The year is finally over and 2016 has definitely been an interesting one, it has been good for some but rough for other, so rough that many have summed up the whole year as simply “fuck 2016.” That being said, one area that has definitely thrived in 2016 is Dancehall and the artist that lead the way.
This is what we’re here to talk about today on Mixtape TV, this is The Tracklist, I am Glen, Top 10 Dancehall Artist of 2016.
First of all, can we just take a second to acknowledge the fact that Dancehall owned the Pop scene in 2016? It was definitely the industry’s go-to genre for its sound, the dancing & party scene is stronger than ever and so many regions around the world are embracing the culture.
And of course, you have the music which has been nothing short of amazing this year. After Vybz Kartel’s incarceration a few years back, there was a void in Dancehall that went on for a few years, but in 2016, you really got a sense that this generation of Dancehall had finally caught its second wind. They’re now multiple artists that are generating interest, building their audiences and doing very well.
No matter what, top 10 lists are always going to piss somebody off and this list is no exception. For our lists, these are the criteria.
- Local appeal
- International appeal
- Numbers (Hits, sales & exposure)
First things first, Beenie Man is a Dancehall legend and icon, so he doesn’t need to keep up with the year to year schedule that many of the current Dancehall artists have to do. That doesn’t mean the deejay didn’t step out in 2016 though.
He released his first full-length album in over a decade, the album “Unstoppable” debut at number 5 on the Billboard Reggae chart.
“Unstoppable” saw production from the likes of Seanizzle, Don Corleone, Tony Kelly, Major Lazer, and others. Among the guest, features included his 2 decades long rival Bounty Killer, Sizzla, Agent Sasco, Tarrus Riley, Christopher Martin, Akon among others.
Touring for someone like Beenie Man is always consistent, he headlined all the top shows and festivals throughout the year which included Reggae Sumfest, Barbados’ Hennessy Artistry, OVO Fest, Cup Match Summer Splash, Welcome to JAMROCK Reggae Cruise 2016. Without any hits in 2016, Beenie Man still managed to have a schedule that most young artist would love to have.
Most artists currently active in Dancehall are on a schedule, they have to consistently release new music basically every month throughout the year, otherwise, their young audiences will move on to something else. Konshens however, has positioned himself to not have move according to that month to month schedule; in 2016, he didn’t have anything close to the level of consistency that other Dancehall artists are required to have.
His standout record Bruk Off Yuh Back, had over 11 million plays on YouTube, the music video has 29 million views, 5 million on Spotify, 2 million on SoundCloud and he reached number 52 on Billboard Reggae Digital Singles Chart.
I’ve traveled quite a bit this year, I was back home in Jamaica twice over the summer, Miami, ATL, New York and throughout Latin America. In places like NYC, Miami & ATL, Konshens in constant rotation throughout the year on major radio stations like Hot 97 & Power 105.1, getting relatively the same amount of airtime as Hip Hop artists, basically white girls in the suburbs know and love this record.
He had other singles during the year but they pale in comparison, Bruk Off Yuh Back is what placed Konshens on the list for 2016.
As far as the Dancehall and Jamaica the brand is concerned, they’re a few artists that have stood the test of time better than Sean Paul. I know a lot of people locally don’t really give Sean his respect & credit but for the past 16 years, Sean Paul has been one of the biggest ambassadors Jamaican culture. Sean has been popular in Dancehall since the 90s when his style was more hardcore, then he had crossover success when his 2001 hit Gimmie Di Light had international success in 2002.
Since then Sean Paul has had a legendary run, he sold 6 million records of his album Dutty Rock, followed by the release of his 3rd studio album The Trinity which is also certified platinum. During that time, Sean also played a part in every major era of Hip Hop, R&B & Pop scene. He collaborated with numerous Reggaeton artist which were hot at the time, he collaborated with 50 Cent when he owned the airwaves, had a number one hit with Beyonce on Baby Boy, Break It Off with Rihanna, Give It Up To Me with Keshia Cole and much more.
By now your probably asking yourself, OK that’s all good and well but what does that have to do with 2016?
Well, all of his past work has now come full circle in 2016, as of November 2016, Sean Paul has earned his third number one in the United Kingdom with British electronic group Clean Bandit’s Rockabye, which also features singer Ann Marie. As a result, he’s scored 12 Top 10 hits to date, more impressive, though, is that he has been credited on 28 songs which have made the Top 40. This means that Sean Paul has surpassed Bob Marley in terms of record sales.
Apart from that, he’s still staying current with popular club friendly tunes like Tek Weh Yuh Heart featuring Tory Lanez and Crick Neck featuring Chi Ching Ching. He also had other Dancehall inspired collaborations like Trumpets by Sak Noel & Salvi that’s currently at 64 million views and Cheap Thrills by Sia with a staggering 709 million plays.
Yeah, Sean Paul is a big deal people.
