We discuss the reggae industry’s focus on vanity metrics such as social media likes and YouTube views versus actionable metrics such as engagement and sales.
Reggae/dancehall fans find ways to get new music for free (YouTube, mixtapes, sound system audio, email blasts, SoundCloud, etc). The reggae media primarily reports on vanity metrics. Fans form opinions based on the opinions of others if they have to. They also find reasons to justify why they did not buy the new album(s).
Conversely, fans of other genres are known for taking action by collecting (buying) albums, whether digital or hard copy. They collect the new albums of the artists they like and then form their own opinions about the music. We break down the reasons for this disparity.
Kahlil Wonda reviews Tarrus Riley’s new album, “Healing.”
Reactions to the passing of celebrated Reggae icon and trailblazer, Toots Hibbert.
We talk to Maxi Priest and Jonathan Emile who collaborated on Emile’s recently released “Babylon is Falling” Remix.
Reggae music has always been at the forefront of social and political issues. One example is Bob Marley’s participation in the Amandla Festival of 1979 in Boston. There, Marley performed in support of the anti-apartheid movement and the liberation of South Africa.
A few short months ago, the entire world was shaken when George Floyd lost his life. People protested, buildings and businesses burned – all while in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Race relations were already strained, but this event managed to trigger both a national and international outcry for change and justice.
“Babylon is Falling” is a song that has put a voice to the change. The song features 2 artists (Jonathan Emile and Maxi Priest) from different generations coming together to speak on what they’ve been through, and what’s to come.
We held reasoning on the following with Maxi Priest and Jonathan Emile:
How did the Remix to “Babylon is Falling” featuring Maxi Priest come about?
Different flavors of racism in the UK, Canada, and the Southern U.S.
The concept behind “Spaces In Between,” Jonathan’s debut reggae album.
Maxi Priest’s excitement for his forthcoming album, “United State of Mind.”
Why are some Caribbean people afraid to go back to the region?
Billboard’s disrespect towards dancehall culture with their Verzuz cover.
What is the responsibility of musicians in fighting oppression?
The problem with trying to control musicians’ creative output.
‘Babylon is Falling’ Remix – Jonathan Emile ft Maxi Priest
Two Artists from Different Generations Come Together to Sing About the State of the World Today:
Canadian-Jamaican artist Jonathan Emile and British-Jamaican artist Maxi Priest came together to create the Remix to “Babylon is Falling”, a track on Emile’s new album, “Spaces In Between.” The album is currently distributed by MindPeaceLove/Tuff Gong International. While the remix to the song was recorded back in January 2020, neither artist knew at the time that the song would become so relevant a few months later.
Emile is a bilingual (English & French), multi-talented singer-songwriter, producer, and Cancer survivor. His commanding voice resonates at the start of the song and draws the listener in immediately, asking if they know what their worth is, and then mentions the capitalistic society in which we live. He then explains that this can’t go on and eventually, something has to change (Babylon will fall).
“Growing up Black and Jamaican in Montreal, racism has been a fact of life. The institutional side was hidden but the interpersonal is still always present. As a Black person, you know you need to move cautiously to gain access, be accommodated, or have the opportunity to be treated with respect. This caution manifests in how you speak, how you read a room, and how you respond to racist banter or microaggressions.
Knowing that you’re seen as the other, alien, or ‘less than’ is at the forefront as you face people’s prejudice, always having to be an ambassador for your race. You become a master negotiator, code switcher, and an expert in de-escalation to preserve your body and reputation. This is a key concept in Spaces-In-Between. I am fortunate to have parents who provided me with tactics and strategies to avoid and cope with racism as a young Black Jamaican. The knowledge I received was built on their hard work and determination.”
Grammy-nominated Maxi Priest, best known for his Lover’s Rock and R&B/Reggae fusion tunes like “Close to You’ and “Wild World” comes in next, but he’s not singing about love this time. In fact, he’s Deejaying (rapping), which in itself is a rare sound for him. He rides the riddim with the smoothness that he’s best known for, but the content of the lyrics speak of the things he’s both experienced himself throughout the years growing up in England, and what he continues to see around him today. His message, like so many, is that he’s tired.
“Here we go again – We stand firm we nah ease up the pressure – Just like a volcano bubbling over – to take it to the heights you have fi step like a soldier”
Although both Emile and Priest come from different generations, they have many things in common, including being of Jamaican heritage, and growing up and living outside of Jamaica, which has impacted them.
Like so many people that live abroad, there are mixed feelings right now with what is happening with the racial, economic, and spiritual climate, and the uneasiness that it brings. “Babylon is Falling” is a song that resonates with everyone, no matter where you come from, or what age you are.
We list our Top 5 Revolutionary Reggae Songs of all time. Ras Jamal from Royal Ethiopian Sound joins the discussion to give his analysis.
We define what a revolutionary song is and how the music of the 70s differs from the messages in today’s music. There are different kinds of revolutions. The conversation takes us through some responses that have emerged as a result of today’s struggle for racial justice.
Anthony B, Sizzla, Jah9, Yeza, Kabaka Pyramid, Protoje, Akae Beka, Lutan Fyah, Warrior King, and Queen Ifrica are commended for their contributions to the movement. We each listed some honorable mentions in addition to our top 5 revolutionary reggae songs. Listen to the Pandora playlist inspired by this episode.
Kahlil Wonda’s Top 5 Revolutionary Reggae Songs
Bob Marley – Burning and Looting
Bob Marley – Revolution
Peter Tosh – Equal Rights
Sizzla – Made Of
Bob Marley – Slave Driver
AGARD’s Top 5 Revolutionary Reggae Songs
Bob Andy – Unchained
The Abyssinians – Declaration of Rights
Peter Tosh – Equal Rights
Dennis Brown – Revolution
Bob Marley – War
Ras Jamal’s Top 5 Revolutionary Reggae Songs
John Holt – Police In Helicopter
Bob Marley – War
Peter Tosh – Equal Rights
Dennis Brown – Revolution
Beres Hammond – Another Day In The System
We also debated:
Where is the revolutionary music of this generation?
What is the difference between conscious music and positive music?
Is reggae supposed to teach or help people?
Outside of revolutionary music, what tactics can lead to the results we seek?
Does an artist have to be a rasta to be conscious?
Protoje’s “In Search of Lost Time” album. Notable track, “In Bloom” ft. Lila Ike.
We discussed how Steve has been pushing the culture in nightlife and through his work in the recording industry. He shares how he got started in the business, and his thoughts on Jamaica getting more hardcore about honoring reggae icons. We touched on strategies for harnessing the economic potential of reggae, the Sean Paul success formula, and much more.
Steve “Urchin” Wilson Bio
After getting his start at Bob Marley’s legendary Tuff Gong record label as a marketing exec, Steve spent 10 years cross-training in every imaginable area in the entertainment industry including a stint as studio manager for the GeeJam Studios where he oversaw studio sessions for The Roots, Common, The Gorillaz, No Doubt & The Jungle Brothers amongst others. In 2001 this Jamaican trailblazer signed on to help pilot the dizzying career of multi-platinum Grammy winner Sean Paul.
He spent the last 15 years traveling to over 100 countries and presiding over logistics, booking, touring, promotion & recording for the Dancehall superstar.
While honing his role as a reggae ambassador Wilson simultaneously plotted to bring EDM & house music to his Homebase of Kingston via his Brand New Machine party series that saw super DJs like Diplo, Bob Sinclar, CongoRock & Toddla T spin in Jamaica for the first time. He has gone on to export the BNM party concept to Montego Bay, Cayman, London & New York City.
Steve is also partners in FSOR Music (Future Sound Of Reggae) a boutique label that has featured releases from Mink Jo, Transdub Massiv, Naomi Cowan, Jesse Royal & Craigy T amongst others.
Most recently he was one of the local partners of the initial staging of the critically acclaimed Tmrwtday Culture Festival in Negril, Jamaica.
The Vault: Classic Music Reviews podcast host, Brian Cox gave us an education on the island of Grenada.
Brian shared his unique perspective as a first-generation American of Caribbean descent. He described the soundtrack of Grenada, and how music has changed there over time. We learned about the music and food you would encounter at a typical Grenadian party.
The Vault: Classic Music Reviews is a top-rated music commentary podcast. The co-hosts, hip-hop fans that grew up in the 90s, review classic hip-hop, R&B, and reggae albums 20 + years after their release. They break these albums down to see if they stood the test of time. Listeners get a perspective on classics from a fresh point of view. The Vault: Classic Music Reviews also includes guest interviews, round table discussions, and artist catalog debates.