Following is an article about reggae dancehall star Beenie Man by Kimberly Parker, first published in the December 2001 issue of "Revolt In Style" Magazine.

Walking out onto the stage, his snakeskin outfit catches the rays of light from above, rolling off his clothing with the movement of his every step, as if to say…. Who am I? It is none other than the notorious Beenie Man. The crowd goes wild, awaiting a melody to come forth from his lips… he begins, his hips sway back and forth with his words, he hypes up the crowd and they follow his lead. The outcome? The crowd at the Belly Up Tavern is engulfed in a synchronized body rocking bliss.

All types of music influence our perspective on reality, yet beyond that realm is a higher level of music appreciation and understanding that everyone can benefit from, but few experience. Every category of music has this plateau, and I have recently embarked on a new journey, traveling from original reggae to new generation dancehall. To understand where B. Anthony Moses Davis' (aka Beenie Man) style comes from, one must realize the difference between reggae and dancehall music. According to the evolution of reggae on Jamaican reggae originated from New Orleans R&B. The true root of the music is Ska, which is the upbeat style first heard in the 60's by such bands as Toots and The Maytals and later brought to popularity by such British acts as English Beat.

All music is influenced by other genres, so it is no wonder that reggae is also a combination of American soul, blues, and rock music. Slowing down the tempo was the phenomenon that revolutionized this flow, transforming it into contemporary reggae, as we know it today. Drawing from Rastafarian ritual; drumming, chanting, and mysticism, the music's original focus is on the social, political and humanistic issues of the Rastafarian. Dancehall is a break off from this innovative sound, generating faster rhythms from the drum machines. Integrated with half singing half rapping lyrics. According to Moses, Dancehall is the "third generation form"(reggae music). Most of these artists by and large embrace the vibe and wisdom of true Rastafari. Upon close inspection Moses' unparalleled sound and satisfying style has drifted directions over the years, moving farther away from tradition with the release of each new album. Captivating harmony with levels in sync with hip-hop and rap inclusions, such as with his last album Art and Life (Virgin Records/Shocking Vibes Production). This album has many eminent contributors such as the track Love Me Now that incorporates the talent of Wyclef and Redman. Another that surpasses that track is Girls Dem Sugar featuring Mya, which climbed the charts earlier this year like wildfire. Shocking Vibes Production group Tanto Metro & Devonte, (whom are currently touring with Beenie) also featured in Some Tonight.

To fully evaluate my point concerning his change in style, two aspects of his life can be brought into play, early experience and controversy. At the age of five, he was already entering his dreams. As a toaster, he rocked the crowd with his spirit and high energy. Unsure of the true definition, he informed me "a toaster is a performer" adding "what I'm still doing today, entertaining the crowd." Toasters play an important roll in the history of reggae music but more importantly to the change into dancehall form. Toasters were in charge of hyping the crowd at shows, this was just his foundation into the music scene. Holding strong to that truth, he has evolved his sound to keep listeners on their toes.

Along with the entertaining viewpoint comes a controversy that may have opened his eyes to extend beyond tradition and more onto his own creative edge. Upon visiting African Leader Nelson Mandela in 1991, the crowd booed him off the stage for trying to ridicule the white oppressors, calling them the "Green Arm." After this unpleasant incident he retreated to the hills of St. James, Jamaica collected his thought, regained his self-confidence, and flourished in his music. Following such a down pour of negative energy, he came back twice as strong, with the release of hit single "Wicked Man." He told me his biggest driving force is himself, "you are your worst critic and you are your biggest confidence builder."

Adding to my argument is a comparison of three songs, an analysis of his lyrics and transformation over the years. "Blessed"(Shocking Vibes Production/Island Jamaica Records) 1995, "Many Moods of Mose"(Shocking Vibes/VP Records) 1997, and the most recent "Art And Life"(Shocking Vibes/Virgin Records) 2001.

Note: Some might find the lyrics offensive or controversial but the intent of this is to show change. Reading might be somewhat difficult but I kept it in original format for true content purposes.

The third verse from "Freedom" from the "Blessed" album touches on a need for times of change and calls attention to certain historical figures struggle for worldwide freedom

"in these times Mandela come an try it."
"Well him never reach far, prison wall di man face it."

The next line involves well-respected and influential speaker Malcolm X.

"Malcolm X try an a coppershot end it."

He outlines their outcomes, throwing in a twist stressing that musicians can speak their thoughts in their lyrics.

"Only we inna di music business can stop it."
"Follow Beenie Man and all live it."

This song confronts social and political issues that face our everyday existence. Two years later he released from the "Many Moods Of Moses" album "Who am I," which sky rocketed the billboard charts. The lyrics yells rap music to the observer and struggle and salvation are replaced with a simpler, less complex subject matter: girls and nice cars. Take a look at these next lines extracted from the middle of the second verse and make a decision for yourself.

"But that day you leave me and you gone
I know that girls they're going crazy"
"Now the girls dem attack me and di girls dem a rush mi
Because dem a drive in a Bimmer."

The central aspect of the song is summed up in those four lines. Where personalized subject matter mixed with hip-hop rhythms replaces the traditional themes. To conclude my analytical perception of his diversity, the first song "Haters And Fools" on his most recent "Art And Life" album focuses on jealousy. He enlightens his audience with his fierce but controlled reaction of being tired of resentful individuals misconstruing his reality and/or "playa hating."

"People playa hating otha people will it end, listen to my blend."

Also highlighting those that choose not to support his cause, to step back because he's running this place. Some additional lyrics to add to this idea are as follows:

"Tell dem come again, fake ass niggas they can neva be my friend."
"Back stabbing fool I think it's time you comprehend."
"Suh yuh waan fi run di place? Well yuh betta wait."

In showcasing these three different songs, you can visibly examine lyrical changes from each album to the next. He no longer highlights issues concerning Rastafarian culture, but captivates his audience sweeping them towards a new age form of dancehall music. In my opinion no other dancehall artist can compare to what level he has chosen to lead. Beenie Man is in a category of his own statue, with the perfect twist of hip-hop style to make you move. I look forward to his new album coming out early 2002. Listening to the witty new lyrics he will surprise us all with, in our ever-changing society.

Text & Concert Photos: Kimberly Parker
(Please do not reproduce without permission)

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