'80s dancehall

The 1980s saw a significant shift in the sound of Jamaican dancehall music.

The first half of the decade saw a continuation of the traditional dancehall sound, which featured singers (“deejays”) singing and chatting (“toasting”) over live instrumentation. However, like other genres, dancehall was revolutionized in the mid-’80s by the introduction of digital music production.

Sleng Teng,” produced by King Jammy and Noel Davey, was the first popular all-digital dancehall riddim. Wayne Smith was the first artist to use it on his 1985 anthem “Under Mi Sleng Teng.” The riddim would eventually be used in over 500 songs. This new digital sound, often called “ragga,” transformed dancehall forever.

In addition to the digitalization, the ’80s also saw increased popularity in “slack” lyrics, which often contained sexually explicit content.

Influential artists of the era include Yellowman, Eek-a-Mouse, and Barrington Levy.

Discover the essential ’80s dancehall anthems below. (View the entire playlist here.)

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