Gimme a beat! Overseas producers hit it big with reggae

BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer writer

Friday, October 12, 2012

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THERE is talk among reggae/dancehall insiders that the music is experiencing a lull.

This may be the case with Jamaican artistes, but it is a different scenario for overseas producers who are releasing big-selling reggae/dancehall songs for famous artistes.

In recent times, Maroon 5, Rihanna, No Doubt, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj have made inroads on North American and European charts with songs by American and European producers.

Haitian/American Shama 'Sak Pase' Joseph scored big last year with Rihanna's Man Down. The reggae track was a top hit in Europe, reaching number one in Switzerland and France.

It also made the top 10 of Billboard magazine's R&B Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Joseph, who is half of production team The JaggaNauts, said he wanted to create a song that would capture a large audience.

"I felt that the huge pop star as we know Rihanna to be, she had not done a Caribbean-influenced song. I think she does a great job with sprinkling her accent here and there, but this girl from Barbados had gotten so big that we forget that she is a West Indian talent," he explained.

Joseph, who worked on Jay Z and Kanye West's Grammy-winning album, Watch the Throne, said he would love to work with a Jamaican artiste.

"Doing a song with Beres Hammond would be amazing. I really like Jah Cure and I would like to work with Beenie Man," he said.

American pop/rock/ska group No Doubt had two reggae tracks on their 2001 studio album, Rocksteady. Underneath it All (with Lady Saw) and Hey Baby (with Bounty Killer) were produced by Sly and Robbie. Both sold big and won Grammys.

Their latest album Push and Shove was released last month, but this time the group worked with British producer Mike 'Spike' Stent on the hit reggae song Settle Down which made the top 10 in 10 countries and peaked at 34 in the United States.

The 47-year-old Stent is a mixing engineer from Hampshire, south England but resides in the US. His track record includes hits for Usher, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, Madonna and the Spice Girls.

The title track was produced by Thomas Wesley Pentz, a 33-year-old DJ/producer better known as Diplo. The Philadelphia native is known for fusing reggae and dancehall into his hit records.

Diplo initially worked with British musician MIA. Later, he and fellow MIA. producer Switch created the production team, Major Lazer.

Since then, Diplo has worked on production and mix tape projects for Beyoncé and Usher.

He spoke to Splash about his early reggae influences.

"Artistes like No Doubt, or even further back, I grew up listening to The Clash or American punk acts. They always had a strong Jamaican influence," he said. "Those bands have given birth to the same hybrid style I've tried to be part of."

One More Night, a reggae track from rock group Maroon 5, has been number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart for the past four weeks. The track was produced by 27-year-old Swedish producer Johan Karl Schuster, better known as Shellback. He also produced Sean Paul's recent European hit, She Doesn't Mind, from the deejay's current album, Tomahawk Technique.

Shellback and production partner Max Martin have written or produced songs for Pink, Usher, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood, Ke$ha and One Direction.

According to publicist Rhona Fox of New York-based firm Fox Fuse, "Reggae and dancehall music is not necessarily fading. It's obvious from blockbuster hits such as Maroon 5's One More Night and Rihanna's Rude Boy and Man Down, which prey heavily on the pulse of reggae and dancehall, that perhaps it's just being done better."

She credits teamwork for the success of these foreign 'reggae' producers.

"A lot of the productions are collaborations between blockbuster producers like Benny Blanco, Max Martin and Shellback, something rarely seen in reggae and dancehall music," Fox told Splash.


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