Best of 2016: Top 25 Songs of Crop Over
Phew! This was even harder than the last list. With hundreds of great soca to choose from, whittling it down to 25 was a hard task, which is why I had to drop it at year end and not right after Crop Over as I wished. Nevertheless, just like the Top 20, below are cuts you may or may not have heard from artists you may or may not know, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER (!!). Enjoy.
1. Marzville x Snap Brandy – “Bang Bim”
A musical heist that would make Drake and Joanne proud. Marzville and Snap Brandy stripped what they needed from Salty’s massive “Tic Toc” freestyle and breakthrough single, ”Gal Meets Brass”, added a few buzzwords (“Ah wan see ya Snapchat”) and built a repetitive rocket to viral fame that no one else saw. A finals place in the Bashment soca competition, a third place tie for Road March, and over 2 million and counting views online was the result of their infamous interpolation. (Not to mention an Alison Hinds remix) They had to have done something right. Right? You can’t hate. You just have to tip your hat and respect it. Honestly, truly.
2. Salt – Hey Salty (How I Met Your Grandmother)
Mr Romel’s Jackie Opel Riddim was well-intentioned, but its popularity suffered because of bad songs, in my opinion. The rare highlight from the collection was Salt’s “Hey Salty (How I Met Your Grandmother).” Taking his cue from the revamped spouge base, Salt delivered some good ol’ picong by sharing his passive-aggressive rendezvous with Brenda. With a slick chorus that had radio programmers pulling out their hair; lyrics parents hoping their child won’t repeat; and a chorus no heterosexual man ever wants to catch himself singing (especially in public), “Hey Salty” teetered expertly on the line of creative and crass.
3. Jus Smoove – “No Way”
If Justin knew a few more people with power that operate within the industry, or had musical attachments to the “elite” producers and writers, I believe this song would’ve been bigger than it was. After years of knocking at the door with “okay” contributions, Jus Smoove contributed one of the season’s best sweet soca efforts with “No Way.” The saccharine melody over Uprising’s rich base of bright embellishments created the unfairly underrated anthem for those who won’t leave until de fete done.
4. Shanta Prince – “We Loose”
It was a hard task to follow up last year’s popular “Hello,” but with “We Loose,” her second effort of the year, Shanta Prince put her best foot forward with the club jam. When the opening chords hit you know it’s time to party, and the song’s graphic writing and pulsating beat throws you right into the middle of a fete for its three-minute run time (“I seeing people getting out of order / People jumping smell like water / Bacchanal around the corner”), getting you hype for a night of wining or causing you to impulsively plan your next outing.
5. Alison Hinds – “Full Hundred”
It’s hard to imagine the Caribbean Queen working a 9-5 job. At a desk pushing papers, wearing a uniform, warming up leftover Sunday food in the microwave for lunch, like the rest of us human beings. But she does a pretty convincing job to portray herself as “one of us” on “Full Hundred” – another overlooked, under promoted gem. The beautiful live arrangement produced by KB Sharp & Minim (Corey Forde on keys, Ian Alleyne on guitar, Winston Beckles on drums, Hashim Durant on pan, and Kweku O. Jelani with the trumpet) gives the stress-relief jam a delightful pep that beats out “Carnival Way” any day.
6. Joaquin – “Home”
When I first heard Joaquin on last year’s Carnival Pleasure Riddim (with “Eh Mami”) and then on the bubbling “Rum,” I knew that the youngster would be one to watch for 2016. And he didn’t disappoint. The patriotic “Home” (featured on the Way Up Project) hit all the right notes for the tween-voiced crooner, as you heard it everywhere you turned. Brewster coasted into a Sweet Soca finals appearance, and set tongues wagging to see what he is going to do next.
7. Stiffy – “Tek Off Something”
Unlike most of his peers, Stiffy rarely talks down to his main demographic. He sides with them. Understands where they’re coming from. And always encourages them to walk out and free up themselves in their own way. A bashment provocateur if you will. With “Tek off Something,” his interpolation of Blacker’s tune of the same name from 2004’s Thrilla Riddim, Stiffy instigated the ladyfolk to remove either skirt, slipper, or brassiere strap, and discard it, because “it is yours, you buy that / Nuff other girl can’t try it.” The song helped Stiffy become the first king of the inaugural bashment soca competition, in a year he didn’t even had try half as hard musically.
