Toppa Top 10: Kanye West’s Most Jamaican Moments

10 9 8 7 6 5 4/3 2 1 1

Words by Richard “Treats” Dryden and Jesse Serwer—


Discussing the musical tone of his new album Yeezus in a rare interview with The New York Times, Kanye West spoke of “trap and drill” and “old Chicago house.” But there’s another key influence at play on the rapper/producer’s avant-garde sixth studio album that went unmentioned: Dancehall. No less than four tracks on Yeezus feature vocals by notable Jamaican vocalists, specifically Capleton, Agent Sasco (a/k/a Assassin), Popcaan and Beenie Man. Still, there is a giant question mark looming around the integration of reggae and dancehall on the polarizing album: namely, where does the influence come from?

Kanye has no Caribbean roots that we know of, nor has he expressed an interest or fondness for reggae in any interview that we’ve read. Is Yeezus West’s way of subtly telling us he’s a closet dancehall fanatic (while shouting out other, trendier genres), or is he just rolling with influences brought to the table by Jamaica-favoring collaborators like Pusha T and the Heatmakerz?

Looking back over his career, we see that Yeezus is hardly the first time ‘Ye has dabbled in Jamaican sounds. From his early work behind the boards for Jay-Z to last year’s soundbwoy-dusting GOOD Music posse cut “Mercy,” he’s been behind some of the most memorable reggae samples in hip-hop. In this special-edition Toppa Top 10 list, LargeUp takes you through Kanye West’s “most Jamaican moments”—from off-hand mentions of jerk chicken to homages to Yellowman and Super Cat.

(Visited 4,124 times, 1 visits today)

12 Responses

  1. Yeezus Is a Yardie? | TREATS' LEDGER

    […] Kanye West’s track record of nods to Jamaican culture came to a climax on his new album Yeezus. I was able to put together a list with Large Up‘s Jesse Serwer on the most note-worthy moments of Kanye West’s Jamaican references. Click to read the Top 10 list. […]

  2. MsAv

    When I listened to Yeezus that is the first thing I noticed! Not only is the album filled with snippets from the artist’s life at the top, it’s also filled with a number of different musical influences. As a Jamaican American I am always proud to hear the influence of my culture permeating multiple genres. Upon reading the first part of this post though I felt the writers introducing a feeling of angst instead of pride as they speculate that the artist is a “closet dancehall fanatic”. It’s almost like backhanded praise. Are you thanking him for the shout out or chastising him for not shouting loud enough?

  3. Treats

    I share the same sense of pride as you. I am actually still in shock at the level of notoriety Jamaica will get from being associated with this album. That’s unfortunate that you took our stance as a feeling if angst. I would ‘t passionately write this comment or the aforementioned article if I didn’t feel good about this album’s place in history. If I could articulate it any more like Scott Disdick in Kanye’s “American Psycho” parody I would, but then how would that make me look? Sarcastic? Super-Fan? Conflicted? Nah. Point blank, a backhanded compliment would be, “Kanye ain’t sleeping on dancehall no more.” Something like that. Being a closet fan of anything can’t be bad. I’d be offended a bit of he was like, “dancehall is my guilty pleasure.” The dude clearly didn’t shout that loud about reggae and dancehall’s influence, but when has he ever shouted loud about anyone’s sound other than his own? I don’t fault him. As a critic we are in a position to provoke thought. It’s thought provoking enough to try to understand the origin of something when you’re not on the frontlines reporting as it happens. I’ll be damned if we didn’t contextualize this subject better than anyone else.

  4. MsAv

    Thanks for your response. i just wondered, With all the samples you sited in your toppa top 10 how cold Yeezus be “subtly telling us he’s a closet dancehall fanatic”? Wouldn’t Yeezus make it more obvious that he’s a fan and clearly respects the music? And you’re right we rarely see Kanye should loudly about enyone other than himself. I was just confused as to how to came to the conclusion that he’s a closeted fan… it just didn’t come across to me. Yes the post was thought provoking. Thanks for writing it.

  5. DignitaryStylist

    note that Yellowman’s “Im Getting married in the morning” is King Yellow’s version of “Get Me To the Church On Time” from My Fair Lady…. Sinatra also had a nice version.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

four × 5 =