Dre Skull and the rise of the new pop paradigm

So Drake is straight up jacking the sound, in the unapologetic way he usually does. Rihanna is creating sublime patois driven pop-hits to it, while my man Bieber makes pop hits to the sound, its the sound of the new afro-pop. A righteous amalgamation of Jamaican dancehall, soulful sweet South African house, Nigerian afrobeat and EDM music. Its a pop music that doesn’t aspire to be anything but alive and honest. It doesn’t want accolades deeming it the most artistically profound music, it just works to serenade people into shaking waists and making bodies sweat. But at the heart of this sound I say is the work of hardworking sound smith Dre-Skull whose record label Mix-Pak has been quietly creating sophisticated pop-dancehall for almost a decade. I would say before him Major Lazer where the first people to weave these sounds effortlessly together, but Dre Skull made the music respected by the place of its origins, Jamaica. Jamaicans are a discerning and difficult audience but they are the ones that made Dre Skulls music workable in the U.S and in the UK.

Real name Andrew Hershey Dre Skull has dabbled his hands in everything from designing sound system installations at art galleries, to designing march for lightning bolt. His fascination with pop music and his imaginative approach to realizing its possibilities is what makes the music he creates honest in ways a lot of popular music isn’t or can’t be.

I first came upon the Dre Skull sound when I heard his work with Vybz Kartel and ever since Ive paid quiet attention to his sound. All the while Ive also been equally following the pop cultural hybrids occurring as kids from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa create equally compelling hybrids of EDM, dancehall and African music. Dre Skull’s work has been a version of that, but happening in the western hemisphere and its been exhilarating because his sound is whats come to define and shape the new pop paradigm. Pop music is reaching into the rich soil of sound system culture and creating wonderful musical hybrids. In my opinion these hybrids are breathing wonderful life into popular music and its a wonderful thing and I want to take note of these wonderful hybrids below I have a list of ten wonderful examples of these Dre Skulls productions :

Its only natural that the Prince of Nigerian afrobeats linked up with the sound smith that gave us Jamaican Story. The blend was so natural that only after I saw the credits did I realize that it was Dre Skull. Thats part of Dre Skulls power the under-statedness of his riddims.

Dre Skull flips a borderline hip-hop style beat thats hip-hop on the surface, but has all the squelches and deep bass of Jamaican music. Yet what stands out on this song is hearing the god of dancehall spit what sounds like some sick ass rap bars and totally kill it.

Ok the act of creating Riddims, is very different from making beats. Beats are created with a sense of the artist, and riddims exist as fellow performers. Beenie Man on this song is rocking over the Loudspeaker riddim a standard in Dre Skulls repertoire.  A riddim thats boisterous and has that unending shit popping off feel.

Popcaan is the new dancehall vanguard, and he takes the Loudspeaker riddim and totally  reimagines it as a homage to the suffering children forced to grow up in slums.

Now on the third outing Soca mega star Machel Montano totally rehashes the song as an ode to fat asses and carnivals

Love Sizzla, an act that I listened to on repeat in high school, his blend of rastafarian consciousness with a street edge made his music essential for a youth trying to find black righteousness in a decadent world. When he paired up with Dre Skull it was natural and never seemed forced hope they could do more together.

Whats more dancehall than an asertive  woman demanding a man does his part in a sexual transaction. This beat has all the hallmark Dre Skull elements but it has a certain undeniable 90’s bouncy quality that reminds me of the work of people like Tony “CD” Kelly or Sly & Robbie.

This was natural despite the fact that i didn’t like the whole album. But it had its moments this been one of them.



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