Best of 2023: Our picks for top dancehall acts, song and more
As we draw the curtains down on a year punctuated by viral TikTok dances and catchy dancehall tracks, Observer Online highlights those who left an indelible mark in entertainment +over the past 12 months.
Sifting through the current crop of entertainers trying to pick artiste of the year proved quite a task, especially among the males who were by far more impressive than their female counterparts. Nevertheless, the task was completed.
As we wrap up 2023, here are Observer Online’s picks for top artistes, breakout artiste, song of the year and many more.
Breakout artiste of the year (Male)
1. Rajah Wild
2. Malie Don
4. Byron Messia
7. Pablo YG
Ten up-and-coming male acts could have easily fit into this category for 2023 as the year saw a host of young acts making it to the spotlight. But the selected nominees, in our opinion, made the most impact.
Runner-up: Rajah Wild — Coming off a good 2022, where he released the single ‘Another Dolla’, Rajah Wild followed up in 2023 with a number of tracks that had the local music scene quickly learning his name. His track ‘Wild Out’, which was released some six months ago, had female listeners in a trance. It was evident by the number of views racked up on YouTube — 13 million and counting. Then the young entertainer followed up with the track ‘Go Go’ which is currently the number one trending song on local YouTube charts. Released two weeks ago, the video has almost 5 million views.
“Cho gas inna di Audi taaank!” Without a doubt, this year’s Breakout artiste of the year is Kraff. Having released the infectious single ‘Audi’ at the beginning of the year, Kraff sped onto the dancehall scene and never eased his foot off the gas. Now, with what is arguably one of the biggest tracks in dancehall, ‘Rum Behaviour’, the entertainer has staked his claim on the industry. The song has TikTok in a chokehold with a choreography courtesy of Dancing Rebel. It’s safe to say that if Kraff’s 2024 is anything like the year he had in 2023, he will be one to watch out for in dancehall.
Breakout artiste of the year (female) – Moyann
Like we said, the female entertainers were barely active this year. To that end, we could only come up with two names for this category – entrepreneur turned artiste Starr Dawkins and Moyann. Since Moyann was arguably the more active of the two, the title goes to her. This is not the first time Moyann makes the list in this category. However, she has grown considerably since her last feature on the list back in 2021. Racking up collaborations with the likes of Jashii and Malie Donn and following up with a host of solo releases, Moyann is well on her way to making her way up the musical hierarchy.
Comeback artiste of the year – Iwaata
Dancehall artiste Iwaata landed his big break in 2019 with the hit single, ‘Cut Off Jeans’. The entertainer enjoyed a surge to the top of the industry just before the COVID-19 outbreak. But with the industry having been shuttered for almost three years as a result of the pandemic, Iwaata’s budding career seemed to have become one of the many entertainment casualties. Still, having landed the single ‘Tun Di Oda Way’ some two months ago, he experienced a rebirth like no other. The track has been enjoying immense success accompanied by — yes you guessed it — a viral TikTok dance from choreographer extraordinaire, Dancing Rebel.
Song of the year – ‘Drift’
While Valiant had listeners ‘a mad out’, Teejay had the whole world catching his ‘Drift’, the breakout artiste of the year had us all playing catch-up to Dancing Rebel on his hit single, ‘Rum Behaviour’, and Byron Messia blazed the dancehall with his Billboard-charting hit, ‘Talibans’. Dancehall mainstay Masicka had everyone thinking about their children’s legacy when he released the track ‘Tyrant’, afterall, who wouldn’t love to set things on the kind of level that will have their kids driving name-brand cars. Still, as the year draws to a close, one still cannot help but feel good when Teejay’s ‘Drift’ starts playing. The song had an organic, feel-good vibe that made it an instant hit — the kind that did not need a whole TikTok choreography.
Artiste of the year (female) – Jada Kingdom
Once again, only two female artiste made the cut in this category. Unlike previous years, the usual names did not make the cut. There is no Spice nor Shenseea as neither artistes made a significant enough dent to deserve a spot. The only two artistes that managed to muster up enough spark to earn a nomination were Lady Twinkle herself, Jada Kingdom, and Stalk Ashley. Stalk Ashley followed up on her 2022 success (ending that year with a huge collab with Valiant), and gave her fans a number of bops in 2023. Among her releases over the last 12 months are ‘Top Body’, ‘Tightest Kitty’ and ‘Dutty Casamigos’.
Still, not taking anything away from Stalk Ashley, there could only be one Queen in the category and the crown goes to Jada Kingdom. Let’s be honest, ‘Which Gyal’ could compete with Twinkle after she released that fire freestyle at the beginning of the year? Those bars were enough to hand the title over to Miss GPP. But in case you all weren’t convinced, she followed up with a banging collab with up-and-coming artiste, 9ine.
Artiste of the year (Male) – Masicka
This was undoubtedly the hardest category in our round-up. There were so many male artistes worthy of this title that even office discussions got heated as we struggled to pick a winner. Still, at the end of it all, there can only be one. Before we get to the winner, the nominees are:
1. Chronic Law
Chronic Law and consistency go hand-in-hand. Since getting his break in the industry back in 2019, Law Boss has churned out hit after hit that have been catchy and thought provoking. In fact, listeners consider his music therapeutic as it often delves into real life situations that promises to leave one in a state of retrospection. He earns himself a spot on our list.
Bumping his way up to the big leagues, Valiant transitions from Breakthrough Artiste of the Year in 2022 to a spot on the Male Artiste of the Year list. That’s a big deal! Following up on his breakout single ‘Dunce Cheque’, Valiant proved that he has what it takes to go all the way in the industry. While the naysayers were busy calling time on his career, the artiste was busy crafting his next move. In fact, the deejay had the music scene in a chokehold when he released ‘Mad Out’ earlier this year. Capitalising on the popularity of the track, he even partnered with Bellevue Hospital to have discussions centred on raising awareness on the issue of mental health.
Turns out a shift in management was just what entertainer Teejay needed to ‘drift’ all the way back to the pinnacles of the industry. Since storming through the gates in 2018 with the hit single ‘Uptop Boss’, Teejay has been playing with the consistency switch — up one minute, then down the next. But this year, he found his way back into the hearts of fans locally and internationally with the infectious song, ‘Drift’. The song even landed him publishing and recording deals with Warner Music Group and Warner Records. Here’s to finding your way back Teejay, a well-deserved inclusion on our list and an even more deserved runner-up spot.
Now, onto the winner. For the second year running, our pick for Male Artiste of the Year goes to the Gennasyde boss, Masicka. This artiste just keeps getting better with time. From his first release, ‘Pieces’, a massive collaboration with Jashii, to ending the year with the number one dancehall album, Masicka dominated the local music scene with incomparable charisma and consistency. He kept the hits coming all year, showing off his lyrical prowess and effortless delivery. ‘Tyrant’ and ‘Limelight’ were among the hottest singles released by the Calabar old boy before he dropped his ‘Generation of Kings’ album loaded with another set of hits. From ‘Triumph’ to ‘March On’ to ‘Stars R Us’, the project is a masterpiece from an artiste that has unquestionable writing skills. While other entertainers may need gimmicks or catchy dance moves to offer an assist, Masicka only needs rhymes. You may not agree but you cannot deny that the Gennasyde boss is making big moves. He is our Male Artiste of the Year for 2023.