Reggae/Dancehall Fresh Picks of the Month: Lexxicon, Jimmy October, Jab King, Richie Spice & More

RMAG news

Slowly but surely, summer is starting to make its presence felt. With warmer temperatures and sun that hangs in the sky just tad bit longer with each passing day, the world around us is finally starting to resemble the sun-soaked sonics of Caribbean music — at least in NYC.

The big news in the worlds of dancehall, reggae, soca and their cousin genres came at the very end of the month with the announcement of the 2024 Caribbean Music Awards nominations. Dexta Daps leads the pack with a whopping eight nominations, including performer of the year (dancehall) and the people’s choice award. Vincentian singer-songwriter Skinny Fabulous follows with six nods, while Masicka, Yung Bredda, Bounty Killer and Machel Montano boast five nominations each. Other notable nominees include 2023 breakout star Byron Messia, Billboard cover star Teejay and international powerhouses Drake and Burna Boy.

In non-awards news, Buju Banton announced his first American show in 13 years, Nicki Minaj brought out Beenie Man at her Pink Friday 2 World Tour show in London, and Shenseea and Sean Paul were announced as featured artists on the forthcoming Bad Boys: Ride or Die soundtrack.

To help sort through all the new Caribbean music released in May, Billboard’s monthly Reggae/Dancehall Fresh Picks columns returns with a host of new selections for your listening and wining pleasure. Of course, as is the case across genres in today’s age, there’s an overwhelming amount of new music released every day, let alone every month. Naturally, this column will not cover every last track, but our Spotify playlist — which is linked below — will expand on the 10 highlighted songs.

Without any further ado, here are 10 tracks across reggae, dancehall and their cousin genres that are heating up both our personal playlists and late-night functions from Kingston to Queens:

Freshest Find: Lexxicon, “Batty Man Party”

Dancehall has been criticized for years for how inhospitable it can be for queer listeners and creators. With his infectious and rambunctious “Batty Man Party,” Lexxicon says “fiyah fi dat.” “We coming out and we pretty like a Barbie/ Short shorts, crop top, we go all in/ Bruk out, bruk out, like you a yardie/ Ready, ready fi di batty man party,” he chants over sparse drum-heavy beat. It’s not easy to make a party track and grand political statement, but Lexxicon pulls it off by balancing his nimble flow and catchy rhymes with a reclamation of homophobic terms like “battyman” and name-checking songs with similarly hurtful legacies like Banton’s “Boom Bye Bye” and T.O.K.’s “Chi Chi Man.” “No more hiding, not any longer/ Have a problem, just kiss mi bumpa/ No more hiding, not any longer/ Have a problem, guh suck yuh mada,” Lexxicon snarls.

Richie Spice, “Cool It”

Over laid-back reggae guitars and breezy percussion, Richie Spice calls for peace in a world desperately in need of it. “War in the east and war in the west/ War up north and war down south/ Tell me what is this all about,” he croons. His repeated chants of “cool it, cool it, cool it down” conjure up a sense of serenity that has shades of urgency on the edges. Richie isn’t just vocalizing empty musings of peace, his vocal performance is explicitly informed by how embattled the world around us is — from several ongoing genocides and environmental decay to how hostile we’ve become with each other as fellow global citizens.

Jimmy October, “Sweet Love”

Trinidadian singer-songwriter Jimmy October offers up a sultry summer vibe with his new single “Sweet Love.” Produced by Brooklyn Decent, “Sweet Love” recounts the age-old story that it will likely end up soundtracking many of by the end of August — a regular night turns into one filled with passion when a special lady catches Jimmy’s eyes. With a mix that skews towards the more synthetic feel of modern dancehall and a smoky vocal performance that encapsulates the sweet talk of a flirty evening, “Sweet Love” is tailor-made for heated summer nights.

Mykal Rose, Subatomic Sound System & Hollie Cook, “Put Down the Gun”

Calls for peace and unity are commonplace in reggae, but there will always be a new and fresh take on those concepts. With “Put Down the Gun,” the latest single from Subatomic Sound System, Mykal Rose and Hollie Cook’s forthcoming joint album, the three acts turn a local plea for nonviolence into something decidedly universal. “With everything going on, people need to understand that they can come together. Forget the gun. We tell them to put it down, but they think they can’t live without the gun,” Rose says in a press release. With Rose on lead vocals and Cook providing gorgeous background harmonies, the two singers paint beautifully over Subatomic Sound System’s urgent, passionate amalgamation of horns, drums and guitar.

