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Top 10 Caribbean, African - Inspired Pop Songs That Were BIG in 2016

SOMETHING EXTRA: Major Lazer feat. Justin Bieber and , “Cold Water”

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Major Lazer has been at the forefront of bringing reggae, dancehall, soca and EDM together, since its inception in 2009. That continued in 2016, as the Diplo-led crew scored a massive hit for the second straight year, on the heels of last year’s “Lean On,” also featuring Denmark’s MØ. Justin’s vocals were a great fit for the bass-heavy, synth-laden production with a more-than-familiar groove.

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10. PartyNextDoor, “Not Nice”

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As the songwriter behind another entry on the list, Rihanna’s “Work”, PartyNextDoor was bound to drop something of his own that fuses his dark&B sound with a bit of dancehall. To the average listener, not nice, bad & rude might sound like jabs, but Jamaicans and dancehall fans in general know in the right context they could read as the perfect way to compliment someone who catches your eye. From the song’s bouncy bassline, slow wine references and a Vybz Kartel sample in the pre-chorus, it was the perfect combination for a Caribbean pop crossover hit.

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8./9. Drake, “One Dance”/“Too Good”

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We know this is technically two songs, but we couldn’t resist getting all of the dancehall Drake tunes together in one place. While “One Dance” also infuses elements of Afrobeats and UK Funky House, it has an undeniable dancehall vibe, making it the perfect conclusion for the slow wine mix trifecta right after “Work” and “Controlla” at a party.

“Too Good” puts Rihanna to good use again over some bouncy production (from Supa Dups and yet another Jamaican-Canadian producer, Nineteen85). But it was the Popcaan quote — Cock up yuh bumper, siddung pon it  — and sample that really made it stick.

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7. Beyonce, “Hold Up”

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Bey is no stranger to toying with Caribbean sounds in her music, and the Diplo-produced “Hold Up” from her Lemonade visual album was one of her strongest showings in this area to date. Between the song’s powerful steel drums, air horns and the star’s impassioned “Mi sing seh!,” we’re left with an amazing track that ended up mixing perfectly into Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” in live performances. And we have to large up another Jamerican, Melo-X (out of the Electric Punanny crew), for his contributions to the track, and Lemonade in general.

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6. Fifth Harmony feat. Fetty Wap, “All In My Head (Flex)”

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What’s a pop list without a girl group appearance? The X Factor-spawned quintet’s Fetty Wap-assisted summertime single was a sexy ode to Mad Cobra’s “Flex” (sorta). The hook’s arrangement heavily pulled from the classic 1992 dancehall single, while acoustic chords and chops met synths and snaps on the song’s production. Fifth Harmony get props for returning to dancehall again on their album 7/27, where they covered Vybz Kartel’s “Gonna Get Better.” And while we’re at it, their mega-hit “Work From Home” had a dancehall swing to it, and was played heavily in fetes and dances this summer.

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5. Sean Paul + Sia, “Cheap Thrills”

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While Sean Paul is an artist that knows this lane all too well, pop singer-songwriter Sia is a newcomer to the territory who still held her own. Sean’s quick ad libs bring just the right amount of punch alongside Sia’s dreamy vocals and pulsing production, which brought the romantic vibe of zouk and kizomba into the synth-y pop track.



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4. Tory Lanez, “LUV”

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The recent surge of dancehall-infused tracks all over the charts owes a big debt to the ’90s. That era of dancehall will forever be inspiring remakes and tributes. Tory Lanez’ take on Tanto Metro & Devonte’s “Everyone Falls In Love” landed on his debut album, I Told You, and made for an easy mix-in from the classic track. Tory’s own Caribbean heritage helped drive the vocals home, over the bass-heavy production. Like his fellow Torontonian Drake, the kid really has a soft spot for dancehall — he’s since collaborated with Kranium, and also offered his own version of “Controlla.”

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3. Drake, “Controlla”
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No matter which version you like better (let’s be real and admit it’s just not the same without Popcaan, shall we?) it’s obvious Drake was becoming more comfortable embracing the heavy influence of Jamaican music and culture in his native Toronto. It was hard to go anywhere without hearing the thumping bassline produced by Boi-1da, Supa Dups and Stephen McGregor — all of whom are Jamaicans, by the way. Even though we got hit with the bait and switch by the time VIEWS was released, and Popcaan was nowhere to be found, the use of Beenie Man’s classic “Tear Off Mi Garment” in the mix helped make up for it somewhat

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2. Justin Bieber, “Sorry”

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It would be hard to make a list like this and not begin with Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” Though it dropped in 2015, it hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the start of 2016 and even spawned some Inception-like dancehall-to-pop-and-back-again covers. With production that jumped from staccato drums to lush synths with a hefty bassline, it’s not surprising this song was seemingly everywhere for months. It had a bit of dancehall, soca and reggaeton to it, though not explicitly any of the above, making it the type of track every DJ had to play — whether they wanted to or not.

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1. Rihanna, “Work”
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As a proud Caribbean woman herself, it only makes sense that Rihanna made one of the best songs on this list. Riding a riddim comes naturally to the Bajan superstar, which is what sets “Work” apart from the rest of the pack. So with her patois on full tilt, an infectious bassline and a melody lifted from Richie Stephens’ Sail Away riddim, Rih brought the pop charts to the dancehall with the Drake-assisted track, spending a few months at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, it was her longest run at No. 1 ever, proving you can stick to your roots and go pop at the same time.

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