While the forerunners of the dancehall promoted the popular sounds of their time, the modern Sound Systems such as Winston 'WeePow' Powell's Stone Love and Lloyd 'King Jammy' James' Supreme Sound are still used as a guide to who and what is hot. The digital beat echoing from the newer sound system speakers was originally referred to as Ragamuffin, later shortened to Ragga, which is a reference to its downtown origins.
One of the dance hall venues that hosted the sound systems was the House Of Leo, which is where Beenie Man famously launched his career. Beenie Man was born Anthony Moses Davis on 22 August 1973 in the Waterhouse district of Kingston. Although christened Anthony, he preferred to be called Moses and started his musical career 'toasting' on the mic while he was still wearing khakis. As a youth he was no stranger to the Jamaican recording industry as his uncle, Sydney Wolfe, who inspired the young DJ, was a musician who played drums for Jimmy Cliff. After placing second to Yellowman and subsequently winning the Teeny Talent show the following year, the youth's potential was recognized by radio DJ, Barry Gordon from the 'Two To Six Supermix' and subsequent 'Boogey Down' shows. Barry G introduced Beenie Man to Jammy's Supreme and the late Henry 'Junjo' Lawes' Volcano Sound Systems, where he soon established notoriety. His popularity inspired Bunny Lee to invite him into the studio, resulting in the release of his album debut, 'The Ten Year Old DJ Wonder'. Beenie Man also featured on the live session set 'Junjo Presents Two Big Sound', alongside a host of top Djs, including Dillinger, U. Brown, Ranking Toyan and Early B. The album was recorded at 'Aces' where the latest moves included 'The Butterfly Dance', inspiring Beenie Man to record 'Do The Butterfly' as well as the dancehall vibes of 'Good Times', and 'Cool Cool Rider'.
Beenie Man was a sensation who followed in the footsteps of young DJs such as Risto Benjie, Billy Boyo and Little John. It seemed that nothing could stop him, yet following the release of 'Too Fancy', his career seemed to take a dive, followed by a lengthy silence. But as they say, 'you can't keep a good man down'…
Not surprisingly, Beenie Man's younger brother, Little Kirk, was keen to follow in his siblings footsteps and five years later, the duo hooked up with producer Patrick Roberts of Shocking Vibes, who began recording a series of singles that quickly brought them into the national spotlight. Beenie Man bounced back as a mature DJ when he released the popular 'Wicked Man', a track that signalled his second coming. So successful was his return that Beenie Man echoed the achievements of the DJ Daddy U. Roy when he held all the top chart positions in the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation's chart.
In 1992, Beenie Man appeared at Reggae Sunsplash and such was the response that the DJ now felt ready to take on the big guns. As is often the case when a DJ becomes accepted by the dancehall cognoscenti, an obligatory clash with an equally popular DJ - in this case, Bounty Kill - was arranged, with the event taking place at Sting '93.
The next bout took place at Stone Love's twenty-first Anniversary Dance held in Kingston in that same year. Arriving late, with no thoughts of competition in mind, Beenie Man appeared on stage during Bounty Killa's headlining performance, provoking the newcomer to gain the upper hand in an unscheduled clash. Surprised at the twist of events and nursing a grievance at his earlier defeat, Beenie Man was determined to set the record straight. Following the clash, the release of 'Guns Out', featuring both DJs further fueled support for the individual performers. These clashes have been part of the fabric of the Jamaican music industry, since the days when artists such as Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster and later I Roy and Prince Jazzbo, conducted very public feuds. Just as his predecessors had done, Beenie Man released number of assertive hits that demonstrated his bravado such as 'DJ King', 'Bad Man' and 'No Guy Test' as well as an obligatory tribute to Ganja (with Silver Cat), namely 'Chronic'. By the time Kingston's annual Sting Concert took place in January 1994 both DJs had released a wealth of music and were notorious adversaries. However, legend has it that Beenie Man was crowned the DJ King when his rival had to leave the stage, which according to reports at the time, was to avoid the empty Red Stripe bottles thrown from the audience.
Soon after these events, Beenie Man embarked on sessions with Sly & Robbie, who produced two versions of Bob Marley and the Wailers' hits, 'No Woman No Cry` and 'Crazy Baldhead', the latter in combination with Luciano. The DJ's version of `No Woman No Cry' retitled 'No Mama No Cry' represented a condemnation of the ghetto violence that had claimed the lives of some of the island's top performers. Curiously, the DJ released another single with the same title produced by Dennis and Junie 'Star' Hayles. This version was a second condemnation of the ever-increasing fatalities in Jamaica, 'every day another ghetto youth die', which also highlighted Beenie Man's conspiracy theory concerning Bob Marley's demise, a theme he later repeated on his X terminator hit, 'What Those Guys Are For'.
Later that year, a collection of songs were recorded with the Firehouse Crew that was released in the U.S.A. on the album 'Dis Unu Fi Hear' and as a result, his popularity blossomed. The LP was followed by Beenie Man's 'World Dance', which won him local and international acclaim and secured him awards for the Best Single and DJ Of The Year in Jamaica. This led to a UK tour that included a celebrated cameo appearance from the then top ranking DJ, Shabba Ranks in his London show. While in the England, Beenie Man recorded a jungle tune, while his earlier Ragga hit with Barrington Levy was remixed as 'Under Mi Sensi X Project Jungle Spliff`, which bubbled under the UK chart. Now nothing could stop the DJ and he signed with Island Records, who released in his worldwide hit, 'Slam', produced by Dave Kelly of the Madhouse crew. The controversial lyrics suggested that downtown girls were better lovers than those who lived uptown, a topic that led to local media interest. Other songs of this nature included the risqué 'Get Mi Kinky' and 'Boney Punany', which, according to recent stories in the media, is something a top footballer abhors, as allegedly admitted to his 'Laba Laba Mouth' mistress. You might wonder what this has to do with Beenie Man? Well, when the DJ was romantically linked with Carlene 'The Dancehall Queen', the photogenic couple were hounded by Jamaica's paparazzi who, inspired by 'Slam', were equally determined to print a story of his infidelity. The couple's celebrity status led to requests for commercial endorsements and Carlene's image subsequently appeared on the locally produced 'Slam' condoms.