8. Stabby – “Oops”
When this song first came out I didn’t like it. Honestly. But the way some music (soca, mainly) grows on you, is one time you’re out in a party and it comes on. You wince. Why would the deejay play this shite? But then the women react. As the bass hits, they scream with glee and then they take proceed to take position, folding in half like a lawn chair, or a bed sheet. Then overtime, as a cis male, the song miraculously doesn’t sound half bad. It’s music to dance to after all! Mad scientist Nelieux’s pulsating bashment soca was the defibrillator for Stabby and his posterior obliterating strain, bringing life back into the character that almost gave John Walcott a conniption fit, and throwing Winston Hall back into popular culture.
9. Sanctuary – “Bailar”
Where do I start? When this infectious broth of Spanish and African elements drops I don’t know whether to slow wine or do the bachata. For the past few years Sanctuary (and his producing/writing collaborators Chris Allman and Antonio “Jus-D” Johnson) have been delivering great, forward-thinking soca, and “Bailar” is no different. That light xylophone, popping horns and tribal drums drive this party-starter like Frank Martin, amping up his calls to “back it up.” A song so good you can almost forgive him for using the word “fleek.” Almost.
10. Coopa Dan – “Home”
Another underrated song that didn’t get much play even though it was among the best patriotic songs that didn’t sound robotic. Coopa’s portrait of home, depicts its people’s good nature when they aren’t at each other’s throats (“Is it the way sound we talk?”… ”How we does embrace every race, and treat a stranger like family?”). When you hear “Home” you see the smiling faces of Bajans and the good times we have when we come together. You get so lost in the euphoria of “reppin’ my flag” that you push the shitness of our bleak day-to-day to the back of your mind.
11. Chenice – “Fugitive”
When I stumbled upon this one, I got hooked by the intro: “I just got convicted, I will be reprimanded / ‘Cause I got caught red-handed, they say I is a wi-ning cri-minal.” When the funky bassline kicked in and Chenice continued to build her case for defiance (“They want me be corrected or at be least restricted / But I just can resist the carnival”), I was sold. One of the year’s best written songs, this was a surprise omission from the Party Monarch semi-finals (and some deejay’s sets). Maybe it’s the system trying to hold the fugitive down?
12. Scrilla – Gal Drop
Ad man Scrilla rode the wave of nostalgia well with “Gyal Drop.” “Remember back in de day? When a big tune used to play?” He asked, seemingly declaring his hand early as he knew that the reinterpretation of Super Cat’s “Ghetto Red Hot” was going to do most of leg work and he just had to find the right lyrics to make the ladies move. And he did. Scrilla found his way to the finals of the Bashment Soca Competition, one of the season’s biggest songs and a feature on Rihanna’s Snapchat. As you read the rest of this list, you could take a stab of which one of those was the biggest look for him.
13. Lil’ Rick – “Bacchanalist”
Rick’s best groovy soca to date. On “Bacchanalist,” the reigning Party Monarch champion portrays the everyman (and woman!) going out to get their money’s worth: “I… would buy a bottle ah rum, and ah drinking until it gone / (That’s me) / I nah leave until the fete done, I does do what the hell ah want.” Ready to free up, wine down everything, “party hard like an animal.” My behavior stink? I know that! I wukking up stink? I know that! Rick is you and you are Rick; in his smoothest, harmonious vocalization of scruffy, wuffless behavior yet.
14. Fadda Fox – “All Day All Night (Feat. Runtown)”
I initially had “Dirty Habits” on this list because I was swaying with the popular opinion that it was a top song. (*Shrugs*). But whilst in review I came across this overlooked gem with Nigeria’s Runtown. Big man. This “Lagos down to Barbados” collaboration is one of my favorite songs of the year. The afrobeats production is pure madness; it immediately gets you moving (“Watch the gal a wine up!”). The hook mind-blowing. And the way Foxx and Runtown effortlessly trade verses and harmonize, you would swear they were making music together for years. Everything marvelous.
15. Nikita – “True Colours”
When Nikita shot into the populace’s conscience with “Wine Gyal” and “Tequila (Feat. King Bubba),” majority of them wondered if the song bird can build on the “hype” for the following year. Then she dropped “Bun It Up” – a song no one in radio or the fete would have touched had it not been a part of De Red Boyz’s machine, if we’re being honest. However, it gave her wings and a finals appearance (which she killed) because of the aforementioned reason. But it would be the KB Sharp & Minim (and Shawn Spencer & Benjamin Richard)-produced “True Colours” that would be Browne’s best 2016 effort. The Cinderellian ballad (“They say that I don’t ever come outside, I / does stay inside and hide, I / always stay inside ah me home”) of liberation has a (ironically) sizzling pop-fusion base that gives the songstress free-reign to blast her strong vocals.
