Supercat, Saw, Sizzla and ‘Di Stinga’ highlight intriguing STING 30

by Jodee Brown

After a night filled with clashes, eye-raising moments and the return of a legend, STING 2013the 30th anniversary of the ‘Greatest Dancehall show on Earth’ on Dec. 26 certainly entertained and provoked thoughts throughout, leaving music lovers with lots of talking points to dissect for a long time coming.

The show, organized by Supreme Promotions and Downsound Records was, in this writer’s opinion, the most intriguing one since 2008 when the rivalry between Vybz Kartel and Mavado came to a head. Highlights were prevalent and lowlights were evident; here’s a look at some of those performances and moments in this STING 30 review.

Early Segments

Early Segments

Early Segments: STING, perhaps given the amount of entertainers on the bill, started shortly after 8 a.m. Amongst the emerging artists that performed within the first two hours of STING were Kalado and Toronto based deejay Touchless, who gave short, yet effective sets, going into songs like You Make Me Feel and Summer Body respectively. However, it was fast-rising Reggae sensation, Jah Bouks that was a hit with the smaller crowd inside the Portmore-based Jamworld, performing his big hit, Angola as well as newer material such as Going Home. His performance savvy, seen at a slew of show this year, makes him a must-watch act in 2014 and beyond.

Reggae shines on stage (Romain’s last STING?)

Reggae shines on stage (Romain’s last STING?)

Reggae shines on stage (Romain’s last STING?) File photo

Though STING draws a hardcore Dancehall following, pure Reggae acts always find strong favor with the crowd, and this year was no exception. As per usual, Etana andI-Wayne drew some of the best responses from the typically judgmental audience, with the former bringing out Alborosie for a strong rendition of their collaborative hit,Blessings while the latter connected with his female following with, Girl I Love You.

While the likes of Nature and Iba Mahr also presented high energy sets, the stand out performance came from one Romain Virgo, who repeatedly hinted that this year might be the last year he performs at the show. It was a surprising admission from the 23-year-old phenom, who went into hits such as Who Feels It Knows It, Rain Is Falling, Mi Prefer Wait and Serious Times while decked out in all-white. Whatever the reasoning was behind those utterances is unknown, but after giving one of the best sets throughout the night, no one will be hoping he actually lives up to his proclamation.

Wyclef props and 2 Chainz flops

Wyclef props and 2 Chainz flops

STING 30 went out of its element by inviting international artists to the show to provide a different flavor to its fans. Unlike the more mixed crowd for Reggae Sumfest, however, it was always going to take a lot more effort to appease this crowd and in the case of 2 Chainz, he learned that the hard way.

The American rap star’s set started off on the wrong foot with technical issues dominating the first five minutes. Once his mic was finally fixed, his set just failed to get off the ground. In a performance littered with unapologetic cursing, he did songs like Birthday Suit, No Lie and others to an unmoved, silent crowd who did not seem to know exactly how to react. No matter how much he tried to warm up to them, it just was not connecting; frankly looking like a mismatch between artist and fan base. He incessantly complained about his stage time late in his performance, but perhaps this flop of a set should have ended sooner given the circumstances.

On the other hand, Wyclef Jean went over with the Portmore-based crowd by doing something that will always get you in their good graces, shouting out incarcerated Dancehall superstar and Portmore native, Vybz Kartel. After renditions of classics such as Gone Till November and911, as well as a smattering of poetry, Wyclef went into the crowd before unleashing a pair of Kartel hits for the crowd to savor. Also shouting out Buju Banton and convicted drug baron,Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke during his set, Wyclef endeared himself to the crowd the best way he could, by indulging in the culture.

Supercat still has the ‘Iron Claw’

Supercat still has the ‘Iron Claw’

Supercat still has the ‘Iron Claw’

Now at age 50 and 11 years removed from his last performance in Jamaica, the return of the ‘Don Dada,’ Supercat to the STING stage was filled with as much mystery as there was anticipation, considering how scarce he has been on the music stage in recent years.

