Sunday, January 11, 2015

Has The 90s Return to Dancehall in Jamaica?

Gully Bop Fan Art
One gets the impression that persons within the Jamaican music industry get nervous when the subject of the now trending Dancehall artiste, "Gully Bop," aka Country Man is discussed, mainly because of his image and frankly because of his age.  But a sad reality about this "Gully Bop" take-over is that the 50 year old has done what many Dancehall fans have been anticipating since the incarceration of Vybz Kartel, and that is, explode on the scene with much flare, controversy and much excitement taking the industry by storm.

Dancehall is.....
Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s and is generally considered to be the direct predecessor of rap.  The music is, in its most basic form, a deejay toasting (or rapping) over a riddim.

Why Is That 90s Vibe Suddenly a Big Thing?
Amidst the excitement what is even more interesting about Gully Bop is his seemingly effortless ability to engage, intrigue and excite young Dancehall fans.  His melodramatic and freestyles, similar to Deejay Ninja Man's and known to dominate the late 80s to early 90s era when the likes of Deejays such as Super Cat, Nicodemus, Junior Demus and Early B and the likes ruled, faced extinction as it was found to be boring among teenagers and young adults. But now the very same style has been re-introduced to the new technological savvy group igniting debates that are favourable to the artiste, his talent and even his unflattering image. 

It is of importance to note that the difference between Ninja Man and Gully Bop's music is lyrics. Gully Bop music is more comical and sexually explicit while the original 'Don Gorgon' Ninja Man maintains his controversial and pro-gun lyrics.  What we see unfolding presently and taking shape is an appreciation of foundation Dancehall style of deejaying by teens be it sexual, happy or comedic content. This writer published an article December 2013 with headline Let The 90s Be Your Guide urging everyone and anyone who cares to listen to look to the 90s to resuscitate the Dancehall genre.  After all, this trait is working for reggae artistes such as The Marley, Chronixx, protege and the likes so why would it not work for Dancehall artistes.

What Goes Around, Comes Back Around
You see, the more things change, the more it remain the same.  Like fashion, styles and trends all come back around after several years.  We see Pop and R and B artistes like Rihanna and Chris Brown re-inventing themselves by unearthing styles originated by former superstars like Michael Jackson and Marilyn Munroe to their advantage.  So it was just a matter of time, that someone who either understood these patterns and know how to use them best or in the case of Gully Bop simply, rise genuinely oblivious to present day deejay styles with an inborn 80s/90s concept of how one should deejay. Many artistes are left astonished but the fans continue to enjoy Gully Bop's jokes first while admit he's got talent. Ninja Man held and kept his image and style alive and is without doubt known to the young fans but it is safe to say Gully Bop got them interested.

Though there are a wide variety of artistes and sub-genres present in the dancehall arena, "slack lyrics" - with R to X-rated content have been found to be more popular than pro-gun lyrics. Several dancehall deejays have achieved international recognition and popularity singing "slack lyrics", particularly Vybz Kartel, Shabba Ranks, Lady Saw and Patra to name a few.  

The 90s is Dancehall
Dancehall needed a turning point and that turning point was going back to its roots.
A dancehall artiste live show must be entertaining
Many have tried unsuccessfully but here comes a 50 year old deejay doing it. He may not have the stamina but he sure got skills and the fact that he is delivering on his recordings. 
This melodramatic and freestyle of deejaying is more effective for Dancehall in general. It helps cultivate unique homemade riddims, it brings back the Jamaican deejay identity and is way more entertaining working with a band at live performances.  

By: Sophia McKay