A look at the best dancehall songs in 2021, so far.
From Yaksta’s “acres over Mark X” to Skillibeng’s “Di plane just crash wid e coke,” it’s safe to say that Jamaica’s musical engine has been pumping out the hits since the start of the new year. The industry giants such as Vybz Kartel continue to provide quality in quantity. However, not on the level that he did in 2020 when he had the airwaves buzzing with tracks from his album, To Tanesha. Nonetheless, 2021 promises to be a very musical year, with numerous entertainers either queuing to release an album, a mixtape, or an EP. Vershon dropped his 6-track EP title Only One a few days ago, while Sean Paul released his feature-laden project Live N Livin, which is one of two albums the superstar will be providing to his fans this year. The wealth of music brewing over the past three months has made us feel super privileged to be able to compile a list of the hottest dancehall/reggae singles we have received so far.
To select the songs for this list, we look at the numbers across DSPs and real world impact to see which singles are playing in dancehall sessions, parties, clubs, and on radio stations locally and overseas. The list also comprised of only songs that are released in 2021, so yes there are music from last year still in heavy rotation now, but so are music from three decades ago.
So which dancehall songs are the top tracks so far this year?
Chronixx – “Safe N Sound”
Ironically, no form of oppression was safe and sound after Chronixx dropped his latest nearly a week ago. The visuals portray a warzone-like atmosphere where smoked skulls and travesty indicate the order of the day. The lyrical stepper acts as the lone vigilante in the warzone, using his words, sounds, and power to hit back at the government, among other controlling subsets. How ironic that just a few months ago, Prime Minister Andrew Holness hailed Chronixx’s catalog as the face of what Jamaica’s music should look like, based on his profanity-less lyrics. Chronixx recently offered a surprise when he chanted a classic Jamaican expletive over the odd but infectious dancehall beat. The “Behind Curtains” singer has been delivering his vocals over beats of this nature for the past couple of years, with many of these cuts reportedly making it to his upcoming album. Excitement galore if you ask us!
Alkaline “Top Prize”
Whether you love him or hate him, it’s pretty hard to deny the fact that Alkaline is one of the world’s hottest entertainers with a Jamaican passport. While fans are still trying to figure out just how the entertainer got his name, they now have other questions, such as when will his new album be hitting shelves. The deejay announced both the release of what will be his sophomore album and its lead single back in February. The lanky figure who is known for flashing his bright smile on national television while participating in Jamaica’s Junior Schools Challenge Quiz has come of age and is promising fans a more mature dose of Alkaline on the new project. The title track was everything his Vendetta fans needed to quench their overactive musical appetite while getting their daily dose of motivation. The smooth cut is best listened to while wiping that mist from your bathroom mirror while getting ready to tackle the day ahead.
Popcaan – “Win”
Basketball is one of the most demanding sporting disciplines in the world, period. While the United States is seen as the Mecca when it comes to hooping, other countries also boast a pretty solid basketball program. Jamaica is slowly upping its ranks as far as b-ball is concerned, and with the help of the Unruly Boss, Popcaan, at least one fictitious team was balling after coming out victors against a Neville Bell coached offensive. The music video shines some light on basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who perished in a helicopter crash last year. Whether purposely or coincidentally, Popcaan dropped the visuals only a few days after the 1 year anniversary of the sportsman’s death. Popcaan’s most comfortable spots are his kitchen, the river, on stage, and next to his mom Miss Rhona. However, in the most ironic of fashions, he seemed pretty comfortable on the sidelines of the court in “Win.”
Popcaan – “Relevant”
Popcaan picks up a double on our list when he teamed up with Droptop Records and kicked started the year with the soulful and inspirational ballad, which is still very much ‘relevant’ three(3) months down the road. The power of the track is compacted in simple but powerful lines which aim to stimulate even the youngest listener.
“Ghetto yutes go fi di goal, wi been ah win (Mhmm)
Failure nuh inna?my?ting,?no (Weh! Weh!?Ting, no)
If yuh?live inna board house, yuh still ah queen
Yuh still ah king (Yeah)
Failure nuh inna my ting, no”
Is failure a part of your daily mantra? We hope not. As for Popcaan, his positive winning streak continues.
Beenie Man Feat. Popcaan, Dre Island – “Fun In The Sun”
Fact check/History lesson: 2006 was the year we lost loved ‘Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin to a stingray. It was also during this year that 12 miners died during the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia. It was also the year when Google acquired YouTube for US$1.65 billion. Who could forget the Whale who decided to venture into the River Thames? As for music, 2006 saw Daniel Porter ruling Billboard Hot 100 with “Bad Day,” and Sean Paul coming in just behind him with “Temperature.” Another Jamaican who had the place in a frenzy in 2006 was Beenie Man when he released two albums, Concept of Life and Undisputed. The latter was Beenie’s last album in almost 20 years. The dancehall artiste should definitely have the word legendary etched somewhere on his body for his ability to stay relevant all these years without a body of work.