One artist that has been putting in work for years and hasn’t really seen the exposure expected is Jahmiel. He had a solid year in 2015 but 2016 however, things really kicked up to another gear, churning out big tunes like Great Man, Where Were You, Different Levels, and Years To Come.
His friendship with Mavado has also been a fruitful venture gaining him more exposure and a bigger touring schedule. Speaking of Mavado, when the war between he and Popcaan kicked off, which inevitably reignited the Gaza/Gully war, Jahmiel was one of the many artists that was caught up in the lyrical war.
His diss song Instant Disaster took everyone by surprise and turned out to be one of the best songs out of the whole ordeal.
After that, it was clear not only was Jahmiel underrated but also underestimated.
Much like Konshens, Charly Black is a Dancehall artist moving to the beat of his own drum and making major international hits while doing it. In 2016 Charly Black became of the biggest Dancehall artists in Latin America. His breakout hit Party Animal on the Jambe-An riddim is actually over 2 years old but spread across Latin America in 2016 because of its Reggaeton vibe. The music video released during Summer 16 is now at 42 million views, It has 88 million plays on Spotify, and a additional 16 million plays on the remix.
To give you an idea of how big Party Animal is in Latin America when Charly performed it at the Azteca football stadium in Mexico, the whole stadium of roughly a hundred thousand people knew the words, keep in mind, this is a Spanish speaking country singing in Jamaican Patois, yeah….think about that. You only need to take a scroll down the comment section of the music video to see most of the comments are in Spanish.
By the numbers, Party Animal is easily the biggest Dancehall songs of 2016. Other big songs in 2016 for Charley included Hoist And Wine, Big Bumper, Momentum and a feature on the Reggae inspired Pa Que Me Invitan by Jencarlos.
One of the most impressive rises of 2016 has to be Masika, on the list of criteria, he stands out in the “Intangibles” the most. Yes, he had some tough songs this year such as Everything Mi Want, To Di Top, Patience, Time, Best Girl, and let’s not forget one of the baddest tunes out right now Top Rank featuring Bounty Killa. What really separates him from any others on the list is this underlying anticipation Dancehall fans have for Masika. While I was back home in Jamaica the second time for the summer, the vibe I got when talking about who’s doing it in 2016 is that people are waiting for Masika to find “It”. That It factor.
It’s reminiscent of where Alkaline was at a year or two ago, he’s good but not good enough yet, he’s making big songs but they’re not big enough yet. That’s where Masicka is right now, in this state of transition where he’ll either go to the next level or stay where he’s at not reaching his pull potential. He’s already a good performer, he’s lyrical, has badman songs and in 2016 has made a both motivational tunes as well as tunes for the ladies which have really displayed his song making ability.
Even the incarcerated Dancehall king Vybz Kartel has credited Masika for being the best artist of 2016, If he continues on the trajectory, 2017 will be an even bigger year for Masika.
Let’s get one thing clear, like Vybz Kartel, Mavado is a once in a generation artist. So even though his standing in Dancehall on a year to year basis might not always be the most dominant, his overall catalog places him in a different category than current artists.
That being said, Mavado cooled off over the past few years, 2016 however, saw Mavado back in Prime form. The setup all started with the Mineral Boss produced single Progress, the closing song on Dj Khaled’s Grammy nominated Major Key album. This was followed by hits like Big League, Feel Like and Farewell with Alkaline.
Farewell also served as the prerequisite to the Mavado vs Popcaan war that erupted in the 4th quarter of the year, which we talked about earlier with Jahmiel. After knocking off Popcaan, the war eventually became Mavado vs Vybz Kartel once again and we heard a Mavado we hadn’t heard in years.
Say what you want, the reignited war gave Mavado new relevance and by the sound of it, new inspiration.
When you talk about artists that have hit their stride in 2016, none is bigger than Alkaline and you can even easily argue that Alkaline is number one but as far as our criteria are concerned, he’s not there yet.
That being said, Alkaline is the front runner for what today’s Dancehall sound is. Every single song that Alkaline has released in 2016 was a hit, nothing was even close to mediocre. 2016 was the year where we saw Alkaline step out and stand on nothing but talent and do away with the gimmicks. The fake contact lenses are gone, the fake dreads are gone and by the looks of it, he’s not even bleaching anymore.
Locally, Alkaline stands above almost all other Dancehall artists in the youth demographic and his popularity is beginning to make its rounds in Canada, USA, and Latin America.
Alkaline has been screaming 2016 for a long time and he delivered on his promise of dominating, some of his biggest tunes included Champion Boy, Formula, Conquer The World, City, Block & Delete, After All, 12 PM, Company, Spoil You, Extra Lesson and many others.
If Alkaline continues at this pace in 2017, there will be no doubt that he’s the next big thing in the making, the only criteria that are really holding him back is his live performance, he’s a terrible performer, easily the worst one on this list.
Performing is an art however, it can be mastered, if he masters that, there will be no stopping Alkaline and the Vendetta movement.
