Words by LargeUp Crew
Illustration by Robin Clare
Dancehall *went mainstream* again in 2016, infiltrating charts and conversations all year long. The resurgence most benefited bashment-savvy pop and hip-hop acts like Rihanna, Drake and Tory Lanez, who rode timely, dancehall-inspired singles to chart and radio ubiquity. Few actual Jamaican productions were afforded similar exposure by industry gatekeepers, even as songs like Drake’s “Controlla” and Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” brought light to featured guests Popcaan and Sean Paul, respectively. However, the boost in visibility fueled an energy that’s been missing from dancehall in recent years, as artists like Vybz Kartel, Popcaan and Alkaline offered some of their strongest output to date, and competition among top-tier acts ratcheted up.
As is the norm in dancehall, a few songs from previous years made their presence felt in 2016. Songs that appeared on last year’s list were not included here, even if they were major in 2016 — Dexta Daps’ “Shabba Madda Pot,” a 2015 favorite that picked up even more steam this year being one example. However, a pair of songs that were technically released earlier than 2016 are.
Here’s our picks for the Top 16 Dancehall Songs of 2016.