V Opinion: Spragga Benz's 'Shotta Culture' Is The 'Detox' Of Dancehall

Spragga Benz and master producer Salaam Remi finally unveiled their epic album Shotta Culture this Tuesday. A full 10 years in the making, Shotta Culture is like the dancehall Detox: Long-awaited, much-anticipated, and well worth the wait.

The rest of the album is all killer, no filler, straight boomshots from top to bottom. Featured guests include Nas, Stephen Marley, Jazmine Sullivan, Marcia Griffiths, Queen Ifrica, Jah Cure, Sizzla Kalonji, and Tity Boi of Playaz Circle. But what stands out most is the sound of the record—an irresistable blend of raw rub-a-dub, digital dancehall, and a gritty hip hop edge—and Spragga virtuosos DJ skills, filling every riddim with his versatile vocabulary and crazily insane flows.

Spragga dropped by 8 Bond Studios in Manhattan recently to break down the evolution of this landmark album, which is being released independently on the Boomtunes imprint.

Because the album was written and recorded over such a lengthy span of time, the lyrics reflect Spragga’s changing mindset over the years. One of the earliest tracks, the unrepentant gangsta tune “This Is The Way,” was originally recorded as a soundtrack cut for Shottas, which sold over a million copies in its official release, to say nothing of its enormous bootleg audience. 

Spragga’s worldview evolved over the years as he embraced the Rastfarian faith and his music showed the emergence of a deeper consciousness. And then, two years ago this past August 23, Spragga’s firstborn child, Carlton “Carlyle” Grant Jr., age 17, was shot dead by police in Kingston, Jamaica.

Carlyle was a gifted youth with a world of possibilities before him. By the age of 11, he had already appeared in the opening scenes of Cess Silvera’s hit 2002 film Shottas, vividly portraying the childhood version of Wayne, the character played by his father in the rest of the film. But Carlyle’s exposure to show business did not distract him from his studies. 

An outstanding student at Camperdown High, by the summer of 2008, he had just completed fifth form—the Jamaican equivalent of the last year of high school—and scored high marks on his CXC exams (Caribbean Examinations Council) qualifying him for advanced study in any number of different fields. “Carlyle had many doors open to him,” says his father. “Only Jah know what he really would have done.”

Carlyle and a friend were riding their bicycles along Church Street in downtown Kingston when they were ordered to stop by police. According to eyewitness reports Carlyle and his friend stopped and raised their hands as instructed but nevertheless shots rang out and Carlyle suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The 17-year-old was taken to hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. Police alleged that one of the youths had fired a gun at them but after a thorough investigation, two policemen now face murder charges in Carlyle’s death.

While the Jamaican judicial system continues its slow march toward justice, Spragga has established the Carlyle Foundation, which provides scholarships, and holds an annual concert called Life Fest in his son’s honor. continued to honor his son through music. On songs like “Livication” he pours out the raw emotion of a grieving father who must summon his will turn away from thoughts of revenge: “Me trust in the Most High,” he sings “so to Him me leave all vengeance.”

The healing process continues in the soaring song “Stays The Same” featuring Stephen Marley and Jazmine Sullivan. Spragga sings of a love that lives on through pain and the sorrow:

“I still wish we had a little more time / I still wish it was a bad dream just all in my mind / But the reality is that we all face time / We never know who’s gonna be in front of us line / And now the tragedy’s mine / And it won’t help by crying / I love you then I love you now / I love you all of the time.”

If that’s not the realest thing Spragga ever wrote, I don’t know what is. —Rob Kenner

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T-Pain Talks Upcoming Battle With Lil Jon

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VIBE: I just spoke to Swizz and Timbo yesterday, and they were saying that some of these battles were difficult to set up, in part because some of the artists were scared to lose. What made you participate in this?

T-Pain: Well for one, I don’t see it as competition. I know the public sees it as competition, but I see it as a celebration of history. If all these people are going hits for hits, it’s not about who has the biggest hits. We had hits! There’s millions of millions of people who would pay to even be in these battles or be mentioned in the name of the people who are doing these battles. We all had hits. It’s not really a competition about who has the bigger song, it’s about two people getting together that actually had hits. That’s pretty difficult to do, to run for as long as anybody that’s been doing the competition is running. Like I said, I don’t see it as a competition; I see it as a celebration. Either way, the people win. Win or lose, it ain’t gon change my life tomorrow. (laughs) Even if they see it as me losing, I’m still T-Pain after that. Those hits still exist.

Have you watched all the other battles?

Oh of course. I’ve been tuned in crazy.


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Tomorrow who you got ???? @tpain vs @liljon ........... VERZUZ.... 9pm est

A post shared by No Breaks In 2020 (@therealswizzz) on Apr 3, 2020 at 4:19pm PDT

Which have been the best to you?

The obvious one. (laughs) Fucking Dream and Sean Garrett is my favorite one, just cuz of how Sean was tripping for a while. (laughs) But it made for a good show, and we got to hear a lot of dope records that a lot of young people not only didn’t know about, but that even older people forgot about. Like I said, the people watching are the real winners. Nobody’s really going against each other. It’s a competitive industry as it is, and we proved our point by putting out the hits in the first place. Seeing Sean and Dream go against each other, two of the greatest hip-hop/R&B songwriters of our generation, it’s a great thing to see.

One element from these battles is that they’ll bring out songs that the audience didn’t know that they did. Do you think there are a lot of songs you’ve done that people don’t associate with you?

There’s a ton of those. People don’t even know that I produce my own sh*t. People don’t look at credits no more. It’s a bunch of country records I did that I’m not even trying to put out there that I did. It’s an honor to do it, I just don’t look for that kind of props. I know what I did, the check’s coming in, I’m fine if people don’t do that.

What kind of strategy are you looking at for this?

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At first, the matchup was going to be you and Scott Storch. Did you feel any way when they switched it?

Nah, not really. I understood. It made complete sense. They said they didn't want it to be a pure producer against a songwriter. Even Lil Jon is a songwriter, he's on a lot of the songs that he's going to play. It's not pure production against songwriting, you wouldn't have anything to compare. I like keeping it the way it makes sense. Give me someone who's written a verse before.

That’s all the questions I have for you. 

This was probably supposed to be way more controversial than this. (laughs)

(Laughs) I wasn't expecting controversy, you're not a controversial guy.

I'm not, man. I wish I could come in this b*tch like “I’ma kill this ni**a, ima murder that motherf***er.” But nah, the ni**a got slaps for real. (laughs) Ni**a got slaps. I can't wait to hear em. I know he's gonna have a DJ set up, he's gonna come in there screaming all over my goddamn phone. I'm more excited to have fun on live with Jon, I ain't seen Jon in a while. I'm more excited about that than the competition.

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View the video above and stream Lede's album below.

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