LargeUp + Pandora’s Top 20 Reggae/Dancehall Singles of 2020

December 29, 2020

LargeUp x Pandora's 2020 Reggae/Dancehall Countdown featuring Koffee

To wrap up 2020, we’ve teamed with Pandora to create a narrated playlist counting down the Top 20 reggae/dancehall songs of the year, as voted on by an incredible panel of selectors, journalists, tastemakers and producers.

To say that 2020 was a strange year would be an understatement. Covid-19 has impacted the entire world with artist performances and touring being effectively locked off. However, this same situation has inspired an incredible burst of music which has helped all of us get through a difficult year.

The songs on this list were compiled through votes from our panel, each of whom were asked to select their picks for 2020’s 20 most impactful reggae and dancehall tunes. After we narrowed the field to 20, we asked each of our panelists to share their thoughts on a favorite song of theirs from the final cut.

Read all the commentary from our panel in the article below, and head over to Pandora to hear the playlist in full here. For those who can’t access Pandora, we’ve included a YouTube link to each track as well.

Scroll through, press play and see you in 2021.

20. Runkus feat. Royal Blu, Jesse Royal, Kabaka Pyramid and Munga Honorebel – “5Gs”
(Producer: Runkus Music/Walshy Fire)

“5Gs” was a bit of a sleeper but always got a big response whenever I played it. It’s got super relevant lyrics for 2020, wicked hip-hop style production from Walshy Fire and Runkus himself, and I would have to say Royal Blu definitely had one of my favorite verses of the year with this one. It had a big impact me on this year, and I think you’ll be hearing it for years to come. – Deejay Theory, DJ, Faction Sound Crew; Contributor, LargeUp 

19. Popcaan – “Buzz”
(Producer: Mini E5/Two4Kay)

Another big tune from Popcaan off Fixtape, “Buzz” got a lot of requests at my station – it was definitely a fan favorite among my listeners. As for me, it’s a vibe. The rhythm stays consistent throughout the track and Popcaan delivers as usual. Just picture this: The vibes in the studio, Hennessy pouring, smoke in the air and that energy takes over. You already know what it is. – Daddy Rolo, DJ, Lone Star Sound; promoter; host, Deadly Mix Radio, 106 KMEL

18. Chronixx – “Cool as the Breeze/Friday”
(Producer: Pantha) 

“Cool as the Breeze/Friday” has been on my personal playlist since it dropped. It’s a song that would have been played in the clubs had we been able to go to them this year. It’s got a fun, sweet melody which transports you to the dancehalls and beaches of Jamaica’s paradise and allows you to envisage a time when we were outside and living life pre-pandemic, taking you to a time and place of happiness. Chronixx is a special artist to me as he’s one of the first artists I ever interviewed when I started out on radio. He was humble, knowledgeable and a true vanguard of reggae music. It’s been a joy to watch his career flourish, and “Cool is the Breeze/Friday” really showcases his modern take on reggae music. We’re also both fans of Clarks Shoes, as you can tell from the video, which you should definitely check out. – Jamie Rodigan, Producer, Crate Classics; DJ/host, Reprezent Radio (London) 

17. Teejay – “From Rags to Riches”
(Producer: Damage Musiq)

One of my favorite songs of the year, and one of the biggest dancehall tunes out of Jamaica this year is “Rags to Riches” from Teejay, the official Uptop Boss. This song has so much style, emotion and melody – everybody can relate. – Kali Madden, JA/Cali-based DJ; Contributor, LargeUp

16. Koffee feat. Buju Banton – “Pressure (Remix)”
(Producer: Ryan Bailey)

This was a combination that stood a tier above the rest, and it’s a combination of the Grammy Kids. We’re talking about Koffee — you know the one that came in like a rapture and everybody got capture? (Like that toast?) And, of course, the veteran Buju Banton, aka Gargamel. This is a remix you definitely had to put on repeat in 2020. – Nikki Z, Queen of Caribbean Radio; Host, NikkiZLive

15. Skillibeng – “Crocodile Teeth”
(Producer: Johnny Wonder/Adde Instrumentals)

Skillibeng is one of the fastest-rising stars on the reggae and dancehall scene, representing for ESyde Records, his label and crew out of Jamaica. He really has had a huge 2020, kicking off with records like “Brik Pan Brik,” which dropped in 2019, and “50 Bag.” “Crocodile Teeth’ was a major smash for him. With a refreshing new style of delivery and flow, Skillibeng looks set to grow even more in 2021. – Ras Kwame, DJ/personality, Capital XTRA’s Reggae Recipe

