Words by LargeUp Crew, Photo by Damien “LoOkYah” Baddy—
It was an interesting and unusual year for dancehall. As the reggae revival led by Chronixx, Jesse Royal and others took hold, it appeared that dancehall was ceasing to be the dominant force in Jamaican music for the first time in many years. But it didn’t exactly lose creative steam. Vybz Kartel, Busy Signal and J Capri took things back to the ’90s with refreshing singles and videos inspired by dancehall’s greatest era (just as the inspiration for these tunes, Shabba Ranks, re-emerged thanks to a major hip-hop track that borrowed his name and eventually his presence and voice).
Dancehall continued to have a notable and surprising impact on hip-hop music—see Beenie Man, Capleton and Assassin’s cameos on Kanye West’s Yeezus, the year’s most talked about LP, period. At the same time hip-hop’s influence on dancehall actually diminished, as Jamaican artists looked to EDM and other international sounds like Azonto for rhythmic inspiration.
Here’s a look at our picks for the 10 best and most important dancehall tunes of the year (plus four “honorebel” mentions). Catch more of LargeUp’s 2013 Toppa Top 10 lists tackling the year’s best in reggae, soca, dancehall riddims, dance crossover tunes, mixtapes and more.