by Jodee Brown
On Friday night, The Recording Academy announced its nominees for the 56th Grammy Awards, slated for January 26 in Los Angeles. A fair amount of intrigue surrounds this year’s Reggae Grammy nominees, with Snoop Dogg (under the Snoop Lion moniker) and Sizzla standing out amongst the contenders.
However, while the selection committee has managed to correctly reward some of Reggae’s most influential projects in the past, there were some top-of-the-line albums by Jamaican artists that were inexplicably snubbed, for whatever reason, with regards the Best Reggae album honor. Here are 10 such projects that deserved a shot at music’s most prestigious prize:
Honorable Mention: Reggae Music Again (2012)
A certain honorable mention for this list is Busy Signal’s Reggae Music Again. The all-Reggae effort, released months before serving a six-month stint in a U.S. prison last May was relatively solid as he and Shane Brown combined to produce hits like Come Over (Missing You) and Reggae Music Again, showing Busy’s undoubted versatility. This project was a classic case of quality of music out-trumping quantity of record sales. Yet, The Recording Academy chose not to take too much notice.
10. Etana – Better Tomorrow (2013)
Regarding this year’s award selections, there was not much of an issue from my perspective regarding the nominees, which also included Beres Hammond, Ziggy Marley and Sly and Robbie and the Jam Masters. However, this year seemed like the ideal opportunity to buck a longstanding trend of female acts not earning a Grammy nod, with Etana’s most recent album, Better Tomorrow warranting such an honor.
The album featured some of her best work including songs such as Queen, Beautiful Day and the addictive track, Reggae and, had it been nominated, would have marked the first album by a female act since Sister Carol’sLyrically Potent in 1997 to earn such a nod. Alas, it was not meant to be for the ‘Strong One.’
9. Romain Virgo – The System (2012)
Last year, the Recording Academy failed to buck yet another recent trend – mainly elder acts and familiar names getting nods – and overlooked a strong breakthrough effort by emerging Reggae superstar, Romain Virgo with his debut album, The System.
This album made Virgo a standout name in Reggae music, with hits such as Rich In Love, I Know Better and The System and showcased his vocal range and versatility to the world. Though the album was not a smashing commercial success, it featured quality music from top to bottom and would have fit onto a final nominations list with work less heralded and similarly struggling in the sales department.
8. Sizzla – Praise Ye Jah (1997)
In 1997, a young, fiery singer by the name ofSizzla Kalonji announced himself to the Reggae scene with this thought-provoking album, Praise Ye Jah. This album was a slight turn from the albums of the early-mid 90s which were predicated on soft tones and soothing melodies. Not to say this album didn’t have sprinkles of either, but on this record, you could feel Sizzla’s passion as he helped usher in the more edgy, aggressive type of Reggae music that would force others to pay attention.
The album did not quite make Sizzla a mainstream hit, but with songs like Praise Ye Jah, Homeless and Dem a Wonder, it warranted a Grammy nod just based on the fact it offered something different from the usual Reggae project and found some measure of credence with music lovers, allowing his star to shine early on in his career.
7. Beres Hammond – Moment in Time (2008)
Beres Hammond’s 11-year wait for a Grammy nomination could have been cut in half if his 2008 album, Moment In Time had been one of the five finalist for the 2009 Reggae Grammy. This was a breathtaking album from the Reggae legend, featuring hits like No Goodbye, I Feel Good andGive It All You’ve Got and possessed enough quality to warrant a call in a rare year when six nominees were selected.
6. Diana King – Tougher Than Love (1995)
In the mid-90s, Diana King was one of the hottest properties in Jamaican music, particularly for her hit single, Shy Guy, which was featured on the soundtrack to the first installment of the Bad Boys movie series. Other tracks like Treat Her Like a Lady, later covered by Celine Dion, made her a breakout star internationally.
Despite that and the fact Tougher Than Love was certified gold in the United States, she was snubbed for the award, again proving how much harder it was for a Jamaican female act to garner the same attention for such a major award than her male counterparts.
5. Bounty Killer – My Xperience (1996)
Having arrived on the scene with a rough-edge, no nonsense style in the early 90s,Bounty Killer became one of Dancehall’s most prolific stars and was soon gaining international recognition, collaborating with the likes of The Fugees and Busta Rhymesfor his 1996 project, My Xperience.
This was easily the best project ever compiled by the ‘War Lord,’ featuring hits like Living Dangerously (w/ Barrington Levy), Maniac (w/ Richie Stephens),Seek God and Revolution (Part 3) – w/ Beenie Man and the late Dennis Brown.Certainly, one of the greatest Dancehall albums ever put together should have received a nod, but did not make the final list, for the 1997 Reggae Grammy, which was won by Bunny Wailerfor his 50th anniversary album dedicated to the late, great Bob Marley.
4. Luciano – Where There Is Life (1995)
Though he scored a Grammy nod for his 2002 album, A New Day, his best album,Where There Is Life was surprisingly not deemed worthy of similar acclaim for the 1996 awards. The Philip ‘Fattis’ Burrell produced album featured some of Reggae’s biggest hits, including It’s Me Again Jah,Who Could It Be and Lord Give Me Strength. It was a shame considering how popular many of the songs were in the mainstream and the album would have presented a strong challenge to the eventual winner, Boombastic by Shaggy.
3. Sizzla – Da Real Thing (2002)
Though he already had hit albums like the aformentioned Praise Ye Jah, Sizzla Kalonji never truly broke out as an international mainstream star until his 2002 album, Da Real Thing came out, which produced the mother-loving anthem, Thank You Mama, Just One of Those Days, Solid As a Rock and a bevy of others.
He put himself out there as Reggae’s next big star, but his star apparently did not shine enough to earn a look from the Grammy selection committee the following year, whenLee ‘Scratch’ Perry took home the honor. A surprising omission to say the least.
2. Buju Banton – Til Shiloh (1995)
How Buju Banton’s greatest album to date did not earn a Grammy nomination is, in my opinion, one of the greatest travesties in Reggae music.
This undoubted classic featured worldwide hits such as Untold Stories, Not an Easy Road, Wanna Be Loved, Murderer andChampion. Though he would later score five more nominations, including winning the 2011 Best Reggae Album honor for Rasta Got Soul, Til Shiloh without question should have been nominated and would have made contention for the 1996 Reggae Grammy a lot more interesting.
1. Shaggy – Hot Shot (2000)
As eye-popping as Buju’s omission was, however, there was no greater shock than when one of Jamaican music’s best-selling albums of all-time was snubbed for the 2001 Reggae Grammy.
Shaggy’s Hot Shot not only produced international hits like Angel (w/ Rayvon) andIt Wasn’t Me (w/ Rik Rok), the album was certified diamond in the U.S., with close to 10 million records sold there and over 20 million worldwide.
Despite the fact It Wasn’t Me was nominated for the Best Pop Collaboration w/ Vocal, what seemed like a shoe-in for a nomination and a possible victory in 2001 (Beenie Man’s Art and Life won that year) for Hot Shot was snubbed by the academy. It remains a mystery how one of Jamaican music’s best commercial successes – topping the Billboard 200 chart and U.K. Albums Chart – never received the call up it deserved for music’s greatest prize.