Murda She Wrote: This Month's Best Dancehall

The best new dancehall from the past month.


By Reshma B

Welcome to Murda She Wrote, P&P’s monthly round-up of the best new reggae and dancehall music. When it comes to reggae, the term “murda” is the highest compliment. At a time when reggae and dancehall sounds are all over the pop charts—often in the form of samples and interpolations—MSW brings you the raw uncut tracks, straight from Jamaica, London, New York, or wherever the baddest tunes take us.


It has been a minute since Stephen “Ragga” Marley released his Grammy-winning album, Revelation Part 1: The Root of Life. “I am a fan of music so anything influences me. Duke Ellington said, ’If it sounds good it’s good.’ So, you know, everything influences me,” he told me back when I visited his Florida recording studio The Lion’s Den during the early makings of The Fruit of Life.

Last Friday Stephen finally dropped the long-awaited Revelation Pt 2: The Fruit of Life. The 18-track album is diverse, ranging from reggae and hip-hop to straight-up pop club tunes, and features a wide range of collaborations including dancehall stars Bounty Killer, Sizzla, and Mad Cobra to rappers like Rakim, dead prez, and Waka Flocka. Of course his youngest brother, Jr. Gong, is in the mix as well, guesting on two different songs.

One of the tracks that played on repeat that day in the studio was “The Lion Roars,” a big, dramatic tune. Two different versions made the final album: the original track—which sounds like it could have been recorded in the middle of the Sahara desert—and a remix built from a funky guitar loop that features Stephen’s brother Ky-Mani and fellow Miamian Rick Ross. Rozay’s lyrics put you in the mood to lay back in the sunshine and reminisce about that special someone—the bars are reminiscent of his classic verse on Kanye’s “Devil In a Blue Dress,” but with an unmistakable island flavor.

When I asked Stephen if his new album was “all about the girls” he paused for a moment to think. “When my father made Kaya, a lot of people thought it was a love album and him never think it was a love album. But he had love songs on it,” he replied somewhat guardedly. But when he belts out the chorus, “The lion roars when she cries,” there’s no doubt he’s showing his true feelings, and it really tugs at the heartstrings. When asked if this song was inspired by any real life experiences, Stephen replied: “We live like lions…”


When Drake released his Views album, it was no surprise that it was laced with Popcaan slang. The Unruly Boss has been making waves for quite some time now, pioneering new catchphrases, hair styles, and of course, hit songs. No wonder Popcaan is, at the present moment, Jamaica’s hottest international dancehall artist.

On July 15, Popcaan celebrated his 28th birthday with a cake shaped like the World Cup trophy, in keeping with his new song “World Cup.” On this Not Nice-produced track Poppy speaks about his awareness of haters, openly admitting that his good fortune has made some people get “bad mind.”

“They don’t like when ghetto yute shell the world up,” he chats. “Watch the devil dem ah pray fi mi fail.” But in true Popcaan fashion, he uses his next breath to remind those same haters why he simply can’t be taken down. “But wi a number one—Nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh / Dem fi know Unruly a born winner / Ah we still ah win whooii! Ah we still a win!”

The whole world seems to be infatuated with Popcaan’s latest moves and signature catchphrases. But with the limelight comes responsibility, and Popcaan understands how important that is. “Them nah know Unruly wi born.” he sings. “Man a real ghetto idol. This thing is about survival.”

But of course Poppy doesn’t forget to enjoy the good stuff in life along the way. As long as he’s at liberty to do what he wants when he wants to, he’s going to take full advantage. “Mi pop Henny if mi waan / Fat up some pretty belly if mi waan,” he mentions on the track, “Work hard fi mi money so mi spend it how mi waan.”

The celebration of female body parts is a time-honored tradition in Jamaican music, and singing about what can be done with or to all of these parts is a staple for male and female dancehall artists alike. Spice has sung about every part of her anatomy with songs like “Needle Eye,” “Bend Ova,” and “Bumpa Jump”—but it seems like there is always room for more. Her latest release, “Indicator,” has already taken the dancehall world by storm within the first month of its release.

