Once despised and ridiculed by the American music industry, dancehall is beginning to take its rightful place as one of the premier genres in black urban music today. The rambunctious child of Jamaica, and older sister of hip-hop music, has always had a strong following in the Caribbean, Africa, Japan, Europe and parts of South America. Still, its influence has never been as strongly felt in the United States as it currently is today.
Back in the early-to-mid ’90s, any dancehall junkie who criss-crossed the radio dial in search of the latest tunes from Shabba, Super Cat or Ninja Man on a major FM station had to wait until Saturday night when DJ Red Alert manned the ones and twos on 98.7 KISS. If that didn’t quell their addiction they could catch Bobby Konders and Jabba who dished the goods, as they still do, every Sunday evening over at HOT 97 FM. These days however, artists like Elephant Man, Sean Paul and Lady Saw can be heard on major urban networks while you’re having your lunch break on Tuesday, or just waking up from that nasty hangover on a Sunday afternoon
In those days Ewert Beckford, better known as sweet daddy U-Roy, rocked parties from parish-to-parish with King Tubby’s sound system. As word of the Jones Town native’s rhyme skills spread throughout the land, he and John Holt combined to “Wake the Town” with hits like “Wear You to the Ball.” This festive atmosphere gave rise to the world famous Stone Love International sound system in 1972. The 32-year-old sound system helped birth the careers of some of dancehall’s most celebrated artists, including Tiger, Buju Banton, and the Fire Man himself, Capleton. While King Addies, Body Guard, Metro Media, and Jam Roc later carried the torch of dancehall here in New York City, Stone Love was the first sound system to establish itself as a viable corporate entity.