Aside from Beenie Man's charisma, Carlene may have been won over by the romantic Ragga hits performed by the DJ including 'Be My Lady' and 'Love Inna Mi Heart' that demonstrated his tender side. In fact it seemed to be level vibes all round, as Beenie Man settled his differences with Bounty Killa, although the Jamaican media claimed that this was through the arbitrating skills of the local radio disc jockey, Richard Burgess.
Following the pact, the DJ performed in tandem with Third World for a version of 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone' as well as the late Dennis Brown and Triston Palmer for the conscientious 'Three Against War', the popularity of which led to an album of the same name. He also demonstrated an awareness of ethical matters such as those raiseed in 'Don't Take Abortion' and 'Black Liberty'. In 1996, Beenie Man embarked on a highly acclaimed international tour with the Shocking Vibes crew and later that year his 'Blackboard' was released, along with a number of hits, including 'Old Dawg', 'Nuff Gal', 'Big Up And Trust', 'Gals Dem Sugar', 'Romie (Dem Claim Seh Deh Know Me)' and the excellent 'Healing', on which he was accompanied by Lady Saw. Several of these hits featured on the album 'Maestro', a collection that led to the DJ working with artists from the Hip-Hop arena, such as Doug E. Fresh and Wyclef Jean. In fact, Beenie Man's contribution to Wyclef's hit, 'Guantanamerra' lifted from the album, 'Carnival' resulted in a UK pop hit in September 1997. The song sat at number twenty-five in the chart whilst his concurrent release, 'Dancehall Queen', recorded in combination with Chevelle Franklin, peaked at number seventy. In addition to performing the theme tune, Beenie Man made his big screen debut as a club owner/performer in 'Dancehall Queen: The Movie', which led to whoops of approval from the audience whenever he appeared on screen at its Jamaican premiere. Following his movie success, Beenie Man released the album, 'Many Moods Of Moses', another acclaimed set that featured the single 'Who Am I (Zim Zimma)'. Following a heavy rinsing in the clubs, the DJ found himself sitting comfortably on the UK Top Ten in March 1998. The achievement was all the more significant as the song hit without major label backing or strong radio support. The song is also noted for the fact that it launched the career of Mr. Vegas, who was so taken with the rhythm that he wrote 'Nike Air' that launched his career and led to the sing-jay's celebrated condemnation of oral sex, 'Heads High'. Meanwhile, 'Who Am I' was followed by the Sly & Robbie-produced 'Foundation' that hit the Top 75 and subsequently proved to be the anthem of the 1998 Notting Hill Carnival. After headlining Reggae Sunsplash in the same year, Beenie Man signed with the United States division of Virgin Records, a deal that resulted in the release of 'The Doctor' that has since been hailed as a 'dancehall classic'. In 1999, he worked with King Jammy, who produced the album 'Y2K', a song that led commentators to claim this was Beenie Man's observation on the then newsworthy millennium bug. Just like the hype concerning the computer virus there was no mention of the bug, but just another wicked 'silekshan'. Although considered out of the limelight, he maintained international notoriety when he contributed 'Dungle Boogie' to the soundtrack of 'Third World Cop' the movie noted for the fact that it featured Elephant Man's acting debut.
Whilst Beenie Man had signed to Virgin, the DJ maintained a high profile on the Jamaican Chart with the favoured 'Mi Nuh Walla' on the 'Bada Bada' rhythm, produced by Ward 21, who also used the beats for their own chart topping 'Haters'. Other notable hits include 'One Hundred Dollar Bag' with Goofy, the excellent 'Skettel' with Angel Doolas and the fyah bun dem sounds of 'Heights Of Great Men'.
It was two years before the DJ returned to the Pop chart, when he provided guest vocals for Jamelia's hit, 'Money', which peaked at number five in March 2000. A year later, Beenie Man returned to the charts with Mya for the Ragga favourite, 'Girls Dem Sugar' that was lifted from 'Art And Life', which was the first Grammy Award winning Reggae album of the new millennium. His contract with Virgin resulted in 'Feel It Boy', alongside Janet Jackson for his album 'Tropical Storm'. The song was lifted from the album and entered the UK Top Ten in September 2002, resulting in Beenie Man living out many a young man's fantasy by flying Stateside to record a raunchy video with the celebrated diva, whose modesty was upheld on this occasion. The following Christmas, Beenie Man returned to the chart once more when his vocals were sampled on the dance hit 'Dirty Harry's Revenge' by Adam F that peaked at number fifty.
Early in 2003, his 'Street Life' made it to number 13, while the following year, he had his greatest UK hit to date when 'Dude', a collaboration with Ms. Thing and Shawnna, climbed to #7. Soon after, 'King Of The Dancehall' became a major Summer hit, peaking at #14 on the British charts, and while further cross-over hits have not yet materialized, he remains one of Jamaican music's most popular acts.