How Dancehall took over the World

Even if it doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, the influence of Dancehall can be felt throughout the entirety of mainstream pop culture today. The sound percolates through Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Drake, and even the Yorkshire-born Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. Female musicians are dressing like ‘90s Dancehall Queens - Beyonce’s Nusi Quero look on the cover of RENAISSANCE wouldn’t have looked out of place on a ‘90s Dancehall Queen, and neither would most of the fits in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s video for WAP

What many might not know, though, is that Dancehall, despite its oft-dirty lyrics and overt sexuality, is a culture born of resistance. As artist and historian Fiona Compton explains in this episode, it’s “poor people’s music”. Emerging from the 1970s soundsystem parties of Kingston, Jamaica, its lyrics are often just as much social and political commentary as they are rude.

In this episode, i-D’s Osman Ahmed talks to Sean Paul about his musical career, the influence of Reggae, what’s happening now and what we can expect for Dancehall in the future. Fiona Compton contextualises the genesis of Dancehall culture and its role in female empowerment within Jamaica. The designer Bianca Saunders, who grew up in South London’s Caribbean community, explains the importance of fashion to Dancehall parties, and Matteo Bellentani, Head of Product and Design at British shoemaker Clarks, tells the story of Dancehall’s most iconic shoe: a pair of Clarks. Finally, Shenseea tells us about the changing sound of Dancehall and how she’s bringing it into new territories.

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