Contrary to what the latest local streaming charts in Jamaica reflect, the popular narrative in closed circles and public forums from music insiders, music curators and music consumers suggest that the direction that Dancehall is moving towards is one that is misguided and ill-fated.Though the local streaming charts boast millions of streams for an array of Dancehall artists in each week, whether they materialize from Youtube, Spotify, Itunes or other platforms, the hard truth is that not many of these songs transition successfully into the mainstream markets.
In an interview with Dancehall producer Sheldon “Killaimij” Thaxter of Killaimij Records, he outlined to Fox Interviewer the ingredients he believes most modern Dancehall songs are missing, ultimately condemning the productions to premature exposure and limited success in the music industry. In accordance with Killaimij, he strongly believes that the dancehall music of today is lacking production quality. “Back in the day, there used to be several songs that crossed over internationally in any given year. Now, it’s a miracle if you see more than two in a three-year span. There is a lot of music being produced, but not a lot of quality music being produced. Less time is spent on composing these songs and recording them to ensure the quality is optimal. We need to go back to the drawing board and reflect on how these songs are being structured, recorded, engineered and produced,” Killaimij said.
It’s fair to say that the musical landscape in dancehall and reggae music has changed dramatically during the last decade and a half. Gone are the eras of gatekeepers and music overseers who would hand-pick a selection of songs that they felt made the cut for exposure on any given day. These gatekeepers were manifested through radio disk jockeys, television personnel, music promoters, and event selectors. In order for a song to even reach the ears of the public back in the day, it had to pass the approval of a privileged selection of people who had the power to declare which artist would make it or which song would ever see the light of day. Now fast forward to 2022; all an aspiring artist has to do is to be witty, intelligent and talented enough to draft a song that captures the attention of an audience. An artist in this age is his or her own gatekeeper, possessing the ability to share their art to the world at the touch of their fingertips, through Youtube, Facebook, Spotify, Tik Tok and other platforms. The theme for these technological advances is the pursuit of going viral. The idea is that once you can create content that can grab the attention of the onlookers for a moment, you have a chance to make it.
Some may argue that the changes that have been made have been revolutionary. Some may also argue that the changes have empowered many and opened doors for many who would not have found it possible before. While this may be a fact, both outcomes on each side of the musical revolution spectrum can remain true. While the opportunities for artists, producers, content creators and all who stand to benefit from the music increase exponentially, the absence of gatekeepers means that there is a lack of quality controllers, hence a lack of quality.
According to Killaimij, modern artists and producers should lean on the craftsmanship and experience of the legends of reggae and dancehall who have done the hard miles for this musical generation.”When it comes to the quality of music, we should study the past if we want to improve our future. We should look no further than Bounty, Sean Paul, Beanie Man, Sizzla, Shaggy, and the Baby Cham of this world. We need to study them. Study how they structured their music, study the patterns and styles they used, study their musical discipline, study their performance styles and strategies, and study how they managed their careers. We need to set quality standards for ourselves by following the standards of our past greats. That’s the formula”, Killaimij told Fox Interviewer.