Check It Deeply: Reggae Goes Soca

January 15, 2014

Words by Michellee Nelsonโ€”Mr-Vegas-Shock-Dem

There was a time not that long ago where reggae and soca artists were at odds with one another, instead of in harmony. Check out thisย video from Reggae Sunsplash ’91, where foundation deejay Charlie Chaplin goes in on calypso.

But in recent years, Jamaican artists known for making reggae and dancehall have put out soca records in growing numbers. Though Jamaicans like Byron Lee and the Dragonaires have made calypso for decades, you could say Beenie Man led the current wave with 1998’s “Jump and Whine”, among the first tunes from a reggae act to appear on a Soca Gold compilation. As Carnival has grown in popularity in Jamaica, soca’s influence on the island’s music has grown, with songs like “Jump” and “Daggerin” from RDX, Aidonia’s “Bruki,” and “Wet Fete” off Gyptian’s latest album, SLR, fusing dancehall with soca rhythms to produce some of the biggest Caribbean tunes of the past couple years.

With Carnival season fast approaching, reggae artists seem to be dropping road march contenders in record numbers. T.O.K.’s “Overdose” off J-Rod Records’ Chuku Chuku riddim is the latest soca venture from the group who have done songs like “Celebrate,” “Walk an Broad Out,” and others blending dancehall lyrics with soca tempos. The party-indulgent song boasts of an “overdose a girls, overdose a rum.” It’s sure to be a hit at Jamaica Carnival, if not at Trinidad’s.

Despite setbacks from her failed clash with Lady Saw at Sting 2013, Macka Diamond isn’t letting anything stop her. “Mash Up di Road” a collaboration with Trini soca star Blaxx, is another tune to look out for this season as Carnival vibes takes full effect. Perhaps it will help Macka recover from a clash that everyone (in Jamaica, at least) is still buzzing about.

Last but not least, check out “Shock Dem” from Mr. Vegas, who has released countless soca crossover tunes over the years, including the popular remix of “Bruk It Down” with Alison Hinds. There’s already a video for “Shock Dem” featuring Vegas in carnival garb, as well as a full jouvert paint-throwing scene. It’s one of a handful of new soca-flavored tunes this season from Vegasโ€”see also “Road”โ€” a replay of 2009, when he had a handful of big soca tunes including “Genie Wine,” and “Dance With You,” with Machel Montano.