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'Noughty' years: good times for reggae, Carib music

Published:Tuesday | January 12, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

'Junior Gong' Marley

THE 1990s are usually regarded as the golden age of dancehall, as far as chart success in the United States and Europe is concerned. But Caribbean acts saw even more chart action on both sides of the Atlantic during the 'noughties'.

Heading the list were Sean Paul and Shaggy with big-selling 'dancehall lite' albums like Dutty Rock, The Trinity and Hot Shot. Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley also gained a foothold in the US with his Welcome to Jamrock which went platinum (one million units) in 2005.

Interestingly, it was musician/producer Stephen 'Lenky' Marsden who got the ball rolling in 2001 with his Diwali beat. It helped Sean Paul's Get Busy and singer Wayne Wonder's No Letting Go to number three and 11, respectively, on Billboard magazine's pop chart.

Mega-platinum sales

Get Busy was just one of several hit songs from Dutty Rock which made Sean Paul a bona fide star. Gimme The Light, Like Glue and I'm Still In Love With You (with Sasha) spurred the album to mega-platinum sales, and got Sean Paul collaboration dates with Beyoncé and Latin rock legend, Carlos Santana.

Shaggy was hot in 2002 with Hot Shot which was driven by the cheater's anthem, It Wasn't Me and Angel. Hot Shot sold over six million units.

Hardcore dancehall performers like Lady Saw and Bounty Killer also did well. Both worked on punk/reggae band No Doubt's Rock Steady album which was mostly recorded in Jamaica with the help of famed rhythm duo, Sly and Robbie.

Lady Saw appeared on Underneath It All while Killer added his touch to Hey Baby which were both entered the top five of the Billboard pop chart and won Grammy awards.

Elephant Man may not have been as successful but he had songs in Billboard's rap/hip hop chart and worked with several rap artistes. His last album, Let's Get Physical, was distributed by hip hop mogul Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Bad Boy Records.

'Comeback of the Decade'

The award for 'Comeback of the Decade' went to Junior Reid, the roots-reggae singer who was making records in the late 1970s when Sean Paul and Elephant Man were still in short pants.

Reid teamed with rappers The Game and M.I.M.S. on It's Okay (One Blood) and This Is Why I Am Hot, which were both big hits in the US.

( l - r ) Junior Reid, Shaggy, Sean Paul

Performers from the Eastern Caribbean more than held their own. Rihanna from Barbados was the definite standout with a flood of hit singles

(Umbrella, Disturbia, A Girl Like Me) and well-received albums like Good Girl Gone Bad. She gained notoriety in 2009 after a much-publicised altercation with her lover, rhythm and blues singer Chris Brown.

The tiny islands that make up St Vincent and the Grenadines are best known for banana production, but singer Kevin Lyttle put them on the map musically in 2004 with Turn Me On, a soca-reggae song that reached as far as number four in the US and number two in Britain.

In 2005, Barbadian soca singer Rupee followed in Lyttle's footsteps with Tempted To Touch, which also did well stateside.

Other key events and releases

Overlooked album: Ominously released on September 11 2001, Halfway Tree by Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2002, but sold under 100,000 copies. Easily one of the best reggae efforts of the decade.

Ignored album: Prophesy by Florida-based singer Screwdriver. Solid roots-reggae set.

Dancehall albums of the decade: Sizzla's Da Real Ting and Parables by Tarrus Riley. Lovers rock and roots-reggae never sounded better.

Marley goes Hollywood: In 2001, the city of Los Angeles honoured reggae legend Bob Marley with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Passed on: Legendary producer Clement Dodd, film-maker Perry Henzell, roots-reggae stalwart Joseph Hill and rock steady great Desmond Dekker died during the decade.

Milestone: Island Records, the London-based company which distributed albums by Marley, Burning Spear and Steel Pulse, celebrated 50th anniversary in 2009.