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Stonebwoy had nothing much to prove when he and his entourage—known as the BHIM Nation—rolled up on a fleet of motorbikes this past weekend to a highly anticipated battle with fellow artist, Shatta Wale, his biggest rival for the title of Africa's Dancehall King. Stonebwoy has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Ashaiman, a seaside town on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city of Ghana.
The internationally renowned West African artist developed his own distinctive musical style, which he describes as Afro-Dancehall, fusing Jamaican dancehall and patois with Afrobeats, hip hop slang, and the local dialect Ewe. He established his own independent company, the Burniton Music Group, as well as a charitable organization, the Livingstone Foundation. He's also earned numerous accolades over the course of his career. He was named Best International Act at the 2015 BET Awards. He has won several Ghana Music Awards, including Artist of the Year. He collaborated with Morgan Heritage on the group's Grammy-nominated 2017 album Avrakedabra and recorded singles with many of Jamaica's top dancehall artists, including Grammy-winners Sean Paul and Beenie Man. His latest album, Anloga Junction, features a hit collab with VIBE cover artist Keri Hilson as well as Nasty C, a South African rapper who signed to Def Jam in March.
Stonebwoy entered the clash arena wearing a full-face gas mask, leaving no doubt that he was taking this competition very seriously. Sponsored by Ghana's Ministry of Health and broadcast by Asaasse Radio in Accra, the virtual clash between him and Shatta Wale was designed to raise proceeds to "crush COVID 19"—but Stonebwoy's mask was more suited for mortal combat than preventing Coronavirus. The first of the 40 songs he unleashed against his nemesis was a hard-hitting new freestyle called "Blaze Dem." Shortly after the clash, Stonebwoy released a music video for the track, featuring visual highlights from the hard-fought battle against Shatta, which has been compared to the epic Verzuz clash between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer.
Best known to international audiences for his appearance on "Already," a Major Lazer–produced from Beyonce's album Black is King, Shatta's provocative style included theatrics, personal insults, and throwing money all over the stage. Stonebwoy, on the other hand, let his melodies, lyrics, and big tunes do the talking. You can watch the full battle here, and stay tuned for Stonebwoy's live chat with Reshma B of Boomshots today at 2 pm ET / 6 pm GT on VIBE's Instagram Live.
Stream his latest album, Anloga Junction, on Apple Music, Spotify, and/or Tidal.
The voice you hear speaking on the haunting first track of Skip Marley’s debut EP Higher Place is that of his legendary grandfather Robert Nesta Marley, who once went by the nickname “Skip” himself. “Is something higher,” Bob once said in a 1979 interview, seeking to explain the magnitude of a profound worldwide reckoning that he knows is coming. “Is something no man can stop.”
On the title track of his EP, which was released last week on Tuff Gong / Island Records, Skip sings of his own burning desire to go higher. So what is this higher place all about? “The betterment of mankind,” Skip explained during a recent telephone call from Miami. “A world community where each one do him part and live right and live upful as we should. And it nah go’ happen unless you make that decision today. Cause it start within you first. For yourself. And you have to take I and I higher, forward.”
During a year that’s brought so many downward vibrations, it’s more than a little bit refreshing to hear such optimistic energy. For the past five years, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has made that sort of thing his specialty. “Music with a message is the music we love,” says Skip. “Good vibrations. Positivity. Conscious influence of the heart and the mind and the soul. Yeah. Blessed are the singers and the players. Can’t take this lightly.”
When your mom is Cedella Marley, Bob’s firstborn child and a founding member of the Melody Makers, and your father’s aunt is Marcia Griffiths, one of Jamaica’s most revered singers and a member of Bob Marley’s harmony trio the I Three, taking music lightly isn’t really an option. Yet somehow Skip has found a way to carry the great expectations effortlessly, even as he holds himself to the highest standards.
Today, VIBE and Boomshots bring you a first look at the visuals for “Make Me Feel,” one of the standout tracks off the new EP. The song featuring vocals by Dreamville’s own Ari Lennox and a verse courtesy of the biggest Bawse that you’ve seen thus far. “‘Make Me Feel' is all about getting through the tough times together,” says Skip. “Everybody has been stuck inside, so for the video we wanted to bring some big outside vibes and show that even though there are challenges, we have love, we have music, we have sport, and we have each other. Give thanks to Rick Ross the boss and Ari Lennox for doing what they do.” The video was directed by Lacey Duke, who also helmed “Slow Down,” Skip’s sultry duet with H.E.R. That song topped Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs chart, making Skip the first Jamaican-born artist to reach such heights. With “Slow Down” in heavy rotation at radio, Skip also became the first Jamaican artist since Sean Paul to reach the Top 15 on Billboard’s airplay charts for Hip Hop and R&B.
Like all of Skip’s creations thus far, “Make Me Feel” is rooted in reggae but flows freely through R&B and hip hop. For him, it’s all about feel. “One good thing about music,” his grandfather once sang, “When it hits you feel no pain.” Skip could not agree more. “That is real,” he says adamantly. “If it no have the feeling, it’s not true.” He cites another Bob Marley interview—clearly the young lion has been doing his research—in which the Tuff Gong observes that “Nuff man wan’ play reggae. But them can’t capture the feeling.” This is the crux for Skip. “It’s a feeling you know, for the music. You can make it sound like, yeah, but if your heart is not in it, why do it?” Why indeed?
Skip Marley's Higher Place EP is on all streaming platforms.
You know how when you blaze a spliff in the morning and you hold “a vibe,” but then later on, you forget what you did the whole rest of the day? Protoje's new album is kinda like that. It's titled In Search of Lost Time and rolling out via his Indigg Collective partnership with RCA. That's a big deal. When was the last time a Jamaican artist set up their own international joint venture? Take a minute, think about it, and let us know if you can think of anybody else ever.
Protoje's always been about his business. Back in 2016, he told Boomshots, "If you can't own your masters, lef' the slaveship." So he stuck with that vision and leveraged an agreement for himself and Indigg artists Lila Ike and Sevana. Respect is due for making moves to ensure that reggae music is treated with respect. Fresh off his collaboration with the Unruly Boss "Like Royalty," Protoje is back with another high-profile combination. For the latest joint off In Search of Lost Time, Diggy links with Wiz Khalifa for a smoked-out session that could only be called "A Vibe."