Words by LargeUp Crew
French perfume brand Kenzo inspired rave reviews in August with their Spike Jonze-directed Kenzo World ad featuring actress and model Margaret Qualley. Qualley’s arresting performance notwithstanding, the other star of the commercial is “Mutant Brain,” a manic, dancehall-inspired EDM track from producers Sam Spiegel and Ape Drums featuring the distinctive voice of Jamaica’s Assassin a/k/a Agent Sasco.
It wasn’t the only head-turning TV ad featuring a Jamaican artist to debut this summer. The advertising world, much like pop music, seems to be picking up on the power of dancehall and Caribbean sounds this year, with several major international and national campaigns currently set to bashment sounds. Here they are:
1. Mr. Lexx x El Freaky x Fiat
If you were wondering what Mr. Lexx has been up to, well, he just had a No. 1 hit in Colombia, in “Bad Boys,” a collaboration with El Freaky Colectivo and Cybertronics. The track also found its way into an ad for Fiat’s compact 500S coupe — real badman ting, dat. You can hear it in our SxSW 2016 wrap-up video, too — this track gets around.
2. Assassin x Ape Drums x Kenzo
When you hire Spike Jonze, the director of Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are and iconic music videos for the Beastie Boys and Radiohead, to direct a commercial, you’re not going to get anything ordinary. This one’s been called the “most insane perfume ad ever.” For our money, it’s Assassin‘s delivery that brings the whole thing together. Sasco dishes an all-out vocal assault over Ape Drums and Sam Spiegel‘s dancehall/EDM fusion, a track which recently made our Now Things playlist, spotlighting the best new Caribbean music.
3. Bounty Killer x Santigold x Nike
Okay, you have to be paying attention when this one comes on to catch the Five-Star General. The music only plays for a few seconds, at the very end of this Nike ad featuring actor Bobby Cannavale pep talking babies in a nursery. And it’s not actually a Bounty Killer song that plays but a filtered sample of his voice from the Ward 21-produced “Season of the Year,” via Santigold‘s “Kicking Down Doors.” But, through any filter, the sound of the Warlord’s timbre unmistakable. Ka-boom!
4. Busy Signal x LG
Unfortunately, the advertising agencies seem to be mostly bypassing Jamaican dancehall productions in favor of “dancehall-inspired” tracks and samples by international producers. One exception is this LG smartphone ad starring British action star Jason Statham and the sounds of Busy Signal’s “Everybody Move,” produced by DJ Karim. This wildly popular commercial has been deemed a huge success, director Daniel Kupyers of BBDO told Boomshots — both by the client, LG, and, apparently other ad agencies who’ve since sought out the same vibe.
5. Popcaan x OVO x Jordan
This online trailer for OVO’s Air Jordan 12 Retro Collection features custom, or at least unreleased, lyrics from Popcaan, over a riddim from E5 Records’ Mini. If this is a preview, we’re looking forward to seeing and hearing the full thing.
6. Shaggy x Chase Bank
This oft-aired 2016 Chase Bank commercial features a pig on a leash strutting to the sounds of Shaggy‘s original album version of “Boombastic” from 1995. Kids love it.
7. Bunji Garlin x Party Favor x Silk
The Soca Viking, an honorary dancehall artist if there ever was one, brings the badmon vibes to this Silk commercial starring DJ Khaled. Once again, the look comes via a guest appearance, in this case Bunji’s cameo on “Baddest Things” from EDM dude Party Favor.
8. Dillon Francis and Skrillex x Royal Caribbean
This one doesn’t feature any dancehall vocalists — the only credited vocals come courtesy of NYC-via-DR’s Maluca — but since the song seems to have been chosen specifically for its Caribbean vibe, we had to give it a mention. The ad is part of a broader campaign by Royal Caribbean to highlight authentic Caribbean experiences, like Bahamian junkanoo and tumba from Curacao, both featured here.
9. Hopeton Lewis x Corona
Now, if we want to broaden our definition of dancehall here to include not just the genre popularized in the 1980s, but all music from and for Jamaican dancehalls, we can go back to 1966 and the birth of rocksteady with Hopeton Lewis‘ “Take It Easy.” This timeless, 50-year-old classic soundtracked one of this summer’s most ubiquitous TV ads, about a beer can that always finds its way to the beach.
10. HONORARY THROWBACK: Elephant Man x Usain Bolt x Puma
Considering the topic, we just had to highlight what was possibly the most authentic Jamaican scene in a commercial by a major international brand ever. In this forgotten 2008 spot, Puma went to the dancehall with Usain Bolt and Elephant Man, showing Bolt’s considerable dancing skills — talents he would once again showcase in this music video created as part of Bolt’s latest campaign with Virgin Media.