Will Dancehall Be Extinct Like Ska?
With the fact that a dancehall track from out of Jamaica is yet to top the Billboard charts in years, veteran musicians have been pointing fingers at the younger musicians in the dancehall world. Beenie man and Bounty Killer have been very vocal in recent years about the new “Trap Dancehall” wave, highlighting that it’s not good for the genre.
The dancehall genre seems to be losing steam from the momentum it had in the early 2000s with Sean Paul and Shaggy at the top. Nowadays, Afrobeat is arguably the fastest-rising music genre, taking the place of dancehall on multiple musical charts and is ever-present on the Tiktok platform.
In a recent interview on “The Fix” podcast with Naro and Ari, renowned producer Skatta Burrell explained why he believes producers are responsible for the direction Dancehall is heading today.
Skatta lamented that there was a time when talented artistes met with professional producers who worked together to create magic. In recent times, however, the guidance of professional producers is missing, and the “yutes” are guiding themselves. He outlined that with the technology available, anyone can take up a laptop and some equipment, download beats from the internet, record and release a song, then call themselves producers. He cannot blame artistes for this.
Dancehall is an art form with a formula, Skatta stated. He believes this formula is essential to making hits that last. Most artistes don’t understand this and only need to be creative when they hear a riddim. Furthermore, he stated that artistes nowadays are not receiving the right riddims but rather “dark riddims” that limit their creativity. He also stressed that not enough songs geared toward women are present.
In continuing, Burrell admitted that producers are to lead and let others follow. Ari, however, outlined that some producers act on instructions from artistes nowadays, compared to legendary producers who guided artistes whenever they worked together. Skatta agreed with this point and believes the popularity and fame that nowadays artistes have is one reason why they get away with wanting things done their way.
The producer mentioned “juggling riddims” as the fundamentals of Dancehall music. “Because the Jamaican population is so small,” he explained, “it’s easier to push ten songs on one riddim, so ten artistes can be heard, rather than ten singles separately.” Additionally, a good riddim hits before the artistes record their songs on it. As a result, whenever artistes hear the riddim, they want to be a part of it. The lack of good quality juggling riddims, according to Skatta, is killing an essential part of dancehall music and our culture. He mentioned the “Diwali Riddim,” “Buzz Riddim,” “Drop Leaf Riddim,” and “Stagalag Riddim,” among others, as some of Dancehall’s great juggling riddims.
Host Naro later alluded to a tweet he had posted, stating, “if we’re not careful, we’re running the risk of dancehall, as we know it, being extinct and being a thing of the past like Ska.” He also stated that some of the artistes’ arguments concerning jugglings are that everyone on the riddim will sound the same. He, however, believes that most of the artistes today have the same sound even though they are recording on different riddims. Skatta nodded in agreement to the previous comment and found the latter amusing.
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Burrell further cemented his point that producers should take responsibility for the state of Dancehall by explaining how recording artiste Valiant’s song, “Bounce Cheque,” was remixed on the “Buzz Riddim,” and it fits perfectly. He says this proves that today’s artistes can write songs on the older types of riddims but are not getting them from today’s producers.
Watch the interview below: