ Khaled’s 2019 Father of Asahd album.

For reasons best known to Drake, the 6 God decided to throw words at Mavado this summer on his “Only You Freestyle,” and Mavado clapped back with a hard-hitting song called “Enemy Line” that called the Toronto artist out. “Remember this. Dancehall a mi play ground. Dancehall is my job,” Mavado wrote on his Instagram. “I’ve been a superstar over 15yrs and created countless hit songs in my genre while developing my unique singjay style of which the new generation is all about today, solidifying the craft.” Mavado and Drizzy seemed to be getting along pretty well back in 2010, when the Gully Gaad appeared in the video for Drake’s “Find Your Love.” But as Mavado once explained to me, “After a storm there is always a calm, and you dun know sometimes it storm again.”

The Gully Gaad has seen his fair share of musical conflicts over the years. Having gone head-to-head with Vybz Kartel in the epic Gully vs. Gaza war throughout the late 2000s, he’s learned that anything can happen, even when things seem to be at their worst. “Situations can change for the best and sometimes for the worse,” he said. “But I myself David Brooks try to change my situation, and from when I am the one trying to change my situation it is only going to be for the good. It’s all about going from nothing to something.”

Just recently Mavado shared footage of himself in the studio with reggaeton superstar Farruko, keeping Gully fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a new high-profile collab. He and Farruko were vibing to Mavado’s latest release, “Clean,” a standout cut on the Hustlers Riddim. “Live me dream every day,” he sings, showing that the star life has not escaped him. “Ah no everybody can do weh we do/Stock up wi bank account, and we never stop count.”

Busy Signal

One of Jamaica’s most versatile hitmakers, Busy Signal has demonstrated time and again that there’s almost no style he cannot master. He’s collaborated with international acts like No Doubt and Major Lazer; he’s melted hearts with smooth lovers-rock songs like “One More Night”; he’s even sung a reggae version of “The Gambler” by the late country superstar Kenny Rogers. I can vividly remember Busy’s excitement when he got his U.S. visa back in early 2017, returning to the States after clearing up an old case that kept him out of the country for 15 years.

“It’s just beyond the expectations of a whole bunch of people,” he told me at the time, “but I guess with God all things are possible.” After a well-deserved celebration, Busy got straight back to work — and he hasn’t let up since. “I’m just giving thanks and I’m moving on,” he said. “Doing what I do.”

On his latest track, “Dirt,” the Turf President returns to the hardcore dancehall style that made him famous in the first place. Joining forces with Troyton Rami, the producer and songwriter responsible for Sean Paul’s breakout hit “Gimme the Light,” Busy blazes up the Double Clutch Riddim with rapid-burst lyrical fireworks: “Me no Walmart, dem a Target, me no talk it,” he spits. “Buss it and knock them out of the ballpark.” Whenever it’s his turn at the plate, Busy always swings for the fences.


Murda She Wrote: August 2020

Murda She Wrote: August 2020

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