Reggae music is known for its mellow vibe and lyrics that are typically spiritually conscious, peace preaching and rooted in love. It’s hard to imagine that such a genre inspired a raucous sound as dancehall.
Dancehall seems more like the unruly problem child when compared to its more conservative mother sound but the genre is as much a part of Jamaican culture as reggae. Dancehall now dominates the local music scene in Jamaica and has already experienced mainstream success internationally through the likes of Chaka Demus and Pliers, Shabba Ranks, Patra and Mavado.
VP Records, which started in Jamaica before moving to New York where it is now based, has no doubt been an influential force on the reggae music scene and in urban music on a whole. The independent record label now sits at the helm of reggae/dancehall production and their latest release, Ragga Ragga Ragga, is the au courant holy grail of dancehall culture.
Ragga surfaced with the introduction of digital production mechanisms to the Jamaican music scene, specifically dancehall music. While most dancehall songs today feature some electronic enhancements ragga distinguishes itself in that its sound is mostly (if not completely) synthesized.
Ragga Ragga Ragga is not meant to woo an international audience, instead the album is an offering to die-hard dancehall fans who love and/or live the colourful dancehall culture. Used to be that these enthusiasts were concentrated in Jamaica but dancehall, like reggae, has grown to influence cultures worldwide.
The compilation album starts off with the unexpectedly symphonic “On and On” by Don Husky which abruptly shifts into a more ragged sound reminiscent of the British jungle scene.
Ragga, ragga jungle and ragga hip-hop are all nuances of the same sound that VP highlights on the album.
“1, 2, 3” and “Things Mi Love” by Alkaline and “Crazy Sex” by Busy Signal highlights a more hip-hop oriented sound which speaks to the synergism that exists between the two urban genres (dancehall and hip-hop).
Christopher Martin’s “Secret Love (Creep)” carries a distinct reggae groove and features some of the more tamed lyrics on the album.
Hyper-violent and sexually charged lyrics are noted characteristics of dancehall music. Ragga Ragga Ragga evades the violence but is unapologetically bawdy. Its small cast of musicians includes some of dancehall’s raunchier acts like Spice, Vybz Kartel and Alkaline who are highlighted in their element here delivering hard-core adult content.
No, it’s definitely not a family album but Ragga Ragga Ragga highlights some of the very best that dancehall has to offer. Gyptian, Busy Signal, I-Octane and Aidonia are just a few of the powerhouse talents that Ragga Ragga Ragga serves up alongside fresh acts like Radijah.
Overall the album is a tribute to dancehall music in its most natural state with a digital edge.