Major Lazer’s influence on dancehall (not to mention soca and reggae) this year was undeniable. Whatever your perspective on their legitimacy as regards the position, Diplo and crew (which currently includes long-time LargeUp contributors/family Walshy Fire and Jillionaire) have emerged as the primary force in bringing Caribbean music to the world, even as their sound has come to rely less on traditional Jamaican sounds and more on EDM fusions.
Take Busy Signal, for instance. “Hott Ed” has been making classics since he first came on the dancehall scene in 2005. But it wasn’t until the release of “Watch Out For This (Bumaye)” that we saw a Busy song touch all demographics—not just Jamaica, Brooklyn and Africa (where Busy’s been huge for years)—but Spanish clubs, hipster bars, etc.
Yes, we know that Major Lazer didn’t create the riddim—Dutch house producers FS Green and Flexican did. And, yes, we know that the music is not exactly dancehall in any pure sense—that’s a sample of a salsa track by Willie Colon and Ruben Blades. But the energy of the track was the best reflection of a year in which dancehall embraced a new set of outside influences. Throw in one of the year’s best music videos (shot by Jay Will, using all period costumes reflective of ’90s dancehall) and we can’t think of a tune that got us more consistently hype throughout the year.—Jesse Serwer
Click on for our “honorebel mentions”— our favorite dancehall tunes of the year that didn’t make the cut.