14. Alkaline – “Ocean Wave”
(Producer: Jahvy Ambassador)

“Ocean Wave” dropped in mid-March on the Soul Survivor riddim, which also featured hit tracks from Kranium and Mavado. While we’re used to braff and boasy tunes filled with slackness from the Champion Boy, “Ocean Wave” hit different. The smooth riddim produced by Jahvy of Tru Ambassador Music lent itself perfectly to this coming-of-age story in which Alkaline gives us some insight into his life growing up in a working-class family, and how p he is to have come so far and have influenced people around the world. “Ocean Wave” was a little too mellow to be labeled a dancehall banger per se but the production, lyrics and catchy chorus made it one of the biggest dancehall tracks of 2020, giving us words of encouragement in such a strange and unforeseen year. – DJ Arems, DJ, Faction Sound Crew

13. Jada Kingdom – “Heavy!”
(Producer: DJ Papis) 

This year took a lot from us, but it was songs like these that personally helped me sustain my energy and simply just let go. What I admire about Jada Kingdom is how she embraces her curves and encourages her fans to do the same, and what better way to do that than with a song dedicated to your gracious booty? And if that wasn’t enough, the remix with Vybz Kartel that followed blasted the song into another universe. Once it is safe to enjoy parties again, “Heavy” will surely be the anthem that the ladies request. – Bianca Gracie, Music and Pop Culture Journalist (Vulture, Billboard, SPIN, PAPER)

12. Intence – “Yeng”
(Producer: Zimi Entertainment)

For me, this track embraces nothing less than pure confidence. I feel that’s why fans gravitate to it so much. The youths dem just want to feel free, do what they love. Feel confident about any situation. Get gyal and mek money. When “Yeng” dropped, you couldn’t go nowhere in Jamaica and didn’t hear this song. As the Yeng Boss says: Every song mi drop trend, and mi nuh spend yen. Lushane Salmon, CEO, CaribVoxx


11. Skip Marley feat. H.E.R. – “Slow Down”
(Producer: Rykeyz)

I first met Skip over 10 years ago at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Skip’s mom, Cedella Marley, told me he was interested in music but still going to school. Fast forward at least a decade now, and Skip has emerged as a versatile, phenomenal young talent at the threshold of a very promising career. Skip represents a third generation of Marleys, and he’s already broken new ground for Jamaican-born artists with “Slow Down” topping the Billboard Adult R&B chart earlier this year. I love this song’s heavy, sensual bassline, it’s subtle R&B flavor and especially the way Skip and H.E.R. harmonize. The song sounds like something Skip’s uncle, Stephen, could have recorded with Lauryn Hill 25 years ago: A classic. – Pat Meschino, Writer for Billboard and The Daily Beast

10. Govana – “Likkle Bit A Money”/ “HAMANTS Convo”
(Producers: J.L.L. Prod/Emudio)

Govana has been one of the most exciting artists in dancehall since he broke out with tunes like “Breeze” alongside Aidonia and “Bake Bean.” But he took things to another level in 2020 with his debut album, Humans and Monsters are Not the Same, and a string of dynamic hits. Govana’s got the full package for a dancehall artist: A commanding voice, great lyrical content, and a delivery that oozes personality. “Likkle Bit a Money” and “Convo” both showcased these characteristics but in very different ways. “Likkle Bit” was the street anthem, popularizing a slang phrase which bubbled across Jamaica. Sick production from JLL, too, on that one. “Convo,” meanwhile, featured Govana’s skills as a storyteller, as he portrayed multiple characters in a vivid drama that recalled the lyrical soap operas of Vybz Kartel and the Notorious B.I.G. The song’s humor and its anti-domestic violence message were big pluses, too. It’s no wonder Govi extended the concept into an ongoing series. – Jesse Serwer, Editorial Director, LargeUp

9. Various Artists – Aircraft Riddim
(Producer: Chimney Records)

Aircraft was one of the hottest riddims for the year. You had some big songs on the riddim as well as it being a juggling riddim — you can mix it, and just keep the energy and the flow of the party going nice. The songs were great and you had top artists on the riddim: Aidonia, Jahvillani, Mavado, Govana, Shenseea, Intence. And, of course, one of the biggest songs for 2020: “Watch Dem” by Ding Dong. You already know when that touched the party, it was a problem. Big up Jordan, big up Chimney Records. The songs were crazy. Bobby Konders, DJ, Hot 97/Massive B 