16. Grynner – “Turn on de Speaker”
De Old Dog waltzed back into the soca arena with a song that sound like he never left. Like he still had a flat top and was still working closely with Eddy and Gabby. Getting over the loss of his wife, Grynner turned back to the music. And in one take, introduced himself to the young who didn’t know him, reacquainted with the old friends that did, and had them “waving and moving” this smash hit that had the whole island talking since the day it dropped. Sometimes the song ran along and left him during live performances, but no one cared. The Caribbean’s most successful Road March King was back!
17. Mikey – C.E.O
“Find a bam-bam-bam-bam, bam-bam/ And leh we jam-jam-jam, jam, jam-jam” Mikey the bossman instructs on “C.E.O” – this simmering ditty about careless wuk. From the time this hits, it was just about finding a partner and wukking down each other to nothings (and rest). That’s it.
18. Rupee – I’ll Be OK
There’s a moment when you’re caught up in festival bliss – the drinks are cold, the weather is warm, the vibes nice. Everyone is having a great time. You forget about every worry, every transgression, every wrongdoing. You’re at peace as the music thumps through your body Rupee captures this feeling of nothingness with “I’ll Be Ok,” his follow up to the earlier “Counting My Blessings.” “Take away everything I own / Take away what I love to do / Just let soca music play, and I’ll be okay,” he sings, capturing that period of joy when you’re lost in the trance of the soul of calypso, and how it always takes you back to that place of euphoria post-fete.
19. iWeb – “Big Up”
The Most Important Song of 2016. More on that later.
20. Lil’ Rick – “I’za Bajan”
I think my blurb from the review of his historic win captures the spirit of this song:
In its essence, “I’z A Bajan” was shades of East Coast Rick in his early aughts pomp. His bold declaration of not giving a damn because of his nationality represents that careless, stubborn, don’t care-ish national pride that we all possess (when we feel like it), and there was no better person than Rick – the militant, anti-establishment, people’s champ – to convey it.
21. Mistah Dale – “Nuttin Sweetah”
Mistah Dale got this Sweet Soca thing read over. My earliest memory of encountering this tune was listening to it while writing about another song, then deleting what I wrote about that song because I just had to write about “Nuttin Sweetah.” Dale’s sweet descriptions of the sights, sounds, and feeling of the festival are so vivid that you can close your eyes and immediately see a sea of smiling faces and writhing bodies (“My people celebrating / Gal bumpa rolling like dice, nice riddim was spinning / Keep the beat pumpin Mr. DJ!”). So nice.
22. Edwin Yearwood – “Home Sweet Home”
Edwin strategically crafted this ditty in the spirit of the jubilee celebrations, and in defence of his crown. He reveals it in the intro “This is not a fete, this is not an ordinary Crop Over / Cause I never seen, so much tourists come yet / To join us for the festival, Crop Over.” Over rolling tuk snares, The General bigged up BIM (“There’s no place I would rather be!”) and captured the patriotic zeitgeist like songs in the past, making “Home Sweet Home” a tribute we will be hearing for years to come.
23. King Bubba Fm – “Calling in Sick (Meet Me on de Road)”
Adam’s harmonic rebirth continued with the truant anthem “Calling in Sick (Meet Me on de Road).” Despite not hitting his competitive highs like last year, “Calling in Sick” was a hit from jump, having everyone who was frustrated with work singing “Whole year, we wukking mad, so it’s okay / Meet me on the road, yeah,” as they prepped their excuses for not coming into the office that day.
24. Peter Ram – “Good Morning”
“This is not Hollywood / We don’t come out to pose / We does party with no restraint.” If there ever was a song that captures our carefree spirit during festival time, it would be this. Ram, another artist who had a melodic makeover in the past few years, stepped away from the “All Ah We” missive (briefly) to sing a song fuh we. “Good Morning” is a song so Bajan you could feel the black, aquamarine, and gold in the sound. It’s a song you will hear every Crop Over sunrise from now til the end of time. Marning!
25. Marvay – “Know the Face”
“Survive the Weekend” was the warning shot, and “Know the Face” went in for the kill. Marvay had the nation wrapped up in his sweetly sung case of too-much-partying-induced amnesia; a modern tale of fleeting love lost, a cute face and flailing waist being the glass slipper, driven by sugary hook doused in the all-too familiar Bajan parlance for a forgetful mind. The new “Tempted to Touch” – in the sense that it is a soca song that can live comfortably in the pop-sphere. Twice voted the People’s Choice. It’s gonna take a while to forget this one.
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Carlos Brathwaite is the Founder & Editor of 246Mixtapes. Follow him on Twitter.
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