Jamaicanising Uncle Sam
Reggae's rebirth awakens new hip-hop interests
Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Since late 2012, the international hip-hop community has become more and more involved with Patois and reggae. Several episodes of BET's flagship entertainment show 106 & Park have seen the hosts attempting to speak like Jamaicans.
The new host/rapper Bow Wow, in a recent episode, is quoted as saying "Jah Rastafari bap bap bap," before closing his weekly segment.
The renewed interest of the hip-hop community in reggae and, by extension, Patois has raised eyebrows, with some entertainment personalities wondering if the new developments are a result of Snoop Dogg's transformation into a reggae artiste.
During Edward Seaga's lecture at the National Indoor Sports Centre last year, veteran musician and chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association Michael Ibo Cooper, had professed that Snoop Lion's interest in reggae could boost the appreciation for the genre in the rap community. And to date it appears Cooper was right.
Since Snoop Dogg's transformation to Snoop Lion, at least one hardcore rapper has opted to deliver a rap song on an authentic reggae beat, which is quite unconventional.
Hip-hop mogul Sean 'P Diddy' Coombs recently came to Jamaica to experience an authentic clash in a raw dancehall setting at Limelight Nightclub in Half-Way Tree. The question is, are these recent happenings a coincidence?
According to the manager of Chronixx and Zinc Fence band, Brandon Sharpe, Snoop Lion brought reggae into the homes of hip-hop fans.
"He has brought reggae into the home of real authentic hip-hop and rap fans. Snoop has a lot of fans who will search and find out what Snoop Dogg is doing and it helps to give more leverage to our music," he said.
According to Sharpe, Snoop Lion may have realised that reggae music can be profitable.
"The hip-hop artistes are trying to be like the Jamaicans and we are trying to be the opposite because we are trying to be like Americans. It's clear that now is the time for us to realise what we have. Right now, I think Snoop Lion is trying to benefit from the fruits of reggae music," Sharpe said.
Cultural analyst Donna P. Hope believes Snoop Lion's visit to Jamaica was personal; however, it is possible that the rapper could stimulate others from his side of the world to want an affiliation with Jamaican culture.
"Snoop Dogg's renewal may have been personal, but it is also directed at components of Jamaican culture that enjoy immense popularity outside of our shores like Rastafari and reggae music. And so what began as a tiny trickle will eventually become a tidal wave. More will venture to the source," she said.
According to Hope, the infiltration of Jamaican culture in America can also be credited to the island's performance in the London Olympics.
"Jamaican music and culture example being Rasta, reggae, dancehall and sports have enjoyed international appeal for many decades now. However, the mega-showcase of sport, culture and music at London 2012, and the convergence of Jamaica 50 activities that took place in many different localities across the world in 2012, did have some resonance, not just through formal media, but via channels like Twitter and Facebook. Many saw the reach of Jamaican culture and the interest in our cultural icons very clearly and in quantifiable statistics. And so, like we say in Jamaica, 'ants follow fat'- there is a renewed and growing tidal wave of interest in Jamaican culture and the Americans are moving to exploit same in a new way," she said.
The cultural analyst said the Jamaican cultural heritage has immense value and hopes industry players here are making plans to capitalise on the attention that brand Jamaica has been receiving.
"I hope that in all this excitement about Volkswagen ads, Beyoncé Dutty Wine, the world going Patois and such delights, there is some plan to exploit this new wave of attention to Jamaican music and culture for and on behalf of the creators of these cultural forms - the ordinary and poor Jamaicans whose cultural capital and cultural products are usually all that he/she possesses," she said.
Several hip hop artistes have incorporated Patois in their songs in recent times, including Rick Ross, Wale, Jay-Z, Jim Jones, Big Sean, Kanye West, and 50 Cent. Volkswagen also used Patois in its Super Bowl advertising campaign. Some Jamaican songs have also been sampled by the hip-hop community, including Super Beagle's Dust A Sound Boy dubplate that was featured in Kanye West's Mercy featuring Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. Chris Martin's Cheater's Prayer was sampled by rapper Jim Jones.
Despite the growth in America's appreciation for Jamaican culture, several local artistes are still unable to spread their material in the United States due to visa woes. Artistes like Aidonia, Popcaan, Busy Signal, Mr Lexx, Tommy Lee Sparta and iconic entertainer Bounty Killer are unable to set foot on American shores.