Ragga is reggae’s rougher, electronic cousin, much like hip-hop’s relationship with R&B. It’s typified by synthesized beats and lyrics that often stress sex and violence, although it has its conscious side as well. This compilation collects some of the bigger hits of the year in one burst of snapping snares, Auto-Tuned vocals, and lyrics delivered in a heavy Jamaican patois.
The album opens up with two tracks by Mavado. He has a police record that would make an American gangsta rapper proud, and has collaborated with Drake. He opens with the whistling syths of “Star Bwoy,” and follows up with the lighter “Lost Them.” He is also represented with a slow jam, “When You Feel Lonely,” and a ballad “Don’t Wanna Be A Memory” with Mavado calling out to Jah to protect him from his enemies. Giving the violence that plagues Jamaica, it’s a heartfelt request.
Vybz Kartel is represented with two tracks. He calls out his haters on “Real Badman,” and the mellower ladies song “Turn Up Di Scheme.” Assassin’s “Run Di Place” is a jolt of gruff braggadocio over a stripped down beat, and is followed by Bounty Killer’s similar take on the same riddim. Assassin gets more melodic on “Nothing At All,” one of the stronger tracks on the album.
Chino’s “Ruff It Up” and “God Nah Sleep” are thug-R&B, combining gangsta swagga with vocal chops he inherited from his dad, singer Freddie McGregor. I-Octane’s “Mind Who You Dis” follows a similar template. The cheesy piano and Auto-Tuned vocals contrast with the tough lyrics.
That contrast is all over this disc: tough lyrics matched with the melodic, R&B elements, and a club-friendly vibe. Like most club music, there’s not much here that is amazing lyrically. The songs are mostly about beating dudes up or sexing ladies up, or both. That’s not really the point though, is it. As dance music, “The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems” does the trick. Just don’t think too hard about any of it.