When a music came of age

By Richard Johnson Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 05, 2012

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IT is fair to say Jamaican dancehall music had its heyday during the 1990s.

After a steady burn during the 1980s thanks to artistes such as Yellowman, Tiger, General Trees, Lieutenant Stitchie, Papa San and Lady G, the genre exploded in the next decade.

This explosion was fueled, for the most part, by the crossover appeal the music had especially with young North Americans. This resulted in a number of artistes being signed to major music labels, and the spin-offs were huge.

Arguably, the biggest artiste to emerge from this period was deejay Shabba Ranks. In 1991, Shabba scored a major deal with Epic Records; earned two Grammy Awards (Raw as Ever in 1991 and X-tra Naked the following year) and toured extensively.

Housecall, his duet with singer Maxi Priest, raced up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic as did the follow-up Mr Loverman.

Another dancehall artiste who made an impact internationally was Shaggy, whose Boombastic was the biggest selling dancehall album of the 1990s.

Patra, who was also signed to Epic, had two gold albums; Cobra, who inked a deal with Columbia, had the hit track Flex, which reached number seven on the US R&B chart and number 13 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.

Singer Diana King also made it big in the 1990s. Thanks to a deal with Sony, her 1995 album Tougher Than Love spawned the hit single Shy Guy which reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, number two on the UK singles chart and the top spot on the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles.

Shy Guy would receive additional visibility with its inclusion in the soundtrack of the 1995 hit film Bad Boys starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Dancehall was not only a genre, but expanded to involve fashion and film.

In the world of film, dancehall was the plot behind films such as Kla$h and Dancehall Queen.

Dancehall culture also would give rise to Carlene the Dancehall Queen, designers Earl 'Biggy' Turner and the Ouch Crew.




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