Beenie Man and his one-time enemy Bounty Killer revived beliefs in good entertainment last year when they performed side by side on Verzuz. The two men did the next best thing shortly after they announced they would be releasing albums. After much delay, it seems 2021 is the year fans will be getting both projects. The Zagga Zow pioneer recently had some ‘Fun In The Sun” as he and co-writers and performers Dre Island and Popcaan sent their prayers up to the lord from the grounds of Hope Garden. The song has a special place in the heart of Beenie Man, who expressed that he wrote the song while sitting by the grave of his mom, who passed away in 2020.
“That’s why we must, yeah, yeah
We must live as one (yeah)
Divided we fall
Together we’re strong.”
Masicka, Tarrus Riley, Dunw3ll – “CORNER”
From one triple threat to another! Genasyde, Singy Singy, and Dunw3ll find friendship around the “Corner.” The Masicka, Tarrus Riley, and Dunw3ll collab provides a wonderful brace to everyone who is facing tough times, a commodity that is seemingly in never-ending surplus these days. From Covid-19 to exorbitant food prices and a crime monster that is on the loose, everyone needs a bit of positivity in their corner of the ring. Crank up the music, lace up your boxing gloves and let’s get ready to rumble.
TeeJay, Tommy Lee Sparta – “Power Struggle”
Known for its white sandy beaches, resorts, and once active nightlife, Montego Bay is a haven for many of Jamaica’s visitors. In recent years, the parish of St. James has proved that its musical talents are not only reserved for the walls of fancy resorts. The likes of Teejay, Tommy Lee Sparta, Rygin King, Squash, Daddy1, and a host of other newcomers have kicked the notion that good musical vibrations are only felt in the East of the island.
The Damage Musiq-produced song “Power Struggle” is just one such example of this. The track saw Teejay and Tommy Lee Sparta team up for the first time, causing quite a rumble in the dancehall jungle and since its release in January, bringing over 3,000,000 Youtube views. Free Tommy Lee Sparta is the general chant from adoring fans below the Youtube upload. Lee remains in lockup following an incident in which he was held with an illegal firearm during a police operation during the latter part of last year. “Power Struggle” captures the pain the deejay has faced at the hands of law enforcement.
TeeJay, Vybz Kartel – “Pressure”
Vybz Kartel addressed the hardships being faced by the common man in Jamaican approximately five years ago when he released his track “Pressure.” On the new track, also titled “Pressure,” the deejay is still questioning the constant uphill battle being faced by the people of the land. This time around, he brings Teejay, a man with whom he has found amazing musical chemistry, to tag along for a story that is all too real. Poverty, ruthless murders, and the deaths of the innocent are all topics discussed by both Kartel and Teejay. It’s a familiar topic covers by musicians from the genre known for speaking on the struggles and plights of the people.
Yaksta (Bush Lawd) – “Ambition”
Do you remember that bet you made about not being able to find any sound financial advice in today’s music? Think again, as newcomer Yaksta shows just how it’s done. The deejay is quickly emerging as the one to watch for the title of breakout artiste of the year, and his new track “Ambition” seems set to make that a reality. Bush Lawd is asking those questions that many are simply scare to ask, firmly standing on the pyramid of what’s right and not what’s hype.
“Why own a Farrari (Why why)
With no where to park it? (Wooiie)
Why shop at Louise V when there is a Target?
Now me hype and me feisty (Feisty)
True mines me a save it (Save it)
Dem guh fendy fi Trendy (Trend wah?)
Bank account cyah empty (Bruck!)”
The official video that was released nearly a month ago is nearing 1 million views, making it the entertainer’s biggest song to date.
Check it out and let us know if you caught all of the financial gems he offloaded.
Shaneil Muir, Daddy1 – “Toxic”
“Love a nuh something wha we practice but the two a we together too toxic…” Sings Shaneil Muir. The singer had a phenomenon in 2020, picking up speed in the early part of the year through her track “3D,” before finding her monster breakout hit “Yamabella.” Since then, Muir has worked with Vybz Kartel, among others, blessings tracks with her magnificent vocal range, raw power, and female prowess. No wonder she overpowered her dad when he tried to turn her away from her “Custom” singer boyfriend Daddy1. Daddy1 runs his usual game on Muir and his fans with a pretty familiar flow that is worth a minute or two of your attention. Check it out.
Shenseea – “Upset”
Chimney Record’s Style A Style Riddim forms the base for this bit of gold from Shenseea, which arrived weeks after the official release of the “juggling compilation.” As the saying goes, it’s never too late for some good lyrics hitting out at anyone looking to bring across any bad energy. Interestingly, the track was released around the same time that Spice and Shenseea were allegedly contesting the “Queen of Dancehall” status. Shenseea has been making her presence felts on the international circuit for some time now. She seemingly got a boost in ratings earlier this year as she made numerous appearances on the walls of the popular urban blog, The Shade Room. There have been talks of an album arriving sometime soon, fingers and toes crossed that it works out.