However, the legendary Dancehall/Reggae star showed why he is still one of the most feared and respected performers in the game, recovering from a somewhat slow opening to launch into full gear with hits like Si Boops Deh, Unda Pressure and Dolly My Baby.

The crowd loved it and there was a flow to his set, the longest of the night. Supercat also showcased some new material, including talking about his ‘doggie leg,’ but his mere presence in a white suit, sporting a beard and curls was a pleasure to witness. Hopefully, there will be more sightings of this Jamaican music great in the years to come.

Lady Saw trounces Macka Diamond in clash

Lady Saw trounces Macka Diamond in clash

Lady Saw trounces Macka Diamond in clash urbanislandz.com

Truth be told, to call this highly anticipated showdown between the ‘Queen of Dancehall’ Lady Saw and Macka Diamonda clash may be overstating it a bit. This was more of a shouting match than anything else; providing more moments of entertainment than quality lyrical content.

Saw was in no joking mood throughout the night, giving a X-rated performance that kept eyes fixated throughout, particularly during her performance of Heels On, when she called out model, Tyson Beckford and simulated a sexual position on stage while singing. Following her standout performance, she called out Macka to the stageMacka, donning all-black and face paint, did a clash-friendly rendition of her hit, Dye Dye before all hell broke loose. The two nearly butted heads before Lady Saw went out in full attack mode, alleging several sexual relationships Macka had in the music business before letting her lyrics do the talking.

Though said lyrics were not up to the standard we’re usually accustomed to from the legendary deejay, she was never pushed to go into second gear with a seemingly intimidated Macka pushed to the brink of admitting defeat near the end, saying ‘Mi will die trying.’ That line alone proved how one-way this ‘clash’ was. Saw was ruthless as she saw her prey and wouldn’t let up once she had it in her clutches, making Macka ‘die die’ lyrically as she unleashed her vocal bullets.

D’Angel gets raunchy during clash with Ninja Man

D’Angel gets raunchy during clash with Ninja Man

D’Angel gets raunchy during clash with Ninja Manyardhype.com/kingstonstyle.com

Ninja Man has faced his share of tough opponents in the clash arena – Supercat, Mad Cobra, Merciless and Kiprich – but this year’s clash rival was relatively new in that area of music. After winning a celebrity clash against Ishawna in November,D’Angel decided to respond to a lyric the ‘Don Gorgon’ sang about her during his set. She used her retort to address a fresh controversy about a picture exposing her privates that circulated on the internet shortly before Christmas. Not only did she use it as material in her answer to Ninja Man, she even ‘skinned out,’ in front of the audience while wearing a short blouse, adding a raunchiness to her set that she is not typically known for. She was unafraid of the repercussions and certainly prompted bulged eyes to be made throughout this short-lived clash.

Performance of the night – Sizzla

Performance of the night – Sizzla

Performance of the night – Sizzlayardhype.com

Otherwise, Aidonia and Beenie Man were relatively solid throughout their sets, Tommy Lee seemed reflective as he talked about his car accident and expressed his desire for a United States visa during his performance and Mavado put to rest any recent speculation about his relationship with mentor, Bounty Killer by shouting him out during his performance – a combination of old school gangsta hits mixed with a few newer songs.

But the single best performance of the night had to be Sizzla Kalonji, who was in a militant mood, performing classics like Thank You Mama, Trod Mount Zion, Be Strong and many more. Often free styling and even throwing a couple of barbs in the direction of STING’s lead promoter, Isaiah LaingSizzla made several points addressing homosexuality, Africa and many more topics to overwhelming approval from the crowd. He did not miss a beat, and should be given serious consideration to close the show in the near future.

Ryno beats Kiprich in title clash

Ryno beats Kiprich in title clash

Ryno beats Kiprich in title clash

After disposing of General B, Mercilessand even the clash king himself, Ninja Man, Kiprich was hoping for some competition for the clash title and a US$30,000 on the line to close the show. On stage stepped a surprise opponent in Black Ryno, who at the same show last year was pushed off stage by Popcaan during a heated exchange between ex Portmore Empireteammates.

