Dancehall's new voice
... the 20-somethings weigh in

Now considerably a global phenomenon, the dancehall genre dates back to as early as the late 1970s. With the dynamic nature of dancehall, fans have seen constant changes ranging from experimentation with other genres, as well as sub-genres being birthed.

But what are the fans' thoughts about the new shape that dancehall has adopted?

The Jamaica Observer spoke to several Gen Z and Millennial readers to get their input on this topic, as well as hear which song they believe will reign supreme this summer.

Maliek "Kinsy" Watkins, 25, shared an objective view of ills and wins of modern dancehall.

"Dancehall has definitely evolved [and] that shows that the genre is growing, which is good. Without growth it would be stagnant and people can get bored. Dancehall has reached a place where the youth has a smaller barrier of entry, so they can enter and express themselves musically; for example, myself. They get to express their own feelings and talk about their experiences, whether good or bad, which, all in all, is good. It has a brought a new flavour," he said.

Maliek "Kinsy" Watkins .

"However, though growth is important, one must consider whether the path one is on is a path of good or bad; in essence, 'came a long way, but came the wrong way'.

"Whether dancehall is in a good place or bad is completely subjective. But, numbers-wise, objectively we can assume dancehall is on a decline. Dancehall is no longer as fun as it used to be. Other than a few Tik Tok dances, the current state of dancehall doesn't necessarily seem to foster a 'fun' environment anymore. This could be due to its extremely dark-sounding tone over the last couple years. Some would say it's because of the increased incorporation of scamming content in the music. But, in my opinion, it's not really the content, but it's the sound. The sound is extremely dark now. So the average person can't really find a groove to it as much…" Watkins said, adding that Valiant and Tommy Lee Sparta's Tic Tac Toe will be the top summer song.

For his piece, Romario "ZJ Romzii" Clarke, 27, noted that the prevalence in modern technology has impacted the evolution of dancehall.

"The advancement of technology has influenced crimes such as scamming. With scamming being on the rise, "choppa" songs... are also on a rise. Artistes are singing about what is in today's society. The only drawback is that scamming is illegal and some of the songs will make it seem like it's glorifying the act.

Romario "ZJ Romzii" Clarke .

"Also, a lot of songs are glorifying the degrading of women just like back then, but, with the advancement of technology you're hearing it more," he said.

He believes Drift by Teejay & DJ Mac will seize the summer.

For 24-year-old Niquae Herdsman, some listeners are having challenges digesting the new sounds.

"Dancehall's evolution has been an interesting phenomenon to watch unfold. For some, it is new and refreshing as the young artistes are surfacing by the dozens with new flows, new vibes, topical lyrics, and well controversial images, et cetera. On the other hand, some persons are finding it hard to accept [what they call] the 'watering down' of true dancehall culture that is accessorised by hard core lyrics, unique sound of the artistes, versatile types of rhythms — [whether] it be raunchy or conscious, but, essentially, relatable.

Niquae Herdsman.

"Today, the essence of dancehall and the longevity of the music that were once produced have somehow — not in all cases — been sidelined by the change in realities of these new artistes that ultimately impact what they sing about," she told the Observer.

Valiant and Tommy Lee Sparta's Tic Tac Toe is also in the running as well as Fresh Drop by Aidonia.

Twenty-three-year-old Nika-Kay Austin said she has had no choice but to accept what dancehall has become. She too is weary of the themes being addressed in the new tracks.

"The dynamics of dancehall have drastically changed. Not typically what I am fond of, but have to embrace, not only because it is my favourite genre, but I have also observed that this has seemingly become the new norm, which leaves me with no choice but to embrace this cultural dynamic that has the possibilities to change over time, like it has in past times.

Nika-Kay Austin.

"While things have evolved, the topics that have become vocal and is now causing concern from authorities and citizens are definitely by no means new to our culture. The reality is we have more artistes who are more vocal and outspoken about these topics... that were either introduced in a different way or they were not so vocal about them in the past," she said.

Asked about the 2023 summer hit song, she said: "I honestly don't have a clue what song will be the song for the summer. My best bet is a song from Ding Dong or Skeng."

BY KEDIESHA PERRY Observer writer

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