We made every effort to turn the 15th Annual Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest into an editorial staff retreat, but it turns out we have to put together this magazine called The FADER. You should read it. We did, however, want to know what goes on down there, so we sent an emissary. Check out the most excellent coverage of all the festivities after the jump.
It’s been a couple weeks since the Sumfest began in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but I’m just now able to settle down and write this after cross country trips to Kingston and Negril in search of dubplates, photos of models on the beach and the rest of Jamaica’s natural resources (cough).
Each year, the show runs three nights (or mornings I should say, from 9pm until about 9am) and highlights the best in dancehall, roots, and soca, as well as R&B, with this year’s imported headliners LL Cool J and Mary J. Blige.
The vibes of the show were once again “wicked,” as they say here. Picture the most intense dancehall party multiplied by a thousand: flamethrowers and airhorns busting off as artists get their forwards, Independence Day fireworks ringing out as they took and left the stage, dance crews decked out in matching attire, queens of all shapes, sizes, and colors winin’ up and down on the stage and throughout the field of over twenty thousand spectators each night. Can’t forget the street vendors who walk around with baskets on heads offering everything from peanuts to herb and Rizzlas to jimmy’s and tonic wine, and the bars and jerk centers that lace the backstage and festival perimeter.
Curious, I kept my ears peeled as I cruised around MoBay, interested in who the latest talk of the town was, and whom the locals thought were going to tear down the house. It was pretty clear: hardcore dancehall fans wanted to see Munga Honourable (above, the latest and greatest from super producer Don Corleon’s camp) and Mavado. Roots rockers wanted to see Richie Spice, Buju Banton, Taurrus Riley, as well as Rootz Undergound, the Kingston based band whose video for the single “Victems of the System” has been blazing Tempo, Hype, and RETV’s video charts the past few months.
Highlights of the three nights for me were Ninja Man (above), who seemed to be LESS cracked out than ever before, bringing out his entire camp including a couple of kids ranging from 4 to 9 years old. Each of them “deejayed” harded than half of the other performers and it was like nothing you could see anywhere else on earth. It was also dope to see Aidonia, who graced the stage briefly and killed it with his new single, “Ah You,” produced by 77 Klash (below left w/Stevie G of Rootz Underground), who was hanging out backstage the whole weekend with everyone in the reggae biz, a few supermodels, and proud Jamaican (by way of England) and undisputed champ, Lennox Lewis.
Not so cool things about Sumfest: LL Cool J making out with his custom-made LL Cool J mic-stand (LL, you’re in Jamaica, don’t do that shit here), fifteen levels of security to go through, and some traffic that humbled rush hour in NYC.
But the definitive craziest moment of the three nights was the rush hour of Jamaican Mary J Blige fans rushing to the front as the Mary hit the stage. They sure do love the queen of R&B here in Jamdown. Until next year!