Donning a very unusual costume, Kiprich looked to have underrated Ryno’s ability from the jump, but was quickly put in line by ‘Ryno Di Stinger’ with a quick, devastating flurry of lyrics which included mostly freestyles. After ‘Kippo’ made a reference to last year’s incident involving Ryno, however, the Facebook singer did not garner many likes as the clash went on as impatient, bipartisan crowd booed him as they rooted for their hometown artist. This was a unanimous decision in the end, leaving Kiprich with too much to overcome and Black Ryno with US$30,000 more in his pocket. Hopefully, this will be the start of a renaissance in the career of an artist still looking for his first big hit since severing ties with Vybz Kartel.

Wyclef reportedly set for STING appearance

Wyclef Jean is reportedly the newest addition to this year's STING lineup.

Wyclef Jean is reportedly the newest addition to this year’s STING lineup

by Jodee Brown Organizers for the 30th edition of the popular STING concert series have now added Grammy-winning singer and producer, Wyclef Jean to the lineup, according to reports Wednesday. The Haitian-American musician, most renowned for his run with Lauryn Hill and Pras as part of The Fugees,was confirmed as a part of this year’s show, called Bring the Sting. The artist joins 2 Chainz as the show’s headline overseas acts for the show, while STING alsomarks the return of Dancehall legend, Supercat to the Jamaican scene for the first time since 2001. Wyclef is quite familiar with the Jamaican music makeup, having done a collaboration, while with The Fugees, alongside Bounty Killer for their song, Hip Hopera in the late 90s. He also has collaborated with Mavado on multiple occasions, including their hit, Holding On and, more recently, joining forces with the ‘Gully Gad; and Cris Cab for the single, Rihanna’s Gun. STING 30 is also expected to feature a number of top Dancehall and Reggae acts, including the aforementioned Mavado, Beenie Man, Lady Saw, Romain Virgo, Kiprich, Jah Bouks, Ninja Man and several more. The show will be broadcast live on pay-per-view and streamed live on the internet. It is scheduled to take place Dec. 26 at Jamworld in Portmore, St. Catherine.

10 hit Reggae albums that deserved Grammy nominations

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)

Honorable Mention: Reggae Music Again (2012)

Honorable Mention: Reggae Music Again (2012)File photo

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)

10. Etana – Better Tomorrow (2013)

10. Etana – Better Tomorrow (2013) File photo

Regarding this year’s award selections, there was not much of an issue from my perspective regarding the nominees, which also included Beres HammondZiggy 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 QueenBeautiful 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)

9. Romain Virgo - The System (2012)

9. Romain Virgo – The System (2012)vpreggae.com

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 LoveI 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)

8. Sizzla - Praise Ye Jah (1997)

8. Sizzla – Praise Ye Jah (1997)reggaeville.com

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)

7. Beres Hammond - Moment in Time (2008)

7. Beres Hammond – Moment in Time (2008)amazon.com

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 GoodbyeI 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)

6. Diana King - Tougher Than Love (1995)

6. Diana King – Tougher Than Love (1995)7Digital.com

In the mid-90s, Diana King was one of the hottest properties in Jamaican music, particularly for her hit single, Shy Guywhich 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)

5. Bounty Killer - My Xperience (1996)

5. Bounty Killer – My Xperience (1996)amazon.com

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)

4. Luciano - Where There Is Life (1995)

4. Luciano – Where There Is Life (1995)last.fm

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)

3. Sizzla - Da Real Thing (2002)

3. Sizzla – Da Real Thing (2002)reggaeville.com

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)

2. Buju Banton - Til Shiloh (1995)

2. Buju Banton – Til Shiloh (1995)File photo

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)

1. Shaggy - Hot Shot (2000)

1. Shaggy – Hot Shot (2000)File photo

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.

