Zumjay makes triumphant return to dancehall scene with performance in New York

by Jodee Brown

After several years away from the mainstream music scene due to the fulfilling of military duties in the United States, dancehall artist Zumjay has returned to the spotlight, performing his first live show in several years at Club Ciboney in Poughkeepsie, New York.

The show entitled Jealous Ova, which took place last Saturday also featured emerging dancehall sensation, Dexta Daps and production heavyweights, Daseca, who backed Zumjay on the turn tables. The deejay, who burst onto the scene in the early 2000s, went back in time for a packed house at the club as he delved into hits such as Zumjay News and Shake It as well as Rise It Up and emotionally-charged performance of the uplifting single, Live On, which the crowd sang along to.

During the performance, Zumjay talked some about his experience in the United States Army Reserve, whom he joined in 2009 as an alternative to provide for his family while studying for a video technology degree at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He mentioned his tour of duty while in the Reserves in the Middle East, where he told the audience, “Never give up on your dreams no matter how hard life may seem,” before performing his song, In God We Trust.

The show was hailed as a success on social media and by the entertainer himself.

Zumjay reportedly has more performances lined up for the remainder of 2015, including one alongside Bling Dawg this November.

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Buju Banton files for new trial in drug case

Buju Banton's new legal team has filed for a new trial as they seek an early release for the Grammy-winning musician. He remains slated for a February 2019 release.

Buju Banton’s new legal team has filed for a new trial as they seek an early release for the Grammy-winning musician. He remains slated for a February 2019 release.

by Jodee Brown

Jamaican Reggae megastar, Buju Banton has formally filed for a new trial as he continues his relentless fight for freedom from his drug conviction.

According to reports Wednesday, the musician’s legal team filed a 55-page document arguing for a retrial in a U.S. Court of Appeal (11th Circuit Court of Appeal) on Feb. 4. Buju is being represented by a new legal team: Jack Cushman, Max Stern and Charles Ogletree, the latter a HarvardUniversity law professor who once represented hip-hop legend, Tupac Shakur and taught American president,Barack Obama and the First Lady,Michelle Obama.

This is Buju’s third legal team since his February 2011 conviction on drug charges. He was previously represented by David Oscar Markus and Chokwe Lumumba, the latter pulling out after being elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi last summer.

Buju Banton was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June 2011 on three drug charges in relation to a December 2009 arrest at a warehouse following a U.S. Drug Enforcement sting operation, in which it was alleged he tried to buy cocaine from an undercover officer.

A gun-related charge originally slapped on him following the arrest was dropped last June after being previously reinstated following a failed appeal.

A juror in his 2011 trial, Terri Wright was found guilty of misconduct for allegedly researching facts on his case during the proceedings. However, authorities later decidednot to file contempt charges against her.

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.

Tessanne Chin features twice more on Billboard Hot 100

Tessanne Chin is seeing double on the Billboard Hot 100, earning two spots in the chart thanks to her stunning run on the NBC talent show

Tessanne Chin is seeing double on the Billboard Hot 100, earning two spots in the chart thanks to her stunning run on the NBC talent show

by Jodee Brown

The Voice: Season Five winner, Tessanne Chin has once again earned recognition from music’s most established chart as Billboard magazine now features two more songs from the Jamaican sensation, according to reports Friday.

After peaking on the Billboard Top 100 chart at 64 with her rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water during The Voice semifinal, Chin has outdone herself once again by placing at number 51 for a similarly masterful performance of Whitney Houston’s classic, I Have Nothing in the final.

Additionally, her performance of Let It Be with coach,Adam Levine has entered the chart at number 76. Both songs are also featured on Billboard’s Heatseekerschart, with I Have Nothing topping the chart while Let It Be is seventh.

Meanwhile, Chin’s new single, Tumbling Down, written by One Republic’s Ryan Tedder could enter theBillboard charts as early as next week, according to reports. The song has been heavily promoted and was performed during her media blitz in the United States following her victory on The Voice, including on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Live with Kelly and Michael and Access Hollywood Live.

Her new album is expected to be in stores early next year.

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.

Magnum Kings and Queens back for seventh season, now holding auditions

The Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall has returned for its seventh season, bringing its usual hardcore vibe and energy to Jamaican television.

by Jodee Brown

The popular talent show is currently holding auditions, taking place in five locations across the length and breadth of Jamaica. Deejays and singjays who are trying to establish themselves in Dancehall and Reggae are encouraged to come out to the various auditions and impress resident judges: Cordel ‘Skatta’ BurrellProfessor Nuts and Miss Kitty.

The Magnum team passed through the western town of Savannah-La-Mar last Saturday for the first stop this season. Here are the remaining stops on the audition tour.

2nd Stop: Ocho Rios

Magnum Kings and Queens then heads to Ocho Rios onSaturday November 23 at Island Village.

3rd Stop: May Pen

Following Ocho Rios, Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall will head to May Pen on Saturday November 30 for its third audition at Tolans Total Gas Station.

4th Stop: Portmore

The second to last audition for this the 7th season of Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall will be onSunday December 8 at Portmore Town Centre. Over the last six seasons of the competition Portmore has shown big support for the competition.

Final Stop: Kingston

The fifth and final audition for Season 7 will be held onSunday December 15 in Kingston at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre.

All auditions begin at 9 a.m. sharp and end at 3 p.m Participants who are unsuccessful at one location will have a chance to try again at any other location. This year, all auditions are open to spectators who want to get a sneak peek at the talent.

At the end of the five auditions, the judges will then deliberate and select the best 28 contestants (14 Princes and 14 Princesses) to perform at the live shows. The full list of finalists will be announced on two live shows to be aired on TVJ starting Saturday January 11, 2014.

Magnum Kings and Queens: Season 7 will see the return of Yanique Barrett as host for the third straight season as well as a new host, Dayne ‘Chike’ Morrison for its D’Endz backstage segment.