Last year Kiss my Teeth/Imagelala did a much more straightforward run down of the top ten riddims and singles of 2009, but this 2010 round-up goes a little deeper into the shifty geology that makes up this year’s successes and failures in dancehall. In 2010 we saw the sometimes successful, sometimes brash shuffle dancehall took into new sounds, the systematic revoking of visas, catastrophic failures in album sales, the incredible personal branding successes and some serious bleaching. Read it all after the jump.
Not that long ago, before I dissolved from the U.S. to attend graduate school in Jamaica, I made a job of studying fashion blogs and mingling amongst the fashion masses alongside the lovely Chioma Nnadi, Style Director of The Fader. It was under these circumstances that I first came to Jamaica in 2008 as a guest to Caribbean Fashion Week and fell in love, not with clothes, but with Jamaican culture. It was our job as visitors to Kingston, Ms. Nnadi and I’s, to seek out style moments on the street to shoot for later posting in the website’s style section.
While “fashion” is not a term I particularly like, the term “style” seems more relevant because it has the ability to reveal true character, regardless of price tags. It was in Jamaica that I realized people had a very particular sense of personal style. Jamaicans make style their own by mish-mashing name brand with no brand and adding a lot of personal flare. More then anything, Jamaicans love posing for a camera, so it was a surprise to see there hadn’t been any “on-the-street” style blogs brewing.
Enter KingstonStyle.com, Jamaica’s on the street and style wise website about everything from shopping to new designers to fashionistas. Hosted by Kingston based Biggy Bigz, the website is never short on perfectly framed and nicely edited snapshots of Jamaican style. Thankfully, talented and stylish Jamaicans are finally receiving the attention they deserve.
See more after the jump or go to KingstonStyle.com
Jamaica has had more then its share of chaos already this week as Monday morning began with rumors that Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, was headed towards resignation (follow Jamaica Observer or Gleaner for the backstory if you missed this mega-moment.) If that wasn’t jolting enough, later that evening in a public address Golding asked for “forgiveness” and confirmed that the extradition request for Tivoli Gardens’ don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, would be signed by Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne. Later that evening, Coke’s lawyer, Tom Tavares-Finson pleaded on Nationwide News that the innocent people of West Kingston be spared from unnecessary violence. Today, the Jamaican Observer photo-documented the blockading that has taken place at all crossroads leading to Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town since news spread that the extradition papers were to be signed this afternoon. In the spirit of the craziness that is taking place here in Jamaica, I thought the Word A Prayer Riddim might be an appropriate way to leave this topic open ended.
Demarco, “We Pray”
Get the entire Word A Prayer Riddim with Demarco, Jah Vinci, ZJ Liquid, Bugle and I-Octane on Itunes June 1st.
This week has been more then trying on the nerves of Jamaica’s general populous. With Imagelala, I try refraining from political commentary, as the blog is intended to be more of an emerging music site then a culture zine. However, Jamaican politics is deeply interlinked in dancehall music. Sometimes it emerges as a lulling hum of conversation, lyricism, and banter and at other times it’s as crippling as a bullhorn in bed. This week has led to the latter as two artistes were shot down and hospitalized within 24 hours of each other, adding to the growing anxiety of the public as there seems to be an epidemic of killings occurring across the entire nation. Numerous Jamaicans were brutally murdered last week– including, and not limited to, community leaders, children, a mother of five and a peace organizer. Some people have responded violently, some with prayer, some with anger but almost all are looking for a direction to vent their frustration.
In the midst of all this, Drake introduced a new music video for “Find Your Love” that details the gritty underbelly of Jamaican gun culture in a time when no one really wants to be reminded of how gritty the grit could get. Instantaneously, the bad timing catapulted co-star Mavado in a light that he’s been deviating cautiously from for months now– Mavado hasn’t written a “gun” song since “War is in the Air” dropped last December. It made me wonder if the screenwriter/director had a relationship with dancehall, Jamaican culture or even singjay Mavado. More then that it made me wonder if the video was a manifestation of Drake’s eagerness to prove his weight in the American rap scene, as he has been and is often criticized for being too “soft.” This isn’t really the point though. The video itself is not the epicenter of the issue, it is just an overly romanticized side effect. The real issue is that Jamaica is at war. Whether it be a violent act against an artiste or community member or child, the violence is blinding. The most significant dancehall-related question right now is, where does dancehall and the dancehall community take part or how does it react?
The responses have been various. A prayer meeting was set up in Half Way Tree after the shooting of Voicemail’s Oneil Edwards last week and artistes came out to support the cause and stir up conversation about change. On the other end, the dancehall critics are quick to blame the violence on dancehall’s gun culture and its often trigger-happy content, warning artistes that Jamaican youth seem to be listening with open ears and even more open minds. Specifically, there has been some talk of a “fight for peace” from the Mavado camp and the Peace Management Initiative. Still, the riddle never really unfolds as the dancehall industry is suffering from the same problems as our governments: bipartisan politics and personal agendas. It would be naive and optimistic to believe that these issues can be eradicated, but a glimmer of hope lies in the fact that people are talking, actions (however little) are being taken, the bullhorn is blowing.
If I had a dancehall dream team, it would include my friend Felipe Delerme who not only knows a shit load about music and Americanized patois, he also knows the secrets to seducing Nicki Minaj. He just reminded me of his trip to Kingston in September when we heard Charly Black’s “Money Dreama” in the car and couldn’t believe how real it was that having ice cubes in the fridge meant… you made it. I’m still working on getting ice cubes in my fridge but nothing stopping us from being money dreamaz.
Lets take the day off from dancehall. For all those New Yorkers that can brave the cold, a good friend of mine and an amazing photographer is showing his pieces from Haiti in New York on Friday. John Francis Peters experienced the Haiti that once was, two weeks prior to the destruction of the Port Au Prince earthquake. His showcase of these images this Friday will benefit the Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti. I had the good fortune of working with John for two years at the FADER and he is a talented person with the capacity to capture the most subtle ephemeral moments in beautiful ways. For those that won’t be able to make it to the show, peep his website for a collection of images from his Haitian travels.