An American dancehall artiste’s perspective
SOJA, winners of the award for Best Reggae Album for Beauty in the Silence, pose in the press room at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo: AP)

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The reggae industry is such an interesting one. It is fractured and disjointed, to say the least. Half of my timeline congratulated SOJA on their Grammy win, while the other half was entirely up in arms that a white band from the United States won the Grammy for Best Reggae album, beating out a bunch of well-deserving Jamaicans.

My thoughts: If you haven’t noticed by now, Jamaican music and culture has permeated nearly every aspect of the global “cool”, whether that be music, fashion, sport or food, etc. In a world of insanely fast technological communication, it seems evident to me that cultural exchanges would be just as quick. Reggae music has been Jamaica’s number one export since 19-how-long, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we foreigners gravitate to and adopt the style and patterns in the music. Some will call it appropriation, while others see it as cultural fluidity. The point is that SOJA has been 1000 per cent influenced by Jamaican music. They even said so in their acceptance speech.

Now we turn to the Jamaican nominees (who all deserve a Grammy nod in their own right). Fans of Jamaican reggae are saying, how could a white band from the US beat out these modern Jamaican reggae titans? Well, I’ll tell you. These American bands tour relentlessly. They have excellent management and business acumen, and they sell a tonne of merchandise. So, at least here in the US, they are much more well known. While Jamaican reggae music is inherently better (in my personal opinion), their business infrastructure is insufficient. Notice the only Jamaican acts making a global footprint have a good team around them, ie management, label, publicist, etc. And even then, their operations pale compared to the likes of SOJA, Stick Figure and Rebelution.

Options for resolution:

1) Acknowledge that reggae has become bigger than Jamaica. The cat is out of the bag. And it’s not going back in.

2) Stop thinking about the Grammys and what industry heads think about reggae. Just stop investing time and hope into something that isn’t going to give you what you want. Go ‘round dem.

3) Support your favourite reggae artistes. We need to buy their music and merch and pay to go to their shows. If all of you knew how much merch and sales were happening in the American reggae scene, your heads would explode. Support raises visibility.

So that’s it. I love reggae and Jamaica and everything the two have done for me. I want nothing more than to see Jamaican reggae elevated to the heights of greatness that it deserves. But I also acknowledge the music business as a business. And in that business, money talks. Sales speak. Until Jamaican reggae acts and fans incorporate and build upon the proper practices of these American bands and their fans, the result will likely be the same at the Scammers. Do you want your artistes to win? You’ve got to support them for the other 363 days a year, not just behind your keyboard on Grammy Sunday. Rant done. Have a blessed and productive week.

Bobby Hustle is a Seattle, Washington-born reggae songwriter and performer, now residing and recording in Los Angeles. He was first exposed to Jamaican-style music in middle school when he became fascinated by the island rhythms being repurposed by third-wave ska bands like Sublime, Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish. His adolescent interest in that sound eventually led him straight to the source and he quickly discovered that Jamaica had a lot more to offer than just ska. He began to explore reggae crafted by Jamaican artistes who were popular at the end of the 90s – artistes like Anthony B, Capleton, and Sizzla – and he quickly became obsessed. He scoured the Emerald City for any reggae record he could get his hands on, hoping to soak up as much Jamaican music, dialect, and culture as he could.

In 2010, Bobby Hustle began voicing reggae productions and, true to his name, he has worked industriously for labels from all over the world. In addition to his home camp, Loud City Music, he has written and recorded songs for many prominent outfits like the bi-coastal American crew, Lustre Kings Productions, and German super-group, Jugglerz Records. Since his debut EP, Always On The Hustle, in 2011, Bobby has released five mixtapes, four more EPs and a full length album, It’s The Hustle. In his 11-year career, Bobby Hustle has contributed songs to over 60 different riddim releases and collaborated with some of the best reggae artists in the world, including the iconic Sizzla Kalonji, prolific artists like Lutan Fyah, Cali P, Collie Buddz, The Movement, Josh Heinrichs and Skillinjah.

Bobby Hustle

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