Toppa Top 10: Kanye West’s Most Jamaican Moments

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Words by Richard “Treats” Dryden and Jesse Serwer—

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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.

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