THE YEAR 2023 started out on a sombre note when Khalif Lawrence, the son of dancehall star Aidonia and his wife Kimberly Megan, was laid to rest during a funeral service held at the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew on Saturday, January 7th.
Wayne Marshall performed his 2018 hit ‘Glory to God’ and there was nary a dry eye in the church.
Later on in the year, those frowns turned upside down with news that Kimberly Megan and Aidonia are now expecting a son whose arrival is set for 2024. It was a year of highs and lows.
At the start of the year, Valiant was the hottest artiste in January, with nine out of top ten songs on Youtube, racking up over 11.6 million views in that month alone, but as the year wore on, his influence would decline as other stars emerged.
One of those stars was Byron Messia, the Jamaican-born, Kittian star whose hit, Talbians dominated charts and urban radio.With his scorching hot single, Talibans, Byron Messia had the biggest hit of the year with the Ztekk Records and EJ Fya-produced track. The video soared to 60 million views, and the song peaked at No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts after the Burna Boy remix boosted streams and sales. The Talibans sing also spent numerous weeks in the top 40 in Britain.
Messia was moved to St. Kitts and Nevis at two months old and has lived there since. His characterization of his hit song as Afrobeats and not dancehall provoked a lively debate. While it is left to be seen if he is a one-hit wonder, Messia conjured up a catchy song that will likely be played outside and streamed for years to come.
Another breakout song was Teejay’s Summer hit, Drift, which finally hit the Billboard charts in November. The single hit R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart at #41, debuted at #37 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and also hit the Rhythmic Top 40 Airplay. The song went viral on TIK TOK with over 20 million views. On the strength of this hit, Teejay inked a deal with Warner Music Group in Manhattan, New York.
Another high point of the year was the successful Chris Brown Under the Influence concert at the National Stadium. The international artiste delivered a stellar performance for patrons at the Chris Brown and Friends Under the Influence concert, which was the final event of BZR Weekend. The Girls Aint Loyal singer also spent some time in Tivoli Gardens before jetting off.
In February, Kabaka Pyramid won the best reggae album at the 65th Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, California for his album, The Kalling. His sophomore project, was one of the five albums nominated in the best reggae album category for the annual Grammy Awards. Last year’s award was won by US based band Soja.
In early March, radio broadcaster Arif Cooper died suddenly while playing at a 90s party early in the morning at the Police Officers Club in St Andrew. Spectators and other personnel attempted to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful. Eventually, cops and paramedics fashioned a makeshift gurney to transport him to the hospital, but he was eventually pronounced dead at the UHWI.
The Cooper family would also lose Arif’s father, musician and music educator Kingsley Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper who died on October 12th, only weeks after the death of his wife, Althea ‘Joy’ Cooper. Ibo Cooper, who was a member of reggae/pop band Inner Circle as well as a founding member of reggae band Third World, had been married to Joy for 50 years.
In late March, gospel singer Jermaine Edwards’ decade-old hit Beautiful Day benefitted from a social media fillip and surged up charts in the United States.The song was re-released in February, with additional vocals from Rushawn and Prinz. The gospel song charted on the UK’s Official Top 100 (it peaked at number 63) and made it to number 26 on the US Afrobeats Songs chart, and peaked at seven on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart.In March, dancehall artiste Tommy Lee Sparta wasreleased from prison after serving two years of his sentence He served at least two years and three months in prison after a gun possession conviction in 2021.Kiprich found himself a victim of a robbery at an Air B N B in March in Portmore. He eventually regained possession of his Rolex and other items just days afterwards but he did not, however, recover the US$50,000 cash that was stolen.
In April, dancehall artiste Laden was released from prison after serving more than two years for gun possession.
The entertainer, whose real name is Okeefe Aarons, was convicted in December 2020
In May, news emerged that dancehall star Vybz Kartel, is reportedly suffering from an autoimmune disorder known as Graves disease. Isat Buchanan, Kartel’s lawyer, said that the entertainer’s condition is allegedly exacerbated by a 23-hour prison lockdown placed on the deejay following the discovery of cellphones within his cell.
