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Dancehall Appropriation?

Dancehall, reggae, reggaeton, or Caribbean music are musical styles created by the descendants of African slaves. Reggae/Dancehall is where Hip Hop got its roots combining key elements of dee-jaying and emceeing to spark the beginning of a new genre of music and a new subculture for African-American, Caribbean-American, and Hispanic-American youth in this country. Reggae was not always welcomed in Hip Hop as many African-Americans and Caribbean-Americans segregated themselves despite the commonalities in their heritage. Even though it was Kool DJ Herc who brought the Jamaican party scene to New York there was still a strong disconnect between the Black “Americans” and the Black “immigrants”. It wasn’t until Heavy D and Pete Rock came on the scene and blended the two genres perfectly that people became accepting of reggae. Before then no dee jay even dared to play any reggae at a Hip Hop party and vice versa.

Reggae and dancehall are now relegated to whoever the most popular artist is at the time which means we could be hearing Adele speaking Patois real soon. There’s nothing wrong with giving credit or paying homage to dancehall or those that originated the musical style. However, to jack someone’s style or to collaborate with them and then remove their contributions to the song just to put it out without the plug is either bad business or cultural appropriation. White people aren’t the only ones who can misappropriate culture. We have prejudices just like the next person (note: prejudice is different from racist, look it up). Whether an artist decides to take a lump sum rather than given credit for their contributions is up to them but I liken that to Black business owners who build something from the ground up just to sell it later on to a major company resulting in a reduced level of integrity, a watered down product, and increased commercialism.

Not all appropriation is overt like the Kardashians. As Hip Hop progressed Reggae and dancehall became more and more popular. Introducing us to dancehall legends such as; Capleton, Buju Banton, Sean Paul, and Beenie Man. Patra, Elephant Man, and others were able to see success in the twenty first century due to the levels of success of those before them had established. As the radio became a never-ending monopoly game you have slowly seen the removal of reggae and dancehall from the airwaves. Now the only people who have had “Reggae” or “dancehall” hit in the U.S. recently are Rihanna, Justin Beiber, and Drake. Now, I’m no rocket scientist but Rihanna is the only insanely popular Caribbean American artist right now. There was a time where you could count on a smash hit from Sean Paul every six to 12 months! Granted a single could last that long or longer if was a smash and Sean Paul had nothing but hits from Hot Gal Today to Gimmie da Light. Dancehall was moving units!!! These days you aren’t allowed to make dancehall music unless you are already moving units.


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