Due to the very nature of dancehall music, it becomes almost impossible to single out which is the most influential track of all time. The culture of competing is ever-present and is a distinguishing characteristic compared to other music genres. The whole culture of clashes/battles emanated back in the early 90s when lines were drawn amongst deejays vying for the top spot as to who ruled the roost. That is why there is always the question as to who is the king or queen of dancehall.
There have been memorable battles over the years. From the face-off between Bounty Killer and Beenie Man in 1993 at the Sting Festival to Ninja Man vs Super Cat. Dancehall newbies will talk about the beef between Alkaline and Squash which got personal last year to the extent where their death threats became more sinister than they were intended to be. And last but not least we cannot forget the onstage clash between Vybz Kartel and Mavado in 2009.
With all this in mind, this has bred a culture of constant innovation and ingenuity. And is probably the reason why dancehall artists constantly churn out music. There is no other genre that produces so much music on a weekly basis and this is apparent not just in the Caribbean but dancehall all over the world. So for starters. I would like to put the spotlight on the genre for the most influential tracks of the current century. The genre emanated from Jamaica back in 1977 from reggae and ska music. And has been carried by various deejays including the likes of Shabba Ranks, Ninja Man and Capleton who may not feature on the list below.
Find the list below of the top ten most influential and accomplished tracks from the year 2000 to date. Just bear in mind it is not in any particular order as I failed to ascertain a criteria as to fully distinguish their correct order.
Beenie Man – Who am I (Sim Simma)
“Sim Simma, who’s got the keys to my Bima”
The iconic opening line of the track is remembered today by most dancehall fans for one of Beenie Man’s legendary tracks from 2001. It probably did wonders for BMW sales all over the world and will be remembered for years to come.
Wayne Wonder – No Letting Go
“Got somebody she’s a beauty
Very special really and truly
Take good care of me like it’s her duty
Want you right by my side night and day”
Wayne Wonder really laid it on us in 2002 with this catchy tune and I’m sure most dancehall fans will sing along to the chorus whenever they hear this track. The track came at a time when Wayne was dropping music constantly with hits like No letting Go on Diwali Riddim and Bounce Along. Presently, Wayne has kind of fallen off. However, these tracks will be remembered for a while and he fully deserves his spot on the list.
Elephant Man – Pon De River
The Energy God announced himself once again to the world with a bang and the dance routines epitomise the dance culture in the Caribbean. The 2007 track did its rounds around the world and will be remembered for its catchiness and genius dance routine.
Vybz Kartel – Clarkes
Most dancehall fans will testify to going out and buying a pair of Clarkes shoes after listening to Vybz Kartel’s track in 2007. The track came at a time when the Worl’Boss reinvented the genre and dominated the scene with his nemesis Mavado. It is not his best ever track. However, the influence it had with non-dancehall fans was profound and has earned him a spot on this list.
Gyptian – Hold You
Classifying Gyptian as a one-hit-wonder would be a tad bit harsh. But, he has not made another song with the same impact as his 2010 hit Hold You. The track was constantly played on nearly all radio stations and deserves a spot on the list. The simple track with a simple tune proved to be classic for lovers and should be remembered for years to come.
Damian Marley & Stephen Marley – The Mission
The list would not be complete without any Marley influence and here we have both of Bob Marley’s sons featuring with The Mission. The track resonated well with dancehall lovers standing as a lesson for the rasta faithful. Both brothers laid into the track preaching a conscious message. In addition, the track gets people amped once it starts playing in dancehall clubs and arenas.
Mavado – Gyal A Mad Ova
The track needs no introduction and stands as one of Mavado’s best tracks. In 2010 at the peak of his powers Mavado showcased his talent at a time where it was all about him and Vybz Kartel. The track has converted many dancehall non-believers and is still is a go-to track for most deejays in the club.
Tony Matterhorn – Dutty Wine
When you want to up the tempo at a party Tony Matterhorn’s Dutty Wine will definitely do the trick. Girls seem to always lose it when the track plays and it is also a deejays favourite. Matterhorn never reached the levels of Kartel or Buju but deserves respect from the dancehall fraternity.
Serani – No Games
Rapper Eminem recently sampled Serani’s 2007 track on his new album. Showing the impact the track had back in 2007. Just like Gyptian. Serani may not have a better track as it seemed to tick all the boxes garnering a lot of traction from all over the world. Serani did himself a lot of favours here and deserves a look in on the list. And I am sure the track will continue to have a following for years to come.
Sean Paul – Gimmie The Light
“Just gimme the light and pass the dro
Buss anotha bokkle a moe”
Last but not least, there is Mr Sean Paul with Gimmie The Light. To be fair Sean may have deserved more picks on this list like Temperature, We Be Burning and Like Glue. However, I have just kept it simple with the one track. The track came off his iconic album Dutty Rock and stands as one of the most influential dancehall tracks of the 21st century. The tracked earned worldwide recognition and had many music lovers across the board singing along to the catchy chorus. Sean continues to make hit records and you cannot put it past him to make another banger with the same kind of impact.