Words by Saxon Baird
It has already been a landmark year in Jamaican dancehall with its biggest star Vybz Kartel convicted of murder and sentenced to serve 40 years in prison. While the steady stream of new, previously unreleased Kartel tunes will certainly continue to see the light of day throughout the year, Jamaican dancehall is now lacking a real superstar of Kartel’s caliber.
So who will be dancehall’s next superstar artist? We look into our crystal ball and offer some up and coming candidates who could take dancehall by storm and carry the torch of Jamaica’s most popular style of music for years to come.
Despite being only 28, Konshens has been releasing music for over half a decade now. Yet it in the past few years there has been a considerable rise in his fame both in Jamaica and beyond with tunes like “So Mi Tan,” “Gal A Bubble,” “Big People Ting” and the excellent 2013 collaboration with Romain Virgo on “We Nuh Wory Bout Dem.” The DJ seems prime to take his talents to an international superstar level and 2014 might be the year.
When Vybz Kartel’s legal troubles began, his protégé Popcaan seemed the most obvious choice next in line for superstardom. His hit “Ravin” off the Summer Time riddim still finds airplay nearly three years later. While follow-ups “Only Man She Wants” and “Party Shot” rival only themselves in popularity. In 2013, things waned a bit for Popcaan though. Despite major crossover efforts with features on Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated, Pusha T’s “Blocka” and “Guilty Trip” off Yeezus, Popcaan had no real major hit of his own. Four months into 2014 and Popcaan has remained mostly quiet so far. In a scene that is constantly demanding new material, Popcaan’s sure path to becoming a superstar seem suddenly in question. Don’t count the young 25-year-old Portmore DJ out just yet though. His forthcoming debut LP ‘Where We Come From’ is out June 10th via Mixpak and is being executive produced by Dre Skull, who was behind Kartel’s ‘Kingston Story’ and hits like “Go Go Wine.” This year might be Popcaan’s big step towards becoming a superstar after all.
Last year Aidonia dropped what became arguably 2013’s biggest dancehall hit with “Fi Di Jockey.” The track perfectly spotlighted Aidonia’s infectious and energetic personality in front of the mic as well as his star potential. Aidonia has already established himself as the next big name to come out of Portmore, where the likes of Vybz Kartel and Popcaan hail from. Another hit like “Fi Di Jockey” in 2014 and he might be next in line for dancehall’s throne.
Black Ryno’s talents got him signed onto Vybz Kartel’s Gaza Empire where he demonstrated his skills on tracks like “Bike Back” off the Go Go Club riddim and “Strip Club Medley.” No longer associated with Gaza, Ryno claimed the title at Sting , Jamaica’s biggest dancehall clash event, last year. In 2014, Ryno is off to a strong start with “Baddest Thing” getting regular play on the island making him an up and coming DJ that must be watched.
The rail-thin Alkaline can be heard displaying his high-end, nasally voice on recent popular cuts like “Things Mi Love” and “Gyal Bruk Out.” This year his hit “Mouth Talk” has been one of the most popular tunes in dancehall. However, the young 18-year-old DJ may be most known at this point for supposedly tattooing his eyeballs black. To be dancehall’s next major superstar, Alkaline will have to rely on more than his bizarre but intriguing persona. Yet his sudden popularity in Jamaica perhaps signals a shift in dancehall that demands attention.
Could a woman be dancehall’s next major superstar? It remains to be seen but J. Capri is as good a candidate as any. She’s already scored hits under the tutelage of hit-maker RVSSIAN including the massively popular “Whine and Kotch” collaboration with Charly Black. Her first solo single “Reverse It” already has over half a million views on YouTube and a hook that has crossover written all over it.
Saxon Baird is a writer and radio producer located in Brooklyn. A majority of his work focuses on the Caribbean. He tweets @Saxonius.