Music derives from culture. It’s how we can distinguish and categorize what we listen to on a daily basis. It’s not a secret that Jamaican culture has had an enormous helping hand in influencing the sounds of hip hop music for years now. Recently, Caribbean and African culture have inspired the recent sounds of hip hop and R&B music. This has spawned a reintroduction of sorts to Dancehall and Afrobeat music to mainstream music listeners. Artists such as Drake, Rihanna, Justin Beiber, and PartyNextDoor have hopped aboard the dancehall express train and have created some of the biggest hits of 2015 and 2016. However, it’s noticeable that dancehall musicians don’t reach the level of stardom or even get the recognition that mainstream celebrities reach. Drake is probably the biggest example of a mainstream artist achieving an insane amount of success over dancehall music. In an article posted on Genius.com, the self-proclaimed “6 God” was described as “strategically aligning himself with Jamaican sound-system culture” and being a “cultural importer, exporter”. Being that he is from Toronto where there is a significant West Indian presence, it’s almost expected that the culture is a driving force of inspiration behind his music. While he may work in close relations with Popcaan, Movado, and WizKid, none of these artists have reached the pinnacle of success Drake has reached.
I’m not saying that dancehall artists aren’t successful because they are. Artists like Sean Paul have successfully crossed over into the mainstream market and continue to expand their fan base. Breaking into that mainstream market is difficult, and the frustration that emerges when dancehall musicians American counterparts are reaping the rewards and media outlets are trying to rebrand dancehall as tropical house music is understandable. Richie Stephens says it best in a sit-down discussion with Mr. Vegas:
“Matter of fact, I love when different artists from different countries get involved in the genre and the culture. But, all we are asking is for people to remember to give the credit — and show us in a very positive way.”
It’s impossible to stop artists from making music base off their inspiration. Giving credit to the artists that inspired the music, however, should be a priority for these mainstream artists. Oh and Drake, we’re still waiting for you to drop the version of “Controlla” with Popcaan…feel free to do that anytime now.