It's no secret, music has always been a copycat business. As soon as one particular style, pattern, chord progression or piece of equipment becomes popular, everyone else hops on the bandwagon to try and emulate the success of the creator. I used to loath this lack of creativity in the music business, but now I have just accepted it as part of the everyday life. I don't have to remind any of you of the Autotune craze that is still at the forefront of pop culture today.
Dancehall has been no exception for this rule. Around 2004 with the growing popularity of riddims produced by the likes of Stephen Di Genius McGregor and Don Corleon, dancehall took on a completely new format. Heavily autotuned vocals, trance style syth progressions, and military drum rolls permeated the genre and captivated the dedicated dancehall listeners. It was an exciting and welcomed change as the genre had felt stagnant for quite some time. But then, as all new patterns go, it was heavily imitated, sampled and duplicated. Let's be honest…every artist releasing music right now is either trying to sound, or does sound like a Vybz Kartel/Movado clone. It has left a lot of real music appreciators in turmoil, jumping over the reggae isle to more soulful music the likes of Jah Cure and Gyptian.
But of course, there are still some originators out there and this essay is dedicated to those new releases that have taken dancehall back to a heavy drum, bass, and music driven genre. First on the list is the new daggering music. Even though I think you have to be insane to enjoy that dance style, there were a few producers and artists who saw the value of blending soca and reggae together to make a wilder kind of cross culture music. (Big ups to Traffic Ent, Charlie Blacks, Alfonso Splendid, and so many others). This music has not only revolutionized the dancehall scene, it has turned the dance floor into a Hollywood stunt stage!
And of course, there are those releases that almost fall on deaf ears because of the lack of star power on the track. One of the most interesting I have heard lately comes out of the Mad Architect Music camp. The track is called "Lock The Block" (performed by Zeego Zarro featuring Viper) and can be heard on their website at the time of writing this article. I don't know if it is because of the experience of everyone involved in the creation of this track, or the fact that the producer is from Trinidad and working with Jamaican artist who have been living in the U.S/ for a while, but this track definitely stands out as different and is a breath of fresh air to the dancehall community. The track is almost a storyline of a Jamaican hustler experience, with a party like feel. It's really weird actually to hear a hardcore track that makes you want to dance and not kill someone. The bassline is sick! Reminiscent of The Metric Riddim with its over processed feel. And the best part: No autotune on the vocals!
Two brand new voices also help bring this track to life. Zeego Zarro has a straight up voice that doesn't sound like anyone else in the business. His DJ style is unique and his delivery is at the level of the pros. Viper has a voice very similar to Mega Banton. It is not so similar as to confuse you (he definitely has his own sound and style), but it's just enough to make you say, "Doesn't he sound like such and such." His lyrical ability is enough for an entirely new article. Let's just leave it at impressive.
The only place this track falls short is a lot of lyrical references to things specific to New York. Most people outside of New York just won't get it. But then again, one listen to the heavy bass and instrumentation of the riddim, and those who cannot appeal to the words will definitely be moving to the thump of the bass.