Reggae/Dancehall Fresh Picks of the Month: Teejay, Chronic Law, Mystic Marley, Shaggy, Mavado & More

Between Teejay and Bryon Messia’s ongoing beef, a brand new From the Block live performance video from Shenseea, and the passing of dancehall star Gully Bop, it’s been a packed month for the West Indian music scene — and most of these things only happened within the past week!

To help sort through all the new Caribbean music released in October, Billboard’s monthly Reggae/Dancehall Fresh Picks columns returns with a host of new selections for your listening and wining pleasure. Of course, as is the case across genres in today’s age, there’s an overwhelming amount of new music released every day, let alone every month. Naturally, this column will not cover every last track, but our Spotify playlist — which is linked below — will expand on the 10 highlighted songs.

Without any further ado, here are 10 tracks across reggae, dancehall and their cousin genres that are heating up both our personal playlists and late-night functions from Kingston to Queens:

Freshest Find: Teejay, “Unwanted Child”

Although it’s still unclear what exactly sparked the beef between Teejay and Byron Messia, the new-school dancehall stars are continuing to fire off diss tracks. This week, Teejay sent some more direct hits to the “Talibans” singer with the blistering “Unwanted Child,” a scathing diss track that alleges that Byron is a literal unwanted child (“Act like a we mek him madda disown him”) who doesn’t live the life he raps and sings about in his music. The dark, grimy beat is a smart complement to Teejay’s sinister delivery; his voice drips with equal parts disdain and haughtiness, two of the most important feelings for a proper diss track.

Khalia feat. Shaggy, “Double Trouble”

On this selection from Stay True, Khalia’s debut project, the Westmoreland singer joins forces with Shaggy for a conversational duet that traces the story of two partners with undeniable sexual chemistry who simply cannot work in a proper relationship. She employs a cadence reminiscent of contemporary R&B as she recounts this roller coaster of a relationship over the slow-burning dancehall-inflected beat. “Anuh any any man can win da spot ya inna my heart/ Keep it premium on a level affi inn a path/ You affi show me all your cards before let dung my guard/ And den I work it and reverse it so I’m keeping him sharp,” she croons.

Valiant, “Beer & Salt”

When you reach the top of of the food chain, there are always going to be those people waiting for you to slip up — even Valiant can’t escape that phenomenon. After a less-than-impressive performance at Miami Carnival and a subsequent social media backlash, Valiant uses “Beer & Salt” as way to respond to his detractors and reflect on his tumultuous past few months. “And if a badness, just talk, make me load me strap/ I see them lurking on my IG/ I know your profile private/ All of this was a dream but you can’t ketch the flows I’m finding,” he spits over the slinky DJ Mac-produced beat.

Mavado, “No Sorry”

Taking a similar approach to Valiant, Mavado uses “No Sorry” to champion his lack of regrets for the way he has chosen to live his life. Backed by a skittering trap dancehall beat, Mavado sings, “A ghetto youth pon the top of the mountain ah di greatest story,” once again reaffirming that his intentions are genuine and pure, even if his actions may garner mixed reactions from some. He’s unapologetic in who he is and where he comes from as he reflects on his life and success across the self-affirming track. After all, “Don’t make excuses, we make sacrifice,” he sings on “No Sorry.”

Chronic Law, “War Cycle”

Moving away from the self-motivating introspection of Valiant’s and Mavado’s new tracks, Chronic Law opts for despondent piano to anchor his stab at trap dancehall — a solemn reflection on the emptiness he sometimes feels in spite of his success, likening the dynamic to the ongoing violence that plagues his home country. “What a cycle/ The likkle scheme warm than Grove Street turf/ Me a drink and pretend mi don’t feel hurt/ Cyaa describe mi pain with no real words,” he croons.

Mystic Marley, Nailah Blackman & Walshy Fire, “Jump”

This new track from the granddaughters of Bob Marley and Lord Shorty, respectively — with production contributions from Walshy Fire of Major Lazer — combines bits of dancehall, reggae and soca for one of the most undeniable party records of the year. With bubbly brass stitching together elements of Marley’s “Rainbow Country” (1971) and Shorty’s “Endless Vibration” (1974), Mystic and Nailah balance the familiarity of old-school reggae guitars and infectious soca percussion as they implore their listeners to, well, “jump!”

Intence, “Lesson”

Rising Jamaican dancehall artist Intence delivers a heartfelt reflection on the most pertinent lessons life has taught him. Staunchly within the modern trap-inflected dancehall arena, Intence offers up several nimble flows as he recounts various life-altering experiences that remind him of both his mortality and his divine protection. “Just another ghetto youth and if you ask me I would have tell you from the start the amount a times them double cross me/ Me a real youth me don’t need to tell you that so let them talk cause me don’t care as long as God see,” he spits in an impressive rapid-fire delivery.

Zagga, “Believe & Pray”

Released near the top of last month (Oct. 13) as the penultimate song on his Energy Never Lie album, “Believe & Pray” finds Zagga both talking with God and encouraging his listeners to have faith and trust in the power of prayer. “Prayer move mountain, prayer with faith, dawg/ Jah Jah eva on time, never yet late, dawg/ Whula we a sin but mi no ready fi graveyard/ Conscious, but the world mek mi behave bad,” he sings over the solemn, uplifting beat, which is part of a new riddim produced by Shane Creative.

Talia Goddess, “Forever Young”

Guyanese-British multi-hyphenate Tayahna Walcott, aka Talia Goddess, perfectly captures the buzzing sensuality of hot summer nights during the prime of your youth with this smooth dancehall and R&B-inflected banger. In the hook for “Forever Young,” which is built around a thumping dancehall riddim, she reaches for high-pitched, Amaarae-esque tone as she sings, “Tell me is you really mine my lover?/ Cah you make me feel alive, so true/ I can take you to the light my darling/ I just wanna live my life with you.” Both the track and its globe-trotting music video are testaments to the rich global legacy of West Indian music and culture.

Roze Don, Countree Hype & Konshens, “Unch It Remix”

Some of the best dancehall tracks are the instructive ones; they’re inherently interactive and personable. For the official remix of their function-rocking “Unch It,” Roze Don and Countree Hype recruit dancehall star Konshens to add his own spice to the steady, percussive beat. Their tones are calm, just shy of nonchalant, but glimpses of staccato flows and the sneaky sensuality of a whisper add dynamics that elevate the song nicely. From the booming bass to irresistibly danceable melody, the “Unch It” remix is nice update of the August orignal for the autumn season.

For good measure, here are two bonus Fresh Picks that are only available to stream via YouTube.

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