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My Year of Mixtapes Week 45: Turn-of-the-Century Ragga

My Year of Mixtapes Week 45: Turn-of-the-Century Ragga

Playing tracks by

MERCILESS, General Degree, Spragga benz, Mr Vegas, Beenie Man and more.

Before about 1993, dancehall and ragga had always been firmly rooted in traditional reggae aesthetics: dancehall (even digi) was essentially just reggae or dub, but stripped down and with DJs/singjays/toasting instead of traditional sung vocals. In the mid-'90s, dancehall took a pretty sharp left turn into some really odd areas—new producers like $ham$, Ward 21, Tony CD Kelly, and some veterans like Steelie & Clevie started turning out riddims that bore scant resemblance to reggae. These things were weird, synthy, minimalistic, and borrowed heavily from big room techno and American R&B. Somebody could write a whole thesis about how much these dancehall dudes influenced folks like Timbaland and the Neptunes, and then how much said R&B producers influenced the Jamaicans back, and how that whole weird feedback loop has led to a world of Top 40 tunes that sound like a Bollywood version of Kraftwerk.

Anyway, here is a mix of some of my fave stuff from that mid-'90s to early-'00s era.

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