One of the most thrilling tendencies of Jamaican music has long been its radically omnivorous ear for samples and beats. Emerging from a musical system in which the concept of a “song” is far from fixed, dancehall has made versioning one of its stocks in trade, creating a delirious universe of cross-quoting riddims and endlessly flexible DJ’s.
All of this is another way of saying that when a great dancehall DJ hears something he or she likes, nothing is going to stop them from jumping on the track and making it their own. Even better, the result is far more likely to be an independent creation that stands on its own than the more referential tracks that flow from similar practices in other musical cultures, for instance, rap freestyles or mixtapes that use other performer’s beats.
In this case, we are all lucky that Busy Signal took a liking to the spare, hand-clap driven beat that drives Lorde’s anti-commercial mega-hit “Royals.” Building from the multi-tracked harmonies of the original’s arrangement, Busy transforms the song with modern dancehall’s splintered auto-tune and fast-paced toasting, recasting it as a hard-won anthem of faith in Jah amid a world of badman. It’s a killer track, maintaining the original’s haunting emptiness, while transplanting it into another sonic world. Check it!