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By Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
I can’t really say what it is about the Jamaican dancehall artists from the 80s and 90s but they did deliver musical hits that keep us rocking from beginning to end. Many have even endured until today. Their deliveries, lyrics and flow are vastly different from our younger, more modern dancehall artists. Here are a few that you may know.
One of the most iconic figures of the dancehall scene in the '80s and '90s was the charismatic Shabba Ranks. Let me correct that, because he is still quite Iconic today. Shabba Ranks gained international acclaim for his energetic stage presence and distinctive baritone voice. He achieved mainstream success with hits like "Ting-A-Ling" and "Mr Loverman," which showcased his ability to blend traditional dancehall sounds with a more accessible and pop-oriented style. Shabba's impact on dancehall and reggae music was so significant that he won two Grammy Awards for Best Reggae Album in 1991 and 1993.
Another pivotal artist who emerged during this era was Buju Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie. Buju's career skyrocketed in the early 90s with the release of his album "Mr Mention," featuring hits like "Bogle" and "Love Me Browning." Buju Banton's lyrics often delved into social and political issues, making him a powerful voice for change within the dancehall community. His powerful performances and conscious messages earned him respect both locally and internationally, solidifying his status as one of the genre's most influential figures.
Beenie Man, born Anthony Moses Davis, is another legendary dancehall artist from this era who left an indelible impact on the music industry. His early success came with tracks like "Slam" and "Wickedest Slam," but he indeed rose to prominence in the late 90s with the release of "Who Am I (Sim Simma)." Beenie Man's lyrical prowess, smooth delivery, and ability to adapt to various musical styles made him one of the dancehall genre's most versatile and enduring figures.
In the male-dominated dancehall scene, Sister Nancy, born Ophlin Russell, stood out as one of the genre's leading female voices. Her breakthrough came in the early 80s with the release of "Bam Bam," which became an instant classic. The song's infectious rhythm and Sister Nancy's captivating delivery made it a timeless anthem that still resonates with audiences today. She inspires female artists in Jamaica and beyond, proving that women can thrive in a male-dominated industry.
Super Cat, born William Anthony Maragh, is often hailed as the "Don Dada" of dancehall. He was a trailblazer in the 80s and 90s, known for his unique toasting style and engaging live performances. Super Cat's fusion of reggae and dancehall, along with elements of hip-hop, helped popularise the genre among international audiences. Hits like "Ghetto Red Hot" and "Don Dada" solidified his status as a true dancehall pioneer.
Bounty Killer, born Rodney Basil Price, is often called the "Warlord" of dancehall. He emerged in the early 90s and quickly became famous for his aggressive and hard-hitting lyrical style. Bounty Killer's performances were electric, and he became known for his melodic clashes with other artists, a traditional aspect of dancehall culture where artists engage in friendly battles on stage or in recordings. Hits like "Copper Shot" and "Poor People Fed Up" solidified his position as a dominant force in dancehall, and he remains an influential figure to this day.
Yellowman, born Winston Foster, was one of the earliest dancehall stars, rising to fame in the 1980s. His unique style of toasting, infused with humour and witty lyrics, endeared him to audiences both in Jamaica and abroad. Yellowman's breakthrough album, "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng," (hilarious, but yes that's the name) brought him international recognition, and he became one of the first dancehall artists to tour extensively outside of Jamaica.
Mad Cobra, born Ewart Everton Brown, emerged during the early 90s and quickly became known for his deep and distinctive voice. He gained fame with the release of the single "Flex," which catapulted him to international success. Mad Cobra's powerful delivery and socially conscious lyrics made him a favourite among dancehall enthusiasts and cemented his status as one of the prominent artists of the era.
Marion Hall, known professionally as Lady Saw (later Minister Marion Hall after a spiritual transformation), was one of the pioneering female dancehall artists. She challenged gender norms in the male-dominated industry and earned respect for her bold and explicit lyrics. Lady Saw's career took off with the release of "Stab Out Di Meat," and she went on to become the first female artist to win a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2004.
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