By Far: One Of The Most Versatile Artistes In Reggae Music – Busy Signal

I will not sit here and tell you that I knew this man was equipped with this much talent when I first heard him. I’ll be honest; I arrived at the listening party exceptionally late. I did not discover him until 2014. By then, he had more than ten years on stage performing and entertaining fans worldwide. Once you hear him and focus on his delivery, lyrics, and flow, you realize he is unique and the most versatile.

I still recall the night I first heard the song. I was walking into a local bar on a Reggae Monday night, and the DJ (selecta) that was playing was giving the live band a break. It was a quick 15-minute set, but in that set is when I first got a glimpse of “Set Up,” I recall asking myself, “did someone dub Marvin Gaye?” I had to remember a few words and the flow, then use that to do the Google search. There was no Shazam back then. After a few search results, I landed on this name – Busy Signal. I had no clue who that was or the pedigree. At that moment, I did what most of us do on YouTube. I ended up going down that rabbit hole. It’s funny. I never told any close friends how I came across the Turf President (another name he goes by and can be heard mentioned on numerous tracks). I felt embarrassed that he had been out and was not on my radar. This article is my effort to vindicate myself and give this phenom the proper respect he deserves.

If we talk about his discography, we realize that it is extensive and full of hits. He’s one of few artiste that can harmonize in key and chatter on his own. If you compare him to an artist in Hip-Hop that does that, you will have to say, Drake. Now, add a sick and unique double tempo to his ability to pause, add some add lip and then start again to his harmony and chatter, and you realize Busy Signal can ride any riddim and give it life. During this search, I discovered that Busy leans on 80’s and 90’s styles in some of his verses. He’s also not afraid to dub classic hits and add his renowned Busy Signal twist to them. His versatility does not just consist of his unique style. You run up on it when you listen to his rendition of the iconic country hit “The Gambler.” Busy Signal is not afraid to push the envelope. He is not the first artist to dub a country song, but the norm behind dubbing that genre is reserved chiefly for singers, not dancehall DJs. I’m confident that if I had the opportunity to interview the Turf President, he would agree that he’s primarily a dancehall DJ and not a singer. Yet, he can carry a tune, even when improvising. I recently saw this video posted on YouTube, and in this short clip, this artiste demonstrates why he deserves the crown as the most versatile talent alive. I recommend you check it out. This clip was the inspiration for this article.

If you are a fan of reggae music and have not heard any of Busy Signal’s music, or you’re a fan and follow him on any platform, take the opportunity to revisit his music catalog. You will find an abundance of music where this artiste showcases his ability to address conscious topics, make summer hits or bring back a classic song and add his unrepeatable delivery to it. As a music fan, there’s no possible way you can categorize him as just a dancehall artiste. Busy has more to offer in his music. On July 29th, he premiered a new video – Old School New School – paying homage to dancehall superstars from the 1990s – “The Golden Age of Dancehall.” The video showcases Busy’s chameleon-like skill in full display.

I’ve learned to appreciate Busy Signal as an artiste. He brings it and leaves no doubt of his lyrical genius in my mind. I will share a list of songs from his repertoire that must be part of your playlist. I’m listing them in no particular order; they are just bangers!

  • Wicked Man – Album (Reggae Music Again – 2012) – Not every dancehall artiste can record with a live band and sound this good. Busy Signal rides the baseline on this song with the likes of King Yellowman and Dennis Brown. The song features a live band. Busy adapts his flow to the baseline, and his double tempo with the delivery of his lyrics is sick!
  • One More Night and Night Shift – Album (D.O.B. – 2010) – Listening to Busy use the hook from the global hit by Phil Collins with the same title showcases his vocal range. Busy Signal doesn’t need a feature from a singer to compliment his vocals on Night Shift. Both of these are remakes of classic R&B hits. I give him props for taking each one and making them his own. He kills both chunes! This video has over close to 40 million views and counting.
  • Greetings (Ribbidibi) – Single (Strictly The Best 51 – 2014) – Anyone that has been to a dancehall has experienced the frenzy that the original Greetings from Half Pint creates. In this version, Busy adds a sick flow, an avalanche of lyrics with a double tempo that makes you screw up your face in admiration of what you just heard. A line that sticks out for me comes in verse two – “T-shirt, me no need no bulletproof vest” – this tells you that he’s not afraid to be around his people anywhere he goes.
  • Dreams of Brighter Days – Single (Brighter Day Riddim – 2013) – This track features vocals from RC. You hear Busy’s melodic voice right from the start on this one. He leads with, “Out comes the Sun…” after that, both artistes combine bars that make this harmony work perfectly.
  • Set Up – Album (It – Incomparable Talent – 2013) – If you ever wonder what it means for an artist to sit on top of the riddim, this song describes that. This track has everything from the first piano riffs we hear to the voice making an appearance. The melody is on point, one of those tracks that can play on any occasion.
  • Stay So – Single (The New Box Riddim – 2017) – In this one, the Turf President delivers a clear message on what type of influence and status he has established. It’s a pictorial warning to those listening of how deep his reach is in his hood. This one reminds me of the old tracks you would hear from Super Cat – “Ghetto Red Hot.” These tracks are necessary to the culture, and we hear the same in Hip-Hop.
  • ‘O’ Baby – Single (Featuring Patrice Roberts – 2016) – This is the quintessential reggae love chune that generations can enjoy. Newcomers need to take note and listen to how this collaboration is flawless. Patrice has a beautiful voice, and Busy compliments her with his flow. Classic!

Busy Signal has reached the pinnacle of Jamaican music fame and global appeal; he has been a part of numerous reggae and music festivals worldwide, including Jamaica’s Sumfest. His rendition of “One More Night” at Sumfest remains one of my favorites. My only wish for this true artiste is for him to continue working hard and finding more avenues to globalize his brand. I can see him doing his version of Andy Gibbs – “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” while adding that Busy Signal sauce to it. I also wish for more collaborations with Spanish Reggae or Reggaeton superstars. That bridge remains uncrossed and can be mended by planning to collaborate with Panamanian Reggaeton star Sech for example. An artiste like Sech has been influenced by Jamaican dancehall, he’s seen the roots of dancehall become part of the Panamanian music scene since the early 1980s. Another dream scenario would be to see Busy work

Panamanian Reggeaton Star “Sech”
Courtesy of Rollingstone.com
Puerto Rican Rapper “Bad Bunny”
AMY SUSSMAN//GETTY IMAGES

with a global icon like Bad Bunny In 2021, Spotify named the Puerto Rican rapper the most streamed artiste with 9.1 billion streams. A collaboration between the Turf President and Latin performers would expand his reach. We already know he can adapt and infuse his flow to any riddim. I hope that as fans, we get to experience these types of unions, they have shown to break language barriers and climb the charts with tremendous success. We’ll keep watching and wishing the Turf President more blessings and success!

Eric George

@djericgpty

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