November 21, 2017

Words by LargeUp Crew
Photos by Martei Korley

Most guests on the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise purchase their tickets on the strength of marque performers like Damian and Stephen Marley, Tarrus Riley and Bounty Killer. But anyone who’s been on the ship more than one time around knows that the experience would be sorely lacking without the selectors and DJs who warm up the crowd, fill in the gaps and keep the vibes going from Florida to Jamaica and back again.

Over each of the cruise’s four years, host Jr. Gong has made it a point to present some of reggae and dancehall’s most valuable selectors, organically integrating Jamaican sound system culture into the programming in a way that many reggae festivals fail to present. Sets from icons like King Jammy’s and Stone Love have turned into ciphers from people like Elephant Man, Shaggy and Damian himself, adding an extra element of organic excitement, and an opportunity to experience a proper Jamaican-style sound session outside of its Kingston element.

This year in particular, an effort was made to showcase these stalwarts of sound system culture, the petri dish from which reggae and dancehall developed. At the cruise’s ‘Sail Away Party’ on opening night, host Damian Marley took the opportunity to introduce the crowd to various DJs, inviting them speak their piece. For the third consecutive year, the ship hosted a Sound Clash at Sea, with Japan’s Mighty Crown emerging victorious (yet again) over competitors David Rodigan, Tony Matterhorn and World Clash champions King Turbo. Cruise staples Renaissance Disco, Rassarella and DJ Norie held down pivotal sets that kept energy levels on high, while Yaadcore, Max Glazer and ZJ Liquid did the same in their respective first appearances on the ship. As on each of the cruise’s four years, boat MVP Shinehead’s Kingston 12Hifi (also featuring the talents of DJ Papalotl) delighted cruisers with vinyl selections.

Here’s a look at the DJs and selectors who kept this year’s Jamrock Cruise sounding extra nice.

Casual dancehall fans may know Tony Matterhorn as the man who made “Dutty Wine” but he has had an illustrious career as a DJ, dating back to his teenage years in New York as a member of Brooklyn’s fearsome King Addies sound.

Stone Love Movement are, arguably, the most iconic Jamaican sound system of all time, and a game-changing entity in reggae music since the 1970s. A skilled and playful selector, Geefus has been holding down Stone Love for decades.

London DJ and personality Seani B (of BBC1xtra fame) steps to the mic as DJ Bambino runs tune

Ras Kwame (Capital Xtra/Orange Hill) introduces himself on his first Jamrock Cruise, as Nikki Z raises up one finga inna di air

DJ Delano of Renaissance Disco, among many other things

DJ Delano and Jazzy T form the nucleus of Renaissance Disco, a sound system originally formed in Kingston in 1989.

DJ Delano, ZJ Liquid, DJ Madout

Roots selector Yaadcore, of Dubwise Jamaica, making his first Welcome to Jamrock appearance on “white night.”

DJ Gringo

DJ Max Glazer, known for his work as a founding member of New York’s Federation Sound and a tour DJ for the likes of Rihanna, Chronixx and Cham, just to name a few.

DJ Max Glazer and DJ Norie, long-time colleagues from New York City’s dancehall scene

Foota Hype (center) shares a pic with Tony Matterhorn, DJ Norie, ZJ Liquid and DJ Delano backstage as Stephen Marley and Tarrus Riley look on.

Matterhorn states his case

ZJ Liquid, Zip FM personality and producer, at the controls on the roof deck

From L to R: ZJ Liquid, Rory Stonelove (in black), Tony Matterhorn, Foota Hype

Geefus from Stone Love runs tune, as Tony Matterhorn, ZJ Liquid and Foota Hype look on

Nuh joke ting dat!

Sami T and Masta Simon of Mighty Crown, boarding the Independence of the Seas at Ocho Rios before their Sound Clash at Sea victory

DJ Max Glazer and DJ Norie

Shinehead and DJ Papalotl. Shinehead, the artist behind releases like 1986’s Rough & Rugged and this classic cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” has focused on his Los Angeles-based sound system, Kingston 12 Hifi, playing mostly all vinyl. His energy on the Jamrock Cruise is infectious, and often cited as a highlight by returning guests.

Max Glazer on the mic

David Rodigan, returning to the cruise after appearing in its inaugural edition in 2014, revs up the crowd during a daytime session

Sir Rodigan

King Jammy’s dropping live dub in from the balcony. The dub oracle and producer of dancehall classics from “Buddy Bye” to the Punanny riddim has sailed on the Jamrock Cruise in each of its four years.