Updated: Feb 21, 2022
Born in Jamaica around half a century ago, Dancehall Mix has found fans, artists and chart-topping success all around the globe in the decades since. Initially an offshoot of reggae, in the ‘80s, the use of electronic production tools spawned the digital dancehall age, helping define the sound and putting it on the path to world domination. Dancehall DJ, Grammy-winning producer, label boss and BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter, Seani B, counts down 100 tracks — arranged chronologically — that have had the biggest impact on the progression of the genre and live in the dance
Dancehall Mix has been the driving force in my career. As a DJ, I’ve played most if not all genres of music on radio and in clubs worldwide, but dancehall has always been at the forefront — it’s who I am.
Dancehall is not just about the music; it’s a culture, a way of life, language and fashion. The air horn that DJs use is dancehall. The kill switch or filtering of basslines to create a drop is dancehall. The pull up, wheel up, spin-back is dancehall. Dubplates and clashes are dancehall. The way we talk with slang and patois is dancehall. Dancehall is a lifestyle!
Being asked to complete a list of the 100 most important dancehall tracks ever was a frightening proposition for many reasons. The fear of not getting it correct because of difference in opinions rested heavily on my thoughts. How others absorb the basslines and digital drums while in their own world will be different to how I do in mine. Even lyrically, what triggers me to raise my hand in the air with a two-finger gun salute is controlled by an emotion or feeling that I am going through at the time.
Dancehall Mix has been the backdrop that added the colour to so many stories of love, danger, envy, freedom, justice, dancing and, of course, marijuana. Some of these tales are why I have chosen tracks to be in this list. But what I have drawn on most is the experience of playing the music where it sounds best — in the Dance Hall.
There are times that as a DJ I feel I have the cheat code to making the ravers happy with the music that I represent. It’s undeniable that the drums used in dancehall are some of the most infectious around; they force involuntary body movements by anyone in close proximity to a speaker. I can confidently challenge you to hear Chaka Demus & Pliers’ ‘Murder She Wrote’ and not realise that the party is about to start!
This is what I’ve drawn on for this list — the songs I have relied on make sure that I get the job done effectively, with as much collateral damage to the club as possible.
As a final point, although reggae and dancehall have been the core of Jamaican music for over 60 years, the chart lends itself in the main to the area of digital dancehall. The vast majority of the tracks selected have been created since the evolution of the digital era in the mid ‘80s, which took the genre to a new level and created a path for the music as a whole.