Beenie Man, Dawn Penn, Twinkle Brothers, Kenny Ken & Ragga Twins Highlights City Splash Festival
Beenie Man one of Jamaica’s biggest exports, Beenie Man’s recording career stretches back to 1981, although it was in the sound systems where he later made his mark. The witty toaster began his true ascent to stardom in the early ’90s, and by 1994, his reputation couldn’t be beaten. Beenie Man was born Moses Davis in the tough Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica, on August 22, 1973. By the time he was ready for school, the toddler had already decided on a career as a DJ. He wasn’t the first tot with dreams of the limelight, but Beenie actually had a true gift for gab. His shot at stardom came when he was only eight when he took first prize at the national Teeny Talent contest.
Dawn Penn gave the reggae world a pleasant surprise when she returned to the charts in the early ’90s with a dancehall-influenced remake of her signature song “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No).” The vocalist was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica where, in the late ’60s, she recorded the original version of that song for Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd’s Studio One label. At the time, Dodd was among reggae’s heavyweights, and Penn’s “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)” became a major hit in Jamaica. Penn made some more recordings for Studio One, including “Blue Yes Blue” (which was produced by the famous Prince Buster), and a reggae version of Lulu’s “To Sir with Love.” But in 1970, she left the music business altogether and moved to the Virgin Islands.
The Twinkle Brothers have been around since the beginning of time or at least the beginning of reggae. Led by Norman Grant, the Twinkles began in the early ’60s as a trio featuring Grant and his two brothers singing in a slick trio style similar to that of the Melodians and the Mighty Diamonds. In the early ’70s, the group hooked up with the influential producer and arranger Bunny Lee, a union that produced a number of reggae hits including “We Can Do It Too” and “Miss Laba Laba.” In 1975, the Twinkles released their best and most widely known record, Rasta Pon Top, a rasta-infused, roots-heavy demi-masterpiece that included soul and gospel vocal stylings within the deep grooves. Although hardcore reggae audiences were the principal fans of the Twinkle Brothers, Grant and company were consistently releasing chart-topping records. As much as this brought great success to the band, it also created a significant amount of friction, as Grant began seeing himself more as a solo act and less as a member of a trio.
Ragga Twins Trevor, aka Flinty Badman, and David, aka Deman Rocker — became known as MCs as part of North London’s Unity sound system and began operating as the Ragga Twins in 1989. Through 1992, they issued a pile of 12″ singles through the self-named label run by Shut Up & Dance (who also did the production work), along with the album Reggae Owes Me Money (1991); these releases, containing tracks like “Illegal Gunshot,” “Spliffhead,” and an early featured role on Shut Up & Dance’s “Lamborghini,” were bold steps forward, fiercely energetic mutations of dancehall, hip-hop, and jungle. Resurfacing in 1995 on EMI with relatively conservative Us3-produced releases like “Freedom Train” and “Money,” they also put together a second album, Rinsin Lyrics (1995).
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