Jah Cure, I-Wayne added to Reggae Sumfest lineup

Jah Cure (left) and I-Wayne (right) are the latest stars to be added to this year's Reggae Sumfest lineup.

Jah Cure (left) and I-Wayne (right) are the latest stars to be added to this year’s Reggae Sumfest lineup.

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Internationally-acclaimed Reggae artists, Jah Cure and I-Wayne have become the latest additions to this year’s Reggae Sumfest bill, according to reports Thursday.

Jah Cure will be the closing act on International Night 1 on July 26 as he will perform in front of his hometown crowd at theCatherine Hall Entertainment Complex in Montego Bay. The singer, known for recent hits like That Girl, World Cry and Strongerwill share the stage that night alongside Reggae legends, Beres Hammond, Barrington Levy and Tarrus Riley, along with universally renowned rap sensation, Flo Rida.

Meanwhile, I-Wayne will perform a day earlier during Dancehall Night alongside Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Lady Saw, RDX, Spiceand I-Octane, amongst others. I-Wayne is riding high from his own share of recent hits, particularly Girl I Love You.

Deemed the largest concert in Jamaica, the 21st edition of Reggae Sumfest will take place from July 21-27, kicking off with theAquasol Beach Party and ending withInternational Night 2, which features Grammy-winning R&B singer, Miguel, Damian Marley, Chronixx and Romain Virgo, amongst others.

Romain Virgo facing heat over ‘Scary Movie’ video

Romain Virgo's single, 'Scary Movie,' produced by JA Productions on the Afterlife Riddim has sparked conversation in recent weeks for its thought-provoking messages.

Romain Virgo’s single, ‘Scary Movie,’ produced by JA Productions on the Afterlife Riddim has sparked conversation in recent weeks for its thought-provoking messages.

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Acclaimed Reggae star, Romain Virgo is facing his share of scrutiny after recently releasing the official video for his effort, Scary Movie earlier this month.

The video, directed by Jamaican makeup artist, Krystle Karee Brown features many dark, somewhat monstrous imagery reminiscent of the late, great Michael Jackson’s classic, Thriller. Though it has received largely positive feedback, Virgo has taken heat for the Scary Movie visuals, with fans describing it as demonic and disturbing.

Virgo himself does not see what the fuss is all about, telling the Jamaica STAR that many observers are missing the point of this video.

“The video is all about the two undeniable forces we face in life, which are good and evil,”he said. “It nuh make sense we live in denial that only good exists. We have to show the bad and keep reminding the world that good will always overcome evil. For those who complain about the images, they have misunderstood the words of the song and the message of the video.”

Meanwhile, the singer also called on his fellow artists to ensure they do not put out misleading images to the public.

“Coming from a Christian home and growing with certain values, what I am seeing in today’s society, it seems as if we are lost and I have to stand up for what I know is right and be true to myself,” he said. “We have a responsibility as artistes to be mindful of the material we put out, because the children are the first to sing along, so what does that tell you?”

Throughout the last year, popular deejay, Tommy Lee Sparta has faced widespread criticism for his ‘goth-like’ brand of Dancehall, using demonic references and images in his music. He was famously called out by Dancehall legend, Bounty Killer for using such content, leading to a short feud between the two artists.

Virgo’s manager, Shane Brown says a follow-up to the Scary Movie video will be unveiled in the next two week; insisting this will further explain its concept.

“If one took the time out to watch the (Scary Movie) video in its entirety, the message would not have passed them,” he told the STAR. The message will be even more clear with the release of Virgo’s new video Jah Over All Things, which is a continuation of this video.”

Romain Virgo is also promoting his new single, Why Should I Worry on Penthouse Records’Street of Gold rhythm and will perform at this year’s edition of Reggae Sumfest, set to take place from July 21-27 in Montego Bay.

The official video for Romain Virgo's 'Scary Movie' has received strong criticism from music lovers in recent days. Check it out here.