8. Lila Iké – “I Spy”
(Producer: Izy Beats)

Lila Iké’s “I Spy” was the lead single from her EP, The ExPerience, easily one of the most significant reggae releases from this year. In fact, as I tallied the votes for this countdown, I realized that every song from her EP got votes from our contributors. The ExPerience ran a range of styles and emotions, and was anchored by the come-hither bounce of “I Spy.” I got the chance to preview this track ahead of its release and, from the moment I heard Lila’s voice dancing in step with IzyBeats’ production, I knew that this was a tune that would not only make a big splash in 2020, but also firmly lock her in as one of Jamaica’s most dynamic artists. that is sure to be setting the trend for years to come.Diego Herrera, Head of Reggae Programming at Pandora

7. Protoje feat. Popcaan – “Like Royalty” (Producer: Ziah and Winta James)

Protoje and Popcaan are two of the hottest artists of today who both delivered great bodies of work during the year 2020. With both coming together on “Like Royalty,” it was one of the most impactful records of 2020. This is a real banger that speaks to the triumphant rise from the streets and the journey to the top and achieving success in the music game. It’s a celebration and a reminder: Don’t forget where you come from. We’re not going to forget all our people, we’re going to treat you like royalty. – Kahlil Wonda and Agard, Hosts, Reggae Lover Podcast

6. Agent Sasco – “Loco”
(Producer: Teflon Zincfence)

“Loco” by Agent Sasco was easily one of my favorite dancehall records of 2020. With the genre splintering off into different directions, it’s refreshing to hear some hardcore reality lyrics touching on real-life issues and some of the dangerous influences affecting people currently. Rounding things off perfectly is an uptempo riddim produced by Teflon Zincfence that actually turns the song into something of a fun, party track. DJ Gravy, Founder and Publisher, LargeUp

5. Dexta Daps – “Call Me If”
(Producer: Good Good Production)

Every dancehall fan know that song yah fi 2020. This was a massive tune and I feel like it will have a lot of longevity. Dexta Daps is an excellent performer, a brilliant vocalist and he’s also a good writer. He did extensive promotion on his project, Vent, so by the time it dropped it was crazy. This song was even popular during the political campaign this year in Jamaica. It had to be included. Dexta, big up yaself. – ZJ Sparks, DJ/Personality, Zip 103 Jamaica

4. Kranium – “Gal Policy”
(Producer: Jahvy Ambassador) 

This is a gyalist anthem — it’s also the gyalist commandments. This tune tells you what to do, and what not to do, when it comes to affairs of the heart, and dealing with the woman in your life – or the women in your life. Learn from it! If you’re smart, you will avoid all of these things Kranium said on this song to avoid.  – Juss Kool, Producer, Juss Kool Productions/Massive B

3. Buju Banton – “Blessed”
(Producer: Dave Kelly) 

“Blessed” is a really interesting song in a really interesting year. It’s off of Buju’s first album in 10 years and, for the first two singles, Buju reached out to and collaborated with Dave Kelly, one of the original dancehall masterminds who Buju worked with early in his career. They hadn’t worked together for a long time so the two of them coming back together to work on this project, and “Blessed” specifically, really created dancehall in the classic sense —  but for modern times and with a much older, wiser, different Buju. There’s still a lot of similarities and connections to the really hardcore dancehall Buju of yesteryear but it’s brand new, good for you. – Max Glazer, DJ, Federation Sound 

2. Tarrus Riley feat. Shenseea – “Lighter”
(Producer: Rvssian)

“Lighter” by Shenseea and Tarrus Riley had a powerful impact, which was apparent on social media. This was one of the most requested songs on my weekly virtual live sessions during the Covid lockdown. In my opinion, this was the feelgood song necessary to help us get through these unexpectedly heavy times. Even though I would have never envisioned a Shenseea and Tarrus collab, I must say this was a gift we all needed. Thanks for making us feel “Lighter.” – DJ Gringo, DJ, Stateside Revolution; Host, SiriusXM The Joint

1. Koffee – “Lockdown”
(Producer: Dane Ray)

It’s pretty much been the soundtrack for everybody since its release in the summer. There’s talk of it being the fastest video from a Jamaican artist to hit that coveted 1 million views on YouTube. For me, Koffee once again has demonstrated a potent show of her skills as a songwriter and capturing the moment at the right time. It’s the young lady that we all want to see win, and I’m sure she will. – Seani B, DJ/Personality, BBC1Xtra; Head, BrukOut