Grammy Kings?

American band hopes to make history

Observer writer

Friday, January 26, 2018

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THE members of California-based Common Kings are hoping to become the first American act to win the Best Reggae Album Grammy. The quartet is nominated for its 2017 release Lost in Paradise , which goes up against Chronology by Chronixx, Stony Hill by Damian Marley, Avrakedabra by Morgan Heritage, and Wash House Ting by J Boog.

The Grammys takes place on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York. If Common Kings or J Boog wins, they would join British band Steel Pulse as the only non-Jamaican act to win the Best Reggae Album category. Steel Pulse won in 1987 for Babylon The Bandit.

Released last February via Island Empire Records, Lost in Paradise is Common Kings' fifth title on the Billboard Reggae Album chart and its first number one.

Lead vocalist Sasualei “JR King” Maliga believes that winning the Grammy would take the group's music to another level.

“It would be huge! An incredible honour for sure! Ever since reggae was added as a category, there hasn't been a winner that wasn't of Jamaican descent. It would be historical and a humbling experience for sure. I believe winning a Grammy would give us a platform to spread our music on a global scale,” said JR.

He believes a victory for Common Kings or California-born J Boog would mean great things for the American reggae scene.

“I think Common Kings winning would push the US reggae scene to new heights. But more importantly, it would give us a platform to support the originators of Jamaican reggae to create a resurgence of reggae here in the US. The touring scene in the US has recently gone through a rebirth with “Cali style' and Island artistes leading the way. It doesn't feel right to experience this without our brothers (Jamaican reggae artistes) joining in arms.”

In recent years, American reggae acts like Rebelution and SOJA have consistently outsold their Jamaican counterparts. Both bands have been nominated for the Best Reggae Album category in the past.

Asked if he felt it was fair that American bands outsell their Jamaican counterparts and are not rewarded, JR stated: “There's a time and place for everything. The fact that more US-based bands are being nominated is in and of itself rewarding. I think if American bands can create undeniable music and remain authentic to who they are while representing reggae, then they'll eventually win over the hearts of their Jamaican counterparts. Or at least, this is what I believe and what Common Kings stands by.”

Coincidentally, Common Kings is currently working on their new album with several Jamaican producers including Don Corleon, Supa Dups, and Walshy Fire of Major Lazer.

“We're definitely longing to turn some heads with this next record and hopefully make an impact in the reggae world,” JR King said.

In additon to JR King, Common Kings comprises Rome, T Grey, and Uncle Lui.

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