For years, female rappers from Lil Kim to Nicki Minaj have taken inspiration on their swag from the dancehall scene, from colored wigs to nipple covers to dance moves. Spice reps all aspects of dancehall chic to the fullest. Her annual performance at Reggae Sumfest has become a perennial highlight of the festival’s Dancehall Night—and this past Friday’s performance was no exception.

“Every year for Sumfest I get a good sum of money, but I never normally walk away with anything in my pocket” she told me “I spend it back whether it will be the dancers, the entrances or my big hair.”

“Indicator” is the British/Jamaican term for a car’s turn signal. “Left to the right move it like an indicator,“ Spice chats on the hook, and the “Indicator” video—featuring the artist and her crew of dancers moving their body parts to the rhythm of automobile indicator lights—shows why Spice is, as she would put it, “the baddest bitch in the game.”

For anyone trying to learn these moves, prepare yourself for a serious aerobic workout session. “It’s simple,” Spice said with a smile. “All you have to do is move move your butt cheeks, left-right, up-down. It’s very easy.”

Rising star Jahmiel is carving out a name for himself with a consistent flow of conscious lyrics voiced over the latest dancehall tracks. Picking up rapid popularity with hits like “Gain the World” and “Where Were You,” the young singer from Spanish Town has earned respect from heavy hitters like Mavado and Beenie Man—both of whom have invited him onto some major festival stages this year to perform a guest spot.

Jahmiel is not afraid to jump on any riddim he pleases. “I classify my music as reggae because of the messages, but my riddim different still,” he says. “Me nah work with rules in music. It’s about feel. What I feel that’s what I put out.”

Jahmiel’s latest track, “The Next Chapter,” on Good Good Productions’ Success Riddim, maintains his high lyrical standards. It’s a feel-good song celebrating the achievements that come with working hard. “Wi suffer no longer,” Jahmiel sings, “My struggles make me stronger. Me and mi team ah roll ah try achieve the goal. Overcome though the streets were really cold.” The result is a warm, uplifting feeling—Jahmiel takes satisfaction in his accomplishments while still remaining humble.


This month Busy Signal aka the “Turf President” went in, and his Soundcloud has been on fire. As usual there is something for everyone, from party tunes to comedy, sex, and romance.

But you’ll be reminded of Busy’s real side when you click on “Naah Use Dem.” Taking it all the way back to his early hit “Step Out,” Busy kicks off this cut with a line that makes it clear Busy means business. “Step out inna me black pon black / head hot mi nuh chat / place lock / bwoy diss a duppy dat…” (“Duppy” is a Jamaican term for ghost, which would imply that dissing may be hazardous to your health.)

Even as he spits his intricate warrior flow, Busy keeps his “eyes upon the prize” fully aware that the more he makes moves, the less he can trust anybody. “From you shakey you gone expire,” A reminder to all how difficult it can be to find true loyalty—especially at the top.

When high school classmates David Hayle and Jordan McClure first established Chimney Records, they specialized in hardcore dancehall tracks like Vybz Kartel’s “Trailer Load of Money,” the hit that first put the label on the map back in 2008. The Chimney sound has evolved over time to embrace one-drop reggae like 2012’s “Tropical Escape” riddim, and brighter “island pop” sounds like 2013’s “Rising Sun” riddim.

Since then, they’ve nurtured a highly polished sound that combines an international sensibility with lyrics by the best of Kingston’s dancehall talent. Their latest release, entitled the “Toll Road” riddim, is a sparse, mid-tempo track constructed of bright shiny synthesizer chords and sharp drum hits.

Beenie Man’s “Brain Hot” and Demarco’s “Party Wild” are sure to become the soundtrack for countless pool parties this summer, while Alkaline’s “Block and Delete” and Tifa’s “Side Chick Upgrade” are every bit as scandalous as you want them to be. Tarrus Riley and Fambo’s “Love Issues” is a mobile phone-savvy relationship drama, while “Money Girls and Fun” finds Mavado taunting his haters.