Capleton & Derrick Sound, “Tired of the Drama”

In case it wasn’t clear by the end of the hook, Capleton is tired of the murder and very tired of the drama. Opting for a more aggressive approach to his calls for an end to various violent conflicts, Capleton’s iconic voice rings across Derrick Sound’s brooding brass-accented instrumentation. “Bun the war and the tribal/ And if you talk about the wave you have to talk about the tidal/ Bun the graven image, them and the idol/ Nuff go trend some a them wan go viral,” he proclaims. Despite the song’s heavy subject matter, Capleton simply can’t help but craft an infectious melody that, in turn, lodges the song’s message deep in the listener’s brain — it’s a songwriting masterclass.

Projexx, “Sweat”

Jamaican-born, Miami-based singer Projexx mixes dancehall and falsetto on his seductive new single “Sweat.” Featuring his sweet falsetto paired with steady Afropop kick drums and rimshots, “Sweat” is tailor-made for a slow wine in the corner of party, or for the duskier hours of a summer beach trip. Co-produced by Cadenza and Afrobeats powerhouse PDJ, the track cradles Projexx’s slinky melody with delicate background strings and guitar, touching on major sonic hallmarks of the Black diaspora. Born from a steamy text session that eventually spilled over into real life, “Sweat” is a knockout.

JussBussCamp feat. Ghaza, Sluwwy, Double R Muziq, Lowkey, Killy Muziq & Shorbeats, “Shake Down”

Vincentian record label JussBussCamp provided several hits for last year’s Carnvial season, and they’re looking to contine that momentum with this year’s “Shake Down.” The high-octane electro-soca track features Ghaza, Sluwwy, Double R Muziq, Lowkey, Killy Musiq — each of whom effortlessly owns their space across Shorbeats’ pounding power soca. “When JussBuss reach/ Shake down anybody you know/ Break down every party we go,” they sing in the hook, crafting an indelible hook that doubles as anthem for the dominant record label. Although there’s a football team’s worth of contributors on the track, “Shake Down” never feels crowded, the synergy between these artists simply doesn’t allow for that. Then again, in an innately communal genre like soca, there’s no room for individualistic ego anyways.

Voice, “Pray”

Voice’s “Pray” is one of this month’s more mellow selections, but his evocative vocal performance rightfully earns the track a spot on the column. Although Mega Mick’s synth-laden production moves the song away from any kind of analog feel, Voice’s heartbroken tone and reflective self-penned lyrics help ground the track. “It’s just me and I/ I can’t sleep at night/ Cause I bleed and cry/ I’s human too, I ask people to/ Pray for me,” he croons. For all of the prayers for world peace and nonviolence that dominate reggae tracks, Voice’s “Pray” is a welcome reprieve that, in turn, covers a much darker and more personal emotional space. He lays his heart bare on this track, essentially giving himself over to the mercy of other people’s prayers because, presumably, his alone aren’t enough. A heavy situation, for sure, but his vocal performance carries the full heft of that load with remarkable grace.

Jab King, “Jab Did”

For years, DJ Khaled has been one of the strongest links between contemporary dancehall and hip-hop. With “Jab Did,” Jab King pays tribute to the Billboard 200 chart-topper’s iconic “God Did!” exaltation while also delivering an irresistible soca-anthem. “Tell em believe in us/ Jab did, like DJ Khaled/ We going up from here,” he chants over Wetty Beatz’s fast-paced amalgamation of triumphant horns and militant drums. A road anthem with limitless crossover potential, “Jab Did” is yet another win for Grenadian soca.

Dat-C DQ & Skinny Fabulous, “Start”

Fresh off six 2024 Caribbean Music Awards nominations, Skinny Fabulous joins forces with Dat-C DQ for the official season-starter for Vincy Mas. “Start,” which features Suhrawh on production duties, is a rollicking soca anthem poised to take over the road this summer. With both Skinny and Dat-C DQ seamlessly switching up their flows to play with the different pockets of the power soca beat, the two artists showcase not just their individual virtuosity but also their palpable chemistry. “We does mash up tings” might as well be the party slogan of the year!

Tina (fka Hoodcelebrity), “Been Pretty”

“B–ch, I been pretty, you just became a bad b–ch/ Never sucked d–k, never f–ked for this s–t/ Hold my head high, when you see me I got the grip/ And I wish a b–ch would try some shit,” Tina (fka Hoodcelebrityy) opens her newest single, “Been Pretty.” Arriving just a few weeks after her sophomore full-length project, Tina vs. Hoodcelebrityy, the fiery new single finds Tina blending dancehall flows with New York rap cadences as she fires off warning shots to all of her haters and detractors. She floats over the Troyton Rami-produced beat with ease, placing herself at the musically rich intersection of hip-hop and dancehall — all cast under the shadow of a towering NYC attitude.