Five on it: Shenseea transcends to the mainstream and cements her Alpha dancehall status
The rise of Shenseea is a welcome return of dancehall to the pop mainstream. Plus new music from Rachel Chinouriri, Greentea Peng, Beckah Amani and Nia Archives.
11 Mar 2022
You know a genre has reached its pinnacle when it has, not just permeated, but been embraced by the mainstream. Artists as big as Rihanna and Justin Bieber have taken influence from dancehall’s riddims and beats for a poppier iteration of the sensual party sound, the former celebrating her Caribbean roots with tracks like ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘What’s My Name’, and the latter totally aping them with his watered-down, radio-friendly hit ‘Sorry’.
Rapper and dancehall icon Sean Paul has, in fact, called out Beiber – amongst others – on the matter of cultural appropriation of the genre, stating in a 2016 Guardian interview that “it is a sore point when people like Drake or Bieber or other artists come and do dancehall-orientated music, but don’t credit where dancehall came from and they don’t necessarily understand it.”
Arguably the biggest artist to bring dancehall to the masses in the early noughties, thanks to his Grammy-winning album Dutty Rock, Sean Paul built on the steps the likes of Beenie Man and Bounty Killer had made before him in the 90s; it wasn’t long before the dancehall wave was followed by reggaeton and, more recently, zess music. Whilst the likes of Popcaan and Vybz Kartel were finding chart success in the States, women artists such as Jada Kingdom and Koffee were breaking new ground in the Jamaican homeland. Another such artist was Shenseea.
“The tracklisting reads like a who’s who of Shenseea’s beginnings to the slickly polished popstar she threatens to be”
First breaking through in 2017 courtesy of her viral single ‘Loodi’ (featuring Vybz Kartel), and quickly rising through the ranks to support Sean Paul on tour, Shenseea’s ascent may seem instantaneous from the outside but – like many of her dancehall peers – has been one of consistently hard graft. Becoming established Stateside with features on tracks by the likes of Christina Aguilera all the way to Kanye West (she contributed not once, but twice, on Donda), her back catalogue is smattered by heavy hitters. This is underpinned by an undeniably impressive amount of singles – one skim through her Spotify will confirm as much.
Preceded by ‘Lick’, her explosive collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion which celebrated sexual liberation with its X-rated lyrics, Shenseea’s anticipated debut album ALPHA solidifies her status as a heavy hitter by having artists who, until recently, she would have featured with instead of clamouring to appear on her own work. From Tyga, Offset, 21 Savage, to Beenie Man and Sean Paul, the tracklisting reads like a who’s who of Shenseea’s beginnings to the slickly polished popstar she threatens to be – as the smooth R&B of recent single ‘Deserve It’ proves. With the likes of Doja Cat showing the switch from niche to megastar is still entirely possible, now is Shenseea’s time to claim the attention she rightfully deserves, and potentially usher in a new wave of dancehall-inspired pop in her wake.
Shenseea – ‘Can’t Anymore’
Plucked from new album ALPHA, ‘Can’t Anymore’ sees Shenseea find the perfect balance between the sticky heat of her dancehall roots and sensual R&B. Led by beguiling rhythms and addictive hooks, the track captures a longing desire for someone who has stepped away. Decorated with sax and simple guitar work, prepare to be smashing repeat.
Rachel Chinouriri – ‘All I Ever Asked’
Following in the wake of her much lauded 2021 EP Four° In Winter, London talent Rachel Chinouriri returns with the delectable ‘All I Ever Asked’. Her first single of the year, ‘All I Ever Asked’ is a saccharine slice of introspection atop bright keys and meandering guitar work, its bittersweet lyrics recount break-up heartache and not being given the love you know you deserve. “It’s also about realising your own worth,” says Chinouriri, “And not settling for someone who cannot be what you need”.
Greentea Peng – ‘Your Mind’
Another comeback single lands courtesy of Greentea Peng, who is also dropping her first new music following last year’s album MAN MADE. Catching a sturdy groove amidst brass interjections and choral choruses, a genre-blending mix which takes influence from jazz to reggae, the track reflects on mental health, and upkeeping personal resolve in a world that tries its best to drag us down.
Beckah Amani – ‘Lebeka Leka’
Tanzanian-born and based in Australia, Beckah Amani’s music is a wonderful fusion of sentimental pop woven with the influence of her heritage. Named after the Kirundi pronunciation of her name ‘Rebeckah’ and the Kirundi word for ‘let go’, new single ‘Lebeka Leka’ is a dazzling invite to release fear and embrace the possibility of what could go right between catchy melodies and compulsive rhythms.
Nia Archives – ‘Part of Me’
Plucked from new EP Forbidden Feelingz, Nia Archives latest single ‘Part of Me’ captures everything that makes her such an exciting talent. Deploying breakbeats, chunky bass notes, and refrained production, the track is offset with deft hooks and Nia’s soulful vocal, as she muses on a love gone sour. “I wanted to shoot the ‘Part Of Me’ visual in Brighton as it is my happy place where I often go to escape,” shares Nia, of the accompanying visuals. “I was so lucky to catch the sunniest day of the year as I have a strong feeling that 2022 will be the summer of jungle”.