When you talk about the legacy of Vybz Kartel, none has been more prosperous than his former protege Popcaan. When it comes to the criteria of this list, Popcaan is winning in every category. He’s still easily one of the most relevant artists in Dancehall. 2016 marks the 6th year Poppy has been unloading hits after hits, never once slowing down his pace.
He’s also a great performer who knows how to read the audience and perform the right songs. If you pay attention to his local performances in Jamaica, they’re very different from the ones he does internationally.
In the United States, Popcaan is one of the most anticipated Dancehall artists, because he hasn’t be able to travel there. This has not stopped him from touring throughout the entire 2016. He’s a staple in the Caribbean, frequents the UK and Latin America. When he finally gets to go the states, Poppy’s relevance will only increase.
In cities like London, NYC, ATL, Miami and Toronto, Popcaan has been a staple on the radio with his collaboration with Drake for Controlla, even though the song is no longer the official version, it’s the version that all the radio stations play because that is the better version.
As far as hits are concerned, Poppy stayed consistent the entire year with tunes like High all Day, Feel Good, Never Sober, Ova Dweet, Wicked Man Ting, Stay Up, Nah Idle, We Still A Win which became the unofficial theme song for Rio 2016 with Jamaica & Usain Bolt dominating the 100 & 200 meter races, new tunes include New Level and his holiday hit Christmas Gift.
The thing that makes Popcaan so dominant is his ability produce both quality and quantity year after year, we’re not sure how he’s doing it but he keeps doing which is an intangible trait in Poppy.
As far as Accolades are concerned, Popcaan took home the MOBO awards for Best Reggae Act of 2016, he went up against nominees Alkaline, Spice, Protoje, and Kranium. Also over the summer Popcaan repping MixPak faced off against Eskimo Dance, UKG All Stars, Wiz Khalifa & Taylor Gang. He and Mixpak won the clash after they played a Drake “One Dance” dub that killed all the competition.
Speaking of Drake, the Unruly/OVO alliance has proven to be very fruitful for Popcaan, which includes Popcaan recording a song for Drake’s Jordan commercial, consistently having a featured set on Drake OVO Sound Radio show on Apple Music. He was also one of the featured artists at Drake’s platinum VIEWS album and headlined OVO Fest in Toronto.
All in all, Popcaan has covered all the bases when it comes to being a well-rounded artist. The only blemish on his 2016 resume is the short-lived beef with Mavado in which he waived the white flag which is a no-no in Dancehall.
Other than that Popcaan ran things in 2016.
By the time we made it to number 3, you must have seen the writing on the wall, Vybz Kartel is still the current reigning king in Dancehall. What Kartel has managed to do in 2016 while being incarcerated for the last 5 years is nothing short of amazing. No one in the history of music has ever been able to maintain this level of dominance and relevance while being behind bars with no sign of any possible early release. The closest thing you could compare him to is Gucci Mane and he only did 3 years.
His dominance has been so polarizing in fact, that, some artists have even expressed some jealousy towards to imprisoned deejay. His hit Fever overshadowed everything else during the summer, inspiring counterless whining and twerking videos on social media.
His music videos are some of the most watched Dancehall of music videos on Youtube for 2016, with numbers only rivaled by Alkaline. What’s even more fascinating is the fact that he’s not in any of the music videos.
Other big songs of 2016 include Electric, Money Me a Look, I’ll Take You There, Summer 16, Western Union, Best Place Pon Earth, Miracle featuring Demarco, Who Trouble Dem, Colouring This Life, Real Youth, Half Way Tree and many others.
His vocal appearance on Loodi by Shenseea made the new deejay an instant star with music video hitting 3 million views in its first month.
He also released his “King of the Dancehall” album on June 10th and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard reggae chart. Other accolades include Vybz Kartel being a sought after artist for samples, PartyNextDoor’s “Not Nice” song samples an unreleased Vybz Kartel song that was produced by Dre Skull. PartyNextDoor, Drake, and Mick Jagger have all expressed their admiration for Kartel. Pop supergroup Fifth Harmon remade the deejay’s 2015 song “Gonna Get Better” for which he was credited on their 2016 album 7/27.
Of course, we have to mention the reignited Gaza/Gully war that resulted in Kartel going up against both Mavado and Alkaline. Which sounds absurd considering that this is a person serving a life sentence.
This is what makes Vybz Kartel so impressive, he’s doing all of this without freedom. He’s risen to a new level of mystery, it’s like he’s an urban legend, you hear of him but you never see him.
Not sure what the future holds for Kartel, In November, the deejay was transferred to the Tower Street Maximum Security Prison after speculation that he may have been recording music from behind bars. 2016 may have been the last time we hear from Vybz Kartel for new music, some like Bounty Killa have speculated that the transfer could be a good thing, however, since this prison has a full recording studio, the same one Jah Cure recorded music in while he was imprisoned there.
And that brings us to the end of our list, I’m sure many of you will find issues with some of these placements but that’s what lists are supposed to do.
It’s all subjective!
Thank you for watching, I am Glen, this was the first video from my new series The Tracklist.