In other news, Vybz Kartel’s attorneys won an expedited appeal hearing for the incarcerated Fever artiste and three other men.
The hearing will take place in the United Kingdom-based Privy Council—Jamaica’s final appellate court—between February 14 and 15, 2024.
Kartel is one of four men currently serving life sentences for the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.
Also in May, former Scare Dem crew member Boom Dandimite died after being readmitted to a medical institution in the US after suffering a relapse to his recovery from a terrible car accident in April.
In July, entertainer Jahshii found himself embroiled in controversy after police alleged that an attempt was made on his life. Returning home after his own birthday party, armed men shot up a vehicle in which six men, members of the 25/8 artiste’s entourage, were travelling. Jahshii had left the venue in another car. Online bloggers claimed that the Born Fighter was being targetted by a don from Grants Pen because of a simmering family feud.
News also emerged in July that veteran dancehall deejay Mad Cobra was slapped with drug and gun possesion charges and held in the Florence County detention centre. The Flex deejay was granted bail in the sum of US$125,000. Brown, who is is known for the hit singles Press Trigger, Dis Dem Anyweh, Dun Wife and Defend It, is reportedly facing 25 to 30 years in prison for the charges.
South Carolina has tough penalties for the distribution of large amounts of cocaine. Over 400 grams carries a fine of $200,000 and 25-30 years in prison.
In September, there was an ugly incident where General B was beaten during a fracas that brought Boombox Freestyle Fridays to an unceremonious closure.
In September, dancehall icons Bounty Killer and Baby Cham pulled out all the stops as they unveiled their Time Bomb EP, a collaboration with super- producer Dave Kelly. Later that month, Bounty Killer announced that his UK visa had been reinstated allowing him to travel to the UK to promote the EP.
Beenie Man returned with a bang with a new album, Simma, seven years after his last studio album — 2016’s Unstoppable.Critics raved about Beenie’s latest star-studded, genre-bending opus which featured collaborations with names such as Shenseea, Shaggy, Giggs and Stonebwoy. The album was later nominated for a Reggae Grammy.
Beenie Man experienced a major revival on social media as his classic 1997 hit single “Who Am I,” became the soundtrack for one of social media’s most popular music trends as La La Anthony recently used the challenge, aptly named #SimSimmaChallenge, to quiz famous friends like Kelly Rowland, Ciara and Kim Kardashian on their knowledge of Beenie Man’s Sim Simma song.
There was great news for reggae as it emerged that Capleton will make a triumphant return to the United Kingdom for the first time in 13 years, thanks to a recently granted work permit.
The year closed with great news for dancehall as Masicka’s ‘Generation of Kings’ album, released through Def Jam Recordings on December 1, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart, behind Bob Marley and The Wailers’ Legend.
The album recorded 3,500 units in combined sales and streaming during its first week, according to data provided from Billboard’s sales tracker Luminate. This was a slight increase from Masicka’s previous album, 438, which also debuted at No. 2 with 2,864 units moved during its first week in 2021. As of November 2023, 438 has recorded 50,000 units in the US.
In December, Aidonia released a special ‘project’ dubbed Occupied Mind, a 23 track effort which is a body of work dubbed ‘Occupied Mind’ which was compiled in the aftermath of the passing of his late son Khalif Lawrence.
The 4th Genna head honcho also announced that he will be taking a hiatus from recording music following the release of the Occupied Mind project, he will be taking a hiatus from music for a few months to focus on family and the birth of his forthcoming child.
PERSONS WHO DIED IN 2023Boom DandimiteArif Cooper, Ibo and his wifeNeville GarrickBass guitarist Earl “Bagga” Walker died on Thursday in Maryland at age 75.
Gully BopClaudette KempDr. Richard Kirkwood, a member of Casual-T, the ‘80s singing group comprising medical doctors, died on March 2 in New York. He was 76. He had recently retired and was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2021. Benjamin ZephaniahAl’Qual