Commentary: Reggaeton more bankable for young Jamaican producers and musicians than reggae-dancehall

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Donovan Watkis is the creator and host of World Music Views on TVJ. For more check out the JR Watkis podcast or follow him @jrwatkis

By Donovan Watkis

Top producer Rvssian is leading the pack of artistes who are gravitating more to the reggaeton genre. Rvssian’s music has been streamed over one billion times on YouTube alone and his top viewed song is “Krippy Kush” featuring reggaeton artistes Farruko, and Bad Bunny has been streamed over 600 million times. The song got so popular that Niick Minaj and Travis Scott got on the remix six months ago.

Rvssian is best known in Jamaica for producing Vybez Kartel’s hit songs such as “Clarks remix” and “Straight Jeans and fitted” that has just over 25 million views on YouTube.

I like it like that by Cardi B is the number one song presently on the Billboard 200 charts. The song is a salsa, trap-infused track produced by Reggaeton producer Tainy from Puerto Rico.

Jamaica shares a close relationship with Latin countries like Costa Rica and Panama. Originally Jamaican migrants in these countries started to do the dancehall-reggae music in Spanish and called it Reggae en Espanol. It wasn’t until it reached Puerto Rico that the name changed to reggaeton.

What is now known as reggaeton, however, was developed from the Bobby Digital Kukumkum Dancehall beat, and the song “Dem Bow” by Shabba Ranks, was written by Stevie and Cleavy. The song was placed on Shabba’s “Just Reality” album in 1990.
Shabba Ranks himself once dominated the music industry. After winning two Grammy awards for best reggae album, he was mercilessly renounced by the international media interests, after he went on the British television program and uttered anti-gay sentiments.

Since then, “Dem Bow” has inspired a plethora of remixes across the Latin American communities in Puerto Rico and New York. The wider Latin community has a population of over 500 million and they have completely erased Stevie, Cleavy and Shabba Ranks’ original anti-establishment messages to place reggaeton at the top of the international charts.

J Balvin went platinum in a day recently with his reggaeton album “Vibras” and Bad Bunny, Casper has been at the top of the YouTube charts for over six months with billions of views.

With Rvssian producing and making multiple international hits for himself, the prodigal son of reggae music, reggaeton has now found its way back to its original roots in Jamaica, with more artists taking their chances in the genre.

Rre recently dropped her latest single Loco which is a highly influenced by the modern reggaeton. She said, “An entry into reggaeton as an entry into the International music scene.”

Konshens has done reggaeton songs as far back as 2016. He has received over 200 million streams on YouTube within the last year and many of those streams came from Colombia and Mexico, two of the biggest reggaeton markets.

S.L.A.S.H.E., formerly known as Iceman, dropped his salsa-reggaeton ballad “Work that Body” last Monday, July 2. Slashe said he “wanted to try something different, outside of the ‘reggae box’ and infiltrate other markets”.

That difference is being felt by all the major distributors of music. Spotify’s reggaeton playlists that were initially curated for a niche market is one of the most streamed globally.

Spotify’s head of global cultures, shows and editorial-content, Rocio Guerrero said via splinterners.com that “the reggaeton genre today is bigger than any other Latin genre and it is being played in Singapore, London, all over the world by even non-Latin people.”

With reggaeton’s trending successes and full integration into the industry, Guerrero attributes that to the genre’s shift to a more melodic sound and ‘women seducing lyrics’.

Much of the dancehall-reggae music’s active consumption has been embarrassingly poor on the international charts in the past decade and the genre has not been able to make superstars at the rapid pace that reggaeton is currently doing.

Bob Marley’s music has been at the top of the Billboard charts for over 20 years. Even though there are many wholesome artists like Tarrus Riley, much of the music that comes from Jamaica as dancehall-reggae is still viewed as threatening music with less family-friendly tones.

Reggaeton, on the other hand, has created for itself a ready audience with hundreds of millions of people addicted to the sounds, with the power to pay for streaming services and concert tickets.

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