Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Give Dancehall Its Due - Richie Stephens, Lisa Hanna

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 2:00 AMCurtis Campbell
Richie Stephens
Rihanna
Lisa Hanna
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Popular United States-based online blogger Nerd Writer has rubbished an assertion made by music magazine, Rolling Stone, that Rihanna's recent single, Work, is from the tropical house genre, and not dancehall. According to Writer, Rolling Stone was wrong this time around since the record literally samples the classic Sail Away dancehall rhythm released by Richie Stephens in 1998, and reflects all the attributes of a dancehall record.

In a six-minute video posted on YouTube.com, the journalist provided facts to prove that Work is rooted in dancehall, and even played songs from the tropical house genre to show the huge disparity in sound.

"This song is not tropical house music, nor has it descended from tropical house.Work is a dancehall song, a genre which has a rich tradition in Jamaican history, and a mistake like this is the perfect excuse to take a closer look at some of the popular trends in popular music," he said.

Writer also said that tropical house is a slow-tempo type of house music which usually features instruments like steel drums, marimba, pan flutes, among other instruments from the Caribbean and Africa. He also suggested that OMI's hit record Cheerleader, featuring Felix Jaehn, is more of a tropical house record than Work.

Also brought under the microscope was Justin Bieber's recent hit record, Sorry. Sorry is largely regarded as a dancehall, pop, and tropical house record. However, Writer believes Sorry is blatantly dancehall. The journalist even compared the instrumental of Sorry to Shabba Ranks' Dem Bow record to prove his point, while highlighting that the producer of Sorry, Skrillex, is known to dabble with dancehall, along with his frequent collaborator, Diplo.

Coincidentally, the Dem Bow instrumental is also credited for the birth of the entire reggaeton genre. When The Sunday Gleaner last spoke with creator of the instrumental, Bobby Digital, he didn't seem willing to fight for his glory.

"Yu see music, wi love it in such a way that when yu see somebody with yu pattern, yu see that yu did something right or else other people wouldn't want to pattern off it. Di world nuh stop yah suh, and from yu get yu props, one day it muss pay off," he said.

Writer also went on to say, "I have nothing against the new genres of music, even something as short-lived and characterised as tropical house, but I also think it is important to recognise the lineage of tropical house ... . Jamaica's popularity and lineage will remain durable as long as there are great artistes willing to put the rhythms to work," he said.

Even Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna could not resist taking a jab at the Rolling Stone article. She took her grouse to social media, urging the magazine to give dancehall its due credit.

"Check your facts Rolling Stone Magazine. Rihanna's Work is dancehall. Rihanna sampled the classic Sail Away rhythm, a 1998 Jamaican rhythm by Richie Stephens and Mikey 2000. Rihanna publicly gave the credit. Why can't you? Rolling Stone should give the credit to our music. It comes from Jamaica," she posted.

When contacted, Richie Stephens, who has been on a campaign to reduce the impact of Rolling Stone's inaccuracy, told The Sunday Gleaner that persons have been on a mission to rebrand dancehall's culture. He also pointed out that the music video for Sorry, which featured Jamaican dance moves, had no Jamaican dancers, neither did the overseas-based choreographer bother to give credit to the Jamaicans who created the moves.

As it relates to Rihanna's single, Work, he told The Sunday Gleaner, "The fact that the song comes from my rhythm, being analysed means it has to be dancehall because dancehall is the template. Rihanna has also given credit to me and that also shows that Work is dancehall. I want to big up Rihanna and the producers for choosing my rhythm and dancehall because there are so many other genres that they could have featured instead," he said.

Work, which also features Drake, currently sits at No.7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after only two weeks. Several Jamaican artistes have also hopped onto the instrumental with home-made remixes.

"I am happy for social media because it gives people a voice, and they really went at Rolling Stone for the comment to the point that they were forced to apologise. People have been doing this to us for years because Jamaica is a small country, but we need to start speaking up," Richie Stephens said.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com