Nov 14th, 2018
Although artists have been mixing reggae with other genres from as early as the early 1970s, no official term had been used to describe this practice. Artists such as UB40 were described using terms that joined the various genres they performed (e.g. "reggae funk", "reggae pop", "reggae-disco"). It was not until the late 1990s when the term was coined.
The subgenre predominantly evolved from late 1980s and early 1990s dancehall music which instrumentals or "riddims" contained elements from the R&B and hip hop genres. Due to this, some consider dancehall artists such as Mad Cobra, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Buju Banton and Tony Rebelas pioneers of reggae fusion. For some of these artists, such as Buju Banton, reggae fusion became a staple throughout their careers. However, reggae fusion can be traced back to before the success of these artists, as far back as the late 1970s and early 1980s, where songs such as "Pass the Dutchie" and the band Third World blazed the trail finding international success with songs such as "Now That We Found Love" and "Try Jah Love". Therefore, Third World can be seen as arguably the original pioneers of reggae fusion leading the way for groups such as UB40 and Steel Pulse.
Although there were a few recognized reggae fusion artists in the late '80s to mid-1990s, such as the aforementioned acts in addition to others such as Sublime, Maxi Priest, Shinehead, 311, First Light, The Police and Inner Circle, their style of fusing genres was subtly done. Artists such as Diana King, Patra, Buju Banton, Ini Kamoze, Snow and Shabba Ranks followed in their footsteps, however, creating a less subtle fusion by further blending heavier Jamaican dialect as well as more hardcore and sexual lyrics in their songs. This led to a lot of crossover success for these artists with songs such as "Informer" and "Here Comes the Hotstepper" reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as topping charts all around the world. As the subgenre began to take shape, the mid to late 1990s saw artists becoming more innovative as many began to mix genres that were not similar nor typically associated with reggae, such as techno and house, leading to the subgenre gaining a more distinctive following and really beginning to grow. Ironically, however, a major contributing factor to the subgenre garnering further international prominence was due to the lack of marketability of dancehall, especially in its rawest form, in the United States.
By the late 1990s, dancehall had lost its footing in the American market as while initially an appreciated novelty, it had gotten too hardcore lyrically and started using even heavier Jamaican dialect and less standard English making it harder to understand what was being said. It had also come under heavy criticism from the international markets due to the homophobic lyrical content which sought to bash, condemn and instigate violence against the act as well as those who supported or participated in the lifestyle. This led dancehall artists who were trying to break into the U.S. market, to fuse the dancehall style of toasting or deejaying over softer and predominantly pop and hip hop instrumentals as well as to diversify the content of their songs while moving away from homophobic lyrics. Traditional dancehall acts, such as Shaggy and Beenie Man experienced commercial success in the American markets with the release of their albums in 2000. Shaggy had previously experienced multiple chart successes in the '90s but it was his album, Hot Shot, that especially helped further propel the subgenre internationally, as his album spawned two #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, "It Wasn't Me" and "Angel".No Doubt's 2002 massive hit album Rock Steady, with worldwide reggae fusion hits such as "Underneath it All" featuring Lady Saw and "Hey Baby" featuring Bounty Killer, further propelled the subgenre's popularity to new heights. This was especially because it marked one of the first times a pop/ska punk act had made a complete reggae fusion album since the mid-'90s and opened up the genre to a new fan base as reggae fusion was, at that point, mainly utilized by reggae artists trying to break into the mainstream market and not by already established acts, such as No Doubt. The early 2000s also saw Sean Paul achieve tremendous success internationally with singles such as "Baby Boy", "Breathe", "Like Glue" and "Make It Clap", among many others. His albums Dutty Rock and The Trinity altogether spawned five top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits between 2002 and 2006, including the number one hits "Get Busy" and "Temperature". A few of these songs will be feature on the show, also my book "Bunt Walk" will be featured as well, as I share a few pieces from the book.