Prince Swanny – “Tell Me”
Did someone say Trinibad? If you are still unsure about one of the fastest rising sub-genres of dancehall, stay tuned. One of the frontrunners for the movement, which was born in Jamaica, shipped to Trinidad, and is now being redistributed around the world, is Prince Swanny. The deejay has managed to amass a huge following on social media, including Youtube, where you can find the music video for “Tell Me.” There were no mistakes in the naming of this track as Swanny shares the intimate details of what he loves to do, which include caressing his ladies and his firearms. Slow and steady wins the race for “Tell Me” as Swanny effortlessly flows over the beat.
“Tell mi if they really want it we mek di
Money when we outside we strap up
With di 45 dawg none a dem nuh bad
Like we yeee yeah an every fat p*ssy
Gyal dem waah we dem waah fi sit”
Vybz Kartel, Likkle Addi – “Popular”
The master tactician Vybz Kartel is already planning his exit from music, leaving the business in the hands of his three boys, Likkle Addi, Likkle Vybz, and Aikodon. Both Likkle Addi and Vybz have conducted interviews with Winford Williams, where they spoke of focusing on the business aspect of music and all that it entails. They have no plans to step from outside of the booth, though, and “Popular” by Vybz Kartel featuring Likkle Addi is proof that the youngsters have a lot to offer musically. The official music video is inching closer to the 2 million views mark on Youtube. Many would desire to take away the stalker element expressed in the following line. However, there is a strange feeling that it’s one that actually contributes to the mystique of the track.
“I wanna meet you so much it hurts”
Sean Paul, Intence – “Real Steel”
Dutty Paul and Dutty Yeng have enough steel to frame a skyscraper but rest assured that every inch will be going to the female(s) they both desire. “Real Steel” is possibly one of the “duttiest” tracks fans have heard from Sean Paul in a while. The rudeboy persona is on full display, something the ladies simply cannot resist. Sexual favors are plenty, with both Intence and Paul sharing the same girl. Wild! The song is from Paul’s brand new album Live N’ Living, which is packed with many other collaborations, fulfilling Paul’s mission to spread dancehall talents far and wide. The track’s Youtube numbers have been a bit stagnant, but the song is picking up heavy rotation on international radio stations such as Hot 97.
Intence – “Pickachu”
“Pickachu” is a solid track from Intence, which is delivered with clarity and at a moderate pace, making it one which his fans should be able to jam to. Yet, the 1,000,000 and more views on Youtube may actually be a result of a clever but out-of-the-box move from the director of the video. “Ashtray Browning” makes a 3 seconds cameo and steals the spotlight from Intence in the visuals. The clip starts out with the deejay beginning his descent down a flight of stairs but stops to ash his cigarette into the properly placed mouth of a browning, who’s sitting close by. The incident caused quite a stir on social media, with pundits giving their approval or disapproval of the move.
Skillibeng – “Coke”
Skillibeng became the plug for hits in 2020, and that followed in 2021 when he released “Coke.” The track proves that the St. Thomas-based deejay is not only able to craft clever bars but is also able to spot an opportunity. His decision to write his track and shoot his video in and around the mysterious plane landing on the South Coast of Jamaica has proved bountiful. Seven million views since its release on February 02 is pretty astounding, even for SKillibeng. “Brik Pon Brik” was released in December 2019 and is also lingering at the 7 million mark on Youtube. “Crocodile Teeth,” is leading the charge with 15 million views and is set to go even further as a result of cosigns from the likes of Drake and Burna Boy. Still, it’s pretty hard not to love the audio extracted from one of Jamaica’s biggest movies, as well as Skilli’s opening lines, “Di plane just crash wid e coke.”
Mavado – “Not Perfect”
Dancehall artiste Mavado is finding 2021 to be one of his worst years yet, after the conviction and subsequent life sentence handed down to his son Dante Brooks and the recent death of his mother, Elizabeth ‘Ms Pinny’ Gordon. Before it all went downhill, Mavado delivered this track that explained his overwhelming feeling, as he called on his son to stay strong during his trial. Mavado’s words may offer you a bit of solace during your difficult time. You can check the track below.
Lila Iké, Skillibeng – “Thy Will”
Skillibeng gets another entry on our list through the positive collaboration with one of reggae’s hottest acts, Lila Ike’. It’s the remix to “Thy Will,” which was released as a part of her debut EP early last year. The video incorporates religion, protest, among other ways, to fight back at the system and stick it to the man.
Urban Islandz honorable mentions.
1. Popcaan, Beres Hammond – “God Is Love”
2. Spice – “Watch My Life”
3. Intence, Govana – “Public Enemy No. 1”
4. Sean Paul, Busy Signal – “Boom”
5. Jahmiel – “Unbroken”
6. Vershon – “Stick By Me”
7. Christopher Martin – “Rent Free”