Words by LargeUp Crew
Photo by Martei Korley
The art of album-making in the Caribbean, it appears at first glance, is dying out.
Albums have always been an afterthought in singles-driven genres like reggae, dancehall and soca. Even in the best of times, only a handful of full-length releases per year were afforded the luxury of major publicity, worthy of the heated debates and repeat plays granted to LPs in the rock, jazz and hip-hop arenas. Thanks to sub-par promotion, rampant bootlegging, the disappearance of physical record shops, and the fracturing of the music market online, this deficit has only become more pronounced. Album sales by even the biggest reggae and dancehall acts have been alarmingly low for years. As music distribution continues to shift away from sales towards streaming — and reggae artists and labels continue to lag behind in adapting to the new climate — even the best and most acclaimed reggae and dancehall albums are struggling to find listeners.
Yet, we found plenty of deserving albums worthy of our time and attention in 2016. Some have been on repeat around LargeUp HQ all year long. Others, we must admit, we’ve just recently gotten hooked on. But the point is good albums are still being made in the Caribbean, while music inspired by the region continues to make its presence felt.
You won’t find most of these among the nominees for Best Reggae Album at the Grammys, which continues to put forth tone-deaf selections in the category. We’d never even heard of half the albums they nominated, let alone heard them.