Reggaeville Riddim Corner #1 [January 2015]
01/22/2015 by Dan Dabber
The battle between reggae/dancehall labels to produce the first break out riddim of 2015 has already begun. Now is the time to set the tone for the next several months, since riddims that stand out from the pack in January and February will likely be in heavy rotation until the summer riddim crop is harvested around May and June. With stakes so high, many well known producers are racing to put riddim albums out this month, but do these releases have what it takes to make a lasting impression in 2015?
Serious reggae fans will be excited to learn that Swiss label, Weedy G Soundforce, is starting off 2015 with their first one drop riddim release since 2013’s Arise & Shine Riddim. Although they had a few previous releases, Arise & Shine put Weedy G on the map, boasting enduring and meaningful versions from Jamaican heavy-hitters Agent Sasco and Sizzla Kalonji. Gate 7 Riddim, their newest release distributed by VP Records, feels like an attempt to re-create that Arise & Shine magic. Like Arise & Shine, Gate 7 features gunshot sound effects, furious drum fills, killer drops, and, also in the case of both riddims, top notch versions from veteran lyricist Sasco (aka Assassin). His Gate 7 contribution, Mash Dem Dong, is a killer version by any standard but, in comparison to his work on the Arise & Shine release, the powerful Rebellious Nature, Mash Dem Dong falls short. Sadly, there is no second stand out version to round out the Gate 7 release, despite contributions from high-caliber artists like Bugle and Perfect Giddimani.
One could argue that no producer has made more of an impact on contemporary dancehall than Sweden’s Adde Instrumentals, who is attempting to score another hit in 2015 with his new Adde Productions/21st Hapilos release, Black List Riddim, featuring tracks from QQ, Bugle, Alkaline, Masicka, and Charly Black in combination with Berlin-based singer Coco Corrah. Adde’s most successful production to date is the Summertime Riddim released by Adidjahiem Records in 2011, which included the massive dancehall smashes Ravin’ by Popcaan and Summertime by Vybz Kartel. Like most of Adde’s riddims, Black List has a synth-heavy, poppy, dance-able appeal. Unfortunately, given Adde’s extensive contributions to the pop-influenced status quo in dancehall, Black List may feel like more of the same, making it difficult for the Black List Riddim to stand out in 2015.
No stranger to popped-out dancehall, Linton “TJ” White’s label, TJ Records, is also searching for a party anthem with his first 2015 release, Champagne Bubble Riddim, again distributed by 21st Hapilos. Similar to the Black List, this riddim oozes pop appeal but in a more balanced way due to the warmth created by TJ’s use of piano and percussive clavinet. With only three versions included in this release, TJ leaned on his go-to-lyricist, Vybz Kartel, for the anchor track and tapped Downsound recording artists Don Husky and Ishawna, who both enjoyed breakout success in 2014, to round out the short artist roster for this release. All three versions are solid, and Kartel’s Champagne Bubble stands out as a possible hit.
Perhaps no producer dropping a riddim release this month has seen the kind of success that Troyton Rami has experienced. His Buzz Riddim from 2001 included Sean Paul’s Gimme The Light which became a giant global pop hit. Rami continued to put out bangers, first for the Black Shadow Records label and, in recent years, for his Troyton Music imprint. Yet another release employing the digital distribution giant, 21st Hapilos, Troyton’s newest riddim, Intoxxicated, includes stellar versions from dancehall titans such as I-Octane, Mr. G, Chris Martin, Charly Black, and Tarrus Riley. The riddim itself is masterfully built, employing guitars, strings, scratching, and a driving synth-bass to create a fun, bouncy dancehall vibe. Although no stand out version is obvious, solid cuts like Bugle’s Nuh Like Da Style Deh, Charly Black’s Tyad Fi See Mi, and Tarrus Riley’s Herbs (Sensimena) give this riddim a deep bench and a good shot at becoming a dancehall staple in early 2015.
Although it may be too early to tell which, if any, of these four releases will make a lasting impact in 2015, it is likely that they will be on heavy rotation for months to come, if for no other reason, because of their reliance on approaches that have been successful in the past. These riddims will definitely keep the party going in 2015, even if they don’t leave a permanent mark on the reggae/dancehall soundscape.
Listen to a jugglin of the Riddims below: