Reggae music enjoyed immense global appeal in the early 90s. Artists such as Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Bounty Killa and Beanie Man had an instantaneous appeal to millions around the world.
Reggae fans may be feeling disenchanted with the genre’s decline, but there are still some artists who have found their roots and are doing amazing things. Let us take a look at some of these hidden gems.
Gregory Isaacs – “Night Nurse”
Gregory Anthony Isaacs, better known by his stage name the Cool Ruler, was one of Jamaica’s greatest singers with over 125 albums released over four decades. His signature tune “Night Nurse,” first recorded in 1982 and still popular among reggae enthusiasts today, remains a timeless classic.
Isaacs, a veteran of local talent contests, made his recording debut in 1968 with a duet for pioneer producer Byron Lee. He later formed The Concords vocal trio with Winston Sinclair and Penroe Bramwell; they recorded a single for Rupie Edwards and Prince Buster before breaking up in 1970 to pursue solo endeavors.
He quickly made a name for himself in Jamaica’s lovers rock scene, with his 1973 single My Only Lover being widely considered the first lovers rock record to go global. His early output also included an album for Pre label and regular appearances at Reggae Sunsplash events across Jamaica.
His 1978 signing with Virgin Records’ Frontline label and role in Rockers seemed to promise an international career for him, yet his first two Frontline albums – Cool Ruler and Soon Forward – barely penetrated the international market. It wasn’t until 1981’s More Gregory that he made a lasting impact outside Jamaica.
Despite his success, he struggled with drug addiction and served a prison sentence for gun possession. In 1995 he returned to the studio and produced an exquisite set called Private Beach Party that featured a stunning duet with Carlene Davis.
Isaacs’ debut CD track, “Night Nurse,” showcases his elegant delivery and soothing tone. The Roots Radics provide just enough background funk to support Isaacs’s powerful performance.
This reissue is well worth listening to. It has been pressed on an exceptionally high quality vinyl with STERLING stamped on the deadwax. While there are occasional pops and clicks here and there, this release offers an overwhelmingly impressive sound quality.
Shinehead – “Strive”
“Strive” is an exemplary showcase of Shinehead’s ability to seamlessly incorporate various genres into his reggae-dancehall brand. He conveys the song’s empowering lyrics through both sung vocals and rapped verses, while DJ-ed hooks add extra layers of musical depth.
Shinehead was born in England and raised between the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica. From an early age he developed an appreciation for reggae and dancehall music from legendary Reggae artists like Tony Screw, African Love, Downbeat The Ruler, Rankin Joe, and Brigadier Jerry – all legendary Reggae/Dancehall greats.
He was particularly drawn to the raw musical elements of Hip Hop music, which he came to appreciate. He often attended Bronx-based Bboy Jams to take in its vibrant culture.
Shinehead was able to successfully combine his two cultural heritages – Jamaican and New York – into an iconic hybrid sound that is both uniquely original and deeply rooted in the culture of New York. He was one of the pioneers of this groundbreaking merger between rap and reggae, breaking barriers and opening doors for Reggae music to be placed on mainstream global platforms.
His debut album, Rough & Rugged, was an innovative recording that showcased Shinehead’s versatility and appreciation of musical metaphors. It featured songs that blended NYC-JA MC style, American soul music, and reggae rap together.
The second album, Unity, is even more impressive. It includes three tracks produced by Run – DMC’s Jam Master Jay and members of Roots Radics, plus two Sam Cooke-inspired tunes.
Overall, the album offers a potent combination of inspiring messages, socially aware lyrics and hilarious antics. Its impressive production values and upbeat attitude make it an ideal addition to any Reggae lover’s listening list.
Shinehead continues to amaze audiences at every age with his high-level performances and extensive touring schedule. The music legend has an adoring worldwide following, his timeless songs leaving a lasting impression on listeners. A true giant in the industry, Shinehead serves as an inspiration to generations yet unborn!