As the world slowly progresses and evolves in terms of diversity and inclusion, reggae music seems to be stuck in the Jim Crow 1960s, at least where sales are concerned. A musical genre that prided itself on being more than just entertainment but a weapon for equal rights and justice is now as diverse as a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
If you look in corporate America, there are just over 20 female CEOs which is a dismal number but compare to where it was some 20 years ago, it is a big improvement. Hip hop fans know that artistes like Cardi B, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma and other female artistes are holding their own with their male counterparts when it comes to having success in the business. The same can be said about every other genre of music, except for reggae.
Spice is to reggae dancehall what Beyoncé is to pop music. However, when Spice recently released her mix tape, even with over a million Instagram followers, the artiste did not sell even a thousand copies. She attributed the paltry sales on her pigmentation saying she was “too Black.” She is only half right; she is too Black and too female.
Sales for reggae female artistes are so bad that Billboard just released the top reggae sellers of 2018 and not one single female reggae artiste made the list. While in hip hop, apart from Drake, almost every male artiste would gladly trade places with Cardi B, at least for 2018.
The last time a female had any meaningful sales in reggae was back in 2015 when Josh Stone released “Water for your Soul” produced by Damian Marley.
Women are not the only ones who can’t seem to find financial success in Reggae, it is almost as bad for Black men; or to clarify, Black men with no white blood flowing through their veins. It is a fact, regardless of your talent level, to be on the right side of the sales numbers in reggae, you better be white, half-white, quarter-white or collaborate with a white artiste.
Billboard just released its top 15 reggae albums of 2018 and the list is as white as a snow covered New York lawn on Christmas morning and as masculine as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in a BALCO lab.
White American groups like SOJA and Rebelution dominated the reggae charts, while a Black artiste like Chronixx, who is undeniably the best reggae artiste out right now, was at the bottom of the chart. Even a brown artiste like Shaggy had to team up with Sting who is white, in order to make an impact on the chart.
Sting and Shaggy managed to sell a little over 50 thousand copies of their 44/876 album to capture the #1 spot for 2018. Rebelution was a distant second with just over 18 thousand copies of their Free Reign sold. It is not certain how or why Rebelution came up with that name for the album but one thing is for sure, white reggae artistes have been having a free reign over the genre. Slightly Stoopid, another white group, came in at number 3 with their album Everyday Life, Everyday People selling 14 thousand copies.
Other top sellers were Ziggy Marley, Iration, Damian Marley, SOJA and Dubplates.
After all the whites, half-whites, quarter-whites and white partnership, then we see the Black artistes at the bottom of the list.
The truth is, if you love great reggae music, the bottom of the list is where you should look. There you will find the living legend, Beres Hammond and another young man who could himself become a legend one day, Chronixx.
Reggae has become like these all inclusive hotels is Jamaica where they put the lighter skin people in the management positions and at the front desks. The darker skin people are put to wash the dishes, clean the bathrooms and cut the lawns. Reggae must